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By Ziad

Your ultimate goal is to arrest suspects, not kill them. As with the real-life SWAT teams, your job as an element commander in SWAT 4 is to take your five-man team into dangerous situations and defuse them. These situations range from a botched jewelry heist to high-risk arrest warrants to a raid on an illegal casino. In almost every mission, there are innocent civilians mixed in with the bad guys. Even when you do run into armed criminals, you don't have carte blanche to shoot them immediately. You have to follow the same strict rules of engagement as a real police officer and do whatever you can to subdue and arrest suspects without lethal force. Your guns are meant to be a last resort and should only be used if an armed suspect is an immediate threat to your team or civilians. At the end of each mission you're graded on how well you did, and more points are awarded for arresting as opposed to killing suspects. You are assessed big point penalties for improper use of force, and for the most part, these penalties are levied fairly and intuitively.

The 14-mission campaign isn't linked in any way. There's no overarching storyline that connects them all, so the campaign plays out just like a series of stand-alone missions. It starts you off with a training level that does a good job of acquainting you with the basics of using your weapons and commanding your teams. It's here that you're introduced to the game's interface. Your four subordinates are divided into a pair of two-man groups: red and blue. You can issue orders to the entire element or to each pair separately. Switching between the groups is done by tapping a key. Aim at a locked door and you can order your men to pick the lock or blow it open with a charge or breaching shotgun.

The context-sensitive interface extends to a multipurpose use button as well. Point it at a suspect or hostage, and the use button will cause you to yell at the person to put his hands up and surrender. You'll be doing this a lot in SWAT 4, as you attempt to get suspects to respect your authority before shooting them. Point your cursor at a dropped weapon and you can pick it up to secure it. Aim at a cuffed criminal or civilian and your use key will radio a status report into command.

There are also interface options that allow you to remotely command one of your squad elements. For example, you can order red team to stack up at a door, and then leave them there while you take blue team around the corner to a second door (which leads into the same room). Even though you're out of visual range of red team, you can bring up a picture-in-picture window of what red team is seeing, and through that window you can order them to enter the door they're standing in front of. This is a neat option that allows you to simultaneously enter a room that has two doors.

Before going on each mission you can listen to a quick briefing, and this presentation is done well. SWAT 4 includes a good selection of assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and nonlethal weapons like Taser guns, pepper spray, and a paintball gun modified to shoot pepper balls. You can also choose between ammo types like hollow-point bullets for more stopping power against unarmored suspects, or full metal jacket for better penetration against body armor. The grenades and gadgets are probably the most important selections. You'll need to carry in flashbang and tear gas grenades for assaulting rooms, and you also have special gear like the Optiwand, which is a fiber-optic camera used for peeking around corners and under doors. Door wedges allow you to seal off exits to keep suspects from running away into rooms you've already cleared.

Once you're actually in a mission, you'll find that the game rewards patient and deliberate play. The nature of SWAT 4 as a realistic simulator is that it's very easy for you and your team to get wiped out if you make any kind of mistake. Charging into rooms without first tossing in some kind of grenade to incapacitate or distract suspects inside is a surefire recipe for disaster. As a result, once you get the feel of the game, you'll find that the gameplay in SWAT 4 is fairly methodical, punctuated by a few brief moments of intense action. Stick an Optiwand under a door to check for occupants, open (or blow open) the door, toss in a grenade, then rush in and clear threats. Repeat on the next door.

What ends up complicating matters is the varied artificial intelligence of the enemies and hostages you find. Some criminals will give up the moment you yell at them to drop their weapons. Others won't surrender unless you incapacitate them with a flashbang or tear gas, or even a Taser gun shock. Some immediately shoot back, while others will try to run away and escape into other rooms. Bold suspects may even run into the room you're in and unexpectedly attack you. Hostages are equally unpredictable in how they behave. Most hostages comply immediately, but some need to be hit with a nonlethal weapon before they can be restrained.

The fun in SWAT 4 comes in trying to sort out all the mess and bring order to the chaos while remaining within a police officer's rules of engagement. Thankfully, the AI of your squadmates is generally smart enough to handle most situations. They're usually good about engaging suspects and only shooting them when appropriate. They're also extremely accurate when called upon to fire. Your squadmates are even smart about moving up and down stairways and keeping their weapons pointed up or down as appropriate. Despite the flaws, SWAT 4 is extremely unique in its gameplay style and premise, and it executes cleanly for the most part. What's more, suspects and hostages spawn randomly in each level every time you play, which adds a great deal of replayability to the game. No matter how many times you've played a mission, you can never be too sure of the whereabouts of suspects, which makes for a consistently intense experience. Replaying levels does make them easier over time, but that's not from memorizing the locations of enemies, it's from gaining a better understanding of the building architecture, which plays a huge role in the game.

The biggest downside to the game's graphics is that the frame rate can be a big issue. SWAT 4 chugs noticeably on machines with 512MB of RAM. Upgrading to 1GB can make most situations play out a lot smoother, but in intense firefights with tear gas in the air and multiple suspects and squadmates firing, the frame rate still takes a big nosedive

Review by Gokhra

Gothika has been out for some time too but it requires a menton because it is way too cool. Sort of. Gothika is a sleek, fast nightmare thriller. The story has a very engrossing beginning.

The plot: Halle Berry's Miranda Grey is a smart, spiffy psychiatrist married to fatherly Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles Dutton), the psychiatric head at Woodward Penitentiary for Women. Seems a lot of others are also smitten with here including Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.) and some of the scarier female patients, like Chloe Sava (Penelope Cruz).

One night while Miranda is heading home to meet up with her husband bad weather forces her to take a detour through a lonely stretch of road while talking on the cell phone. We all know that bad things go wrong when talking on cell phones while driving in a deserted road. Psycho killers come up and aliens abduct or even become abducted. In this case, a blond girl materializes in the middle of the road causing Miranda to veer off and crash. She steps out of the car to help the girl who is dressed in underwear and has scratches all over her body. The girl is a ghost who simply bursts into flames and a shock cut takes us to Miranda opening her eyes to find herself locked inside the psychiatric cell becoming a patient that she herself used to treat.

She's accused of killing her husband with "Psycho"-like gruesomeness. Blood, decapitation and writings on the wall (in blood). Everybody saw them as a happy coupe so it as bewildering that one night she would just turn up at her house and chop her husband to pieces with an axe no less. So why would she just snap like that? Or is there something more that we can't see?

The rest of the movie shows Miranda trapped in a nightmare, persecuted or misunderstood by almost everybody, including the dead husbands angry best friend, Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch). She sees the ghost often and is even attacked by her. Subsequently it seems that the ghost attacks actually help her to break out of jail, with incredible ease, to try to solve the mystery. You see, the ghost is that of a girl who supposedly committed suicide years ago by jumping off a bridge. But maybe the girl was killed and is out for revenge of some twisted sort. Or maybe the ghost is simply just a mean spirit who likes to possess hot female bodies Halle Barry's for instance) and go on a chopping spree.

The verdict: The rest of the movie takes you on a wild ride with equally wild plot twists just to solve that particular mystery. Gothika is like Halle Berry in the film, it looks good but acts crazy. There are instances when you will be wondering about some plot holes. For example why can't the ghost just calmly tell Miranda what is going on instead of throwing her against shelf and even slicing up her arm? Well, that wouldn't be scary now would it?

As with thrillers, don't go looking for too much plausibility. The movie is whip-fast and drenched in atmosphere. So, relax soak in the unfolding story. The classy actors (especially Downey Jr. and Dutton) supply style and edge to the core idea of a psychiatrist-turned-inmate. It's a brilliant movie and is a must for anyone's collection.

Celebrity Spotlight

Kate Winslet

Birth Name: Kate Elizabeth Winslet
Height: 5' 8"
Nationality: British
Birth Date: October 5, 1975
Birth Place: Reading, Berkshire, England, UK
Education: Redroofs School in Maidenhead, U.K.
Studied at drama school in UK
Husband/Wife: Sam Mendes (director; born on August 1, 1965; married in May 2003), Jim Threapleton (assistant director; born in 1974; met during filming of Hideous Kinky in 1997; engaged in October 1998; married on November 22, 1998; separated in September 2001)
Father: Roger Winslet (actor)
Mother: Sally Winslet (née Bridges; actress, nanny)
Sister: Beth Winslet (actress; born in May 1978), Anna Winslet (actress; born in 1972)
Brother: Joss Winslet (born in 1980)
Grand Father: Oliver Bridges (theater manager)
Grand Mother: Linda Bridges (theater manager)
Uncle: Robert Bridges (actor)
Son: Joe Mendes (born on December 22, 2003 in New York; father: Sam Mendes)
Daughter: Mia (born on October 12, 2000; father: Jim Threapleton)
Claim to fame: as Rose DeWitt Bukater in James Cameron Titanic (1997)

Kate Winslet has been described as "the most gifted actress of her generation" and "champagne and caviar for movie-goers with good taste". At the age of 22, she was the youngest actor to receive two Academy Awards nominations, and at 26 she became the youngest actress to have been nominated three times. Her honors include a Screen Actors Guild award, British Academy Award, European Film People's Choice Award, and numerous critics and fan awards. She starred in the biggest box office hit in history, "Titanic", but most often chooses interesting roles in independent films. Kate's most recent release is "Finding Neverland" with Johnny Depp. In January 2005, at the age of 29, Kate received her fourth Academy Award nomination for her performance in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

It was Kate's destiny to be in the performing arts. She is a well-seasoned actress who comes from a long line of performing artists. Kate's grandparents ran the Reading Repertory Theatre, her late uncle was a West End actor, and her parents were stage actors. At age 11, Kate began taking acting lessons in Maidenhead and secured her first acting role in a commercial for Sugar Puffs cereal, dancing with the Honey Monster.

Kate attended a performing arts school and following her graduation, began her career with roles in the British television drama Shrinks. She has also appeared in television series; Casualty, Dark Season, Get Back, and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. Kate's theatrical roles include Pandora in the musical "Adrian Mole", Wendy in "Peter Pan", Sarah in "A Game of Soldier", and Geraldine in "What the Butler Saw".

Kate made her move into films in 1994, with "Heavenly Creatures", where she landed the starring role and received rave reviews for her film debut. Screenwriter and producer, Emma Thompson, cast her at first sight for the role in which Kate earned herself an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Kate has continued to distinguish herself in other productions including Jude and Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet".

Kate's most successful movie to date has been "Titanic", playing the role of Rose Dewitt Bukater, an upper class Philadelphian aboard the ill fated ocean liner. Following the success of "Titanic", Kate starred in some smaller films, such as "Hideous Kinky" set in Morocco, and then starred in "Holy Smoke" opposite Harvey Keitel. Another memorable work for Kate was seen in the film "Quills", a film about the final days of the Marquis de Sade. Kate has also starred in "Enigma" and "Iris" for which she has picked up numerous awards.

Did You Know?
Kate is in talks to star in the fourth HARRY POTTER movie as a French wizard. (March 25, 2004)
Kate fainted during a scene in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND where she and co-star Jim Carey are in an oversized kitchen sink, because the tub was too hot.

Quotable Quotes
"My Neverland is where family is - where I am happiest."-Kate Winslet

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam



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