Alien Swarm

Space Hulk, Gauntlet, and RPG Combo

shooting aliens
Free Download
System Requirements:
Windows XP and beyond, RAM 1GB for XP/ 2GB for Vista, Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible video card with 128 MB, Shader model 2.0. ATI X800, NVidia 6600 or better
Black Cat Games (Valve)

Alien Swarm is a third person, squad-based, 3D shooter. There are four classes; you control one marine, while the AI or other players in online play control the other three. The game bears a striking resemblance to the Space Hulk board game or its digital port, Alien Assault. Like Alien Assault, it is mission-based, with different goals for victory in each mission.

There is a Space Hulk Sergeant-like class and three classic RPG classes that you can play:

  • Officer (Space Hulk Sergeant) -- Gives positive combat modifiers to the squad, akin to the Sergeants in Space Hulk.
  • Special Weapons (warrior) -- Armed with a high damage minigun and access to other high damage weapons.
  • Medic (cleric) -- Heals the squad.
  • Tech (thief) -- Opens and seal doors, and aids in early enemy detection.

Since Alien Swarm only requires four players, it is easy to find people to play online. The game plays more like an arcade action, dungeon-crawler like Gauntlet than the more cerebrally strategic Alien Assault, and has the RPG element of leveling up. It is fast-paced and hectic; alien critter big and small try to overrun your squad as you lay down a rain of bullets, being careful to avoid friendly fire.

The existence of the medic makes the game somewhat less tense than Alien Assault, since the entire team can be healed. However, the class is necessary given the multiplayer nature of the game; in Alien Assault, you command the entire team, so the loss of one team member is unlikely to be critical. In Alien Swarm, you control only your own character, meaning that if you were to die, you'd have to sit out the rest of the battle -- up to ten minutes -- which would suck. The existence of the medic solves this problem.

Alien Swarm started as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 by Black Cat Games in 2004. The original developers were hired by Valve, and Alien Swarm was created as self-contained, free game. Being published by Valve, the game is polished and is offered as free only via Valve's digital distribution store, Steam. Steam accounts are free and you can optionally purchase other games.


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Thanks so much for this post. This game looks incredible! I love the fact you can play four players simultaneous. (At work right now on my crappy work computer, but plan on downloading this as soon as I get home.) I'll post more thoughts on it once I get some play time under my belt.

Thanks, Sebastian.

Thanks, Sebastian. I have fond memories of dropping quarter after quarter into the original Gauntlet and jostling elbows for space at the machine (I always wanted to be the Wizard), and I remember that you originally suggested we review Alien Assault - I've been meaning to ask you what you thought of my review / history lesson / paranoid speculation.

Anyway, I'm going to have to give Alien Swarm a try.

3rd or 1st person play

has instructions to put Alien Swarm into a first-person perspective.

Presumably this allows different people to play in the perspective of their choice -- perhaps with a squad leader in 3rd person for situational awareness and the others in first-person for better aiming?

Who's your daddy?


I love your history lesson. I am planning to use your research to convince new game design students that board game design and video game design are similar.

I plan to show Space Hulk board game then show Alien Assault and Alien Swarm during class. The only problem I see that Space Hulk, 3rd edition, was $130 when it was in print for like 3 months. I don't know how much I would have to pay to get a copy now.

Thanks for the info, your review/history was interesting because I always thought X-Com and Space Hulk were similar and now I know why--they are from the same daddy.

PS: Tof wrote an article about Alien Assault, a game I suggested. His research was that Sniper board game influenced video game designers Gollop brothers who made X-Com and Laser Squad video games. Gollop brothers did contract work for Games Workshop in producing two video games. Few months after they finish, Games Workshop makes a board game that has almost identical gameplay as Rebelstar (X-Com was made later). Years later Alien Assault, a video game based on Space Hulk is created.

Thus a board game influenced a video game, that influenced a board game that influenced a video game.

Fear not about Space Hulk.

Fear not about Space Hulk. GW smelled the money and they have rereleased it with updated, but (I am told) still fairly classic rules. As far as I can tell, they immediately STOPPED selling it in classic baffling GW fashion, but I think it can be found for less than 200 bucks.

I also hear the Doom boardgame plays like Space Hulk but I have no first hand experience at it.

I started up the new Alien Swarm yesterday with some friends and it's pretty dang solid. Of important note is that you are HOSED if you let people die early on, especially your tech, your medic, or the guy with the ammo box (who in my case was the tech). At the end you can probably make a dash for it, but some levels have a tech-specific objective. Very fun and tense overall.

Space Hulk 3rd Edition is great


I played 3rd edition and was pleased with the 3rd edition rules. They are more balanced and the Space Marines have a fighting chance.

Doom was is different--wide corridors, line-of-sight rules and is about ammunition management.

Some mission require a Tech.

I will do a review of Space Hulk when I get a copy.

How fast a connection does

How fast a connection does it require? Mines not terribly fast.
Philosopher Gamer Blog
Driftwurld : My WIP browser game

Connection speed

Connection speed is irrelevant in singleplayer mode. In multiplayer, everything happens in real time so you'll probably have trouble registering hits and coordinating with your team with a slow connection.

Ping times are going to be

Ping times are going to be more important than bandwidth on a game like this.

I have crappy 768k DSL, but for almost all the online gaming I do the only time it has an impact is downloading patches.

Thanks. Though I realised

Thanks. Though since posting I realised I'd rather shoot for games with more real world applicability (even if it's only improving memory or math) rather than pure escapism.
Philosopher Gamer Blog
Driftwurld : My WIP browser game