The first title, Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: SWAT was an "interactive movie" type game released in 1995 that suffered the same fate as most titles of the same genre released during the so-called Multimedia Explosion in the mid-nineties. With extensive use of FMV videos for its basic gameplay, the game took up four CDs. As the game flopped for a second time, it would take three years until a new game in the series would be released.
In keeping the rule strictness of the previous series, the majority of the game is spent in reptitive training exercises. In fact, there are only 3 actual missions in the game (a deranged grandmother, a barricaded fugitive, and a terrorist attack). Each of the missions can only be accessed after the successful completion of many training exercises. To increase replay value, the missions are randomized so that they unfold in a different way each time (a character may be an innocent in one play-through, and a gun-wielding maniac in another). The role the player takes during the mission also differs based on the career path they have selected during training; for example during the last mission the player may act as either the element leader or a high-ground sniper.
The strictness and discipline the game attempts to convey is emphasized by the game's opening movie, an introductory briefing delivered by the Sergeant to the player character. If the player attempts to skip this opening movie, the Sergeant will berate the player character for this disrespectful and insubordinate behavior.
Police Quest: SWAT 2 (1998) was an isometric view, squad-level RTT game in the mold of the classic X-Com or Jagged Alliance games. The game takes place in real-time, with the player issuing orders to individual SWAT team members from a three-quarter overhead view of the level. Many of the game's missions were based on real life events, such as the North Hollywood shootout, and a small scale riot that can be seen as a parallel to the L.A. riots that followed the Rodney King incident. The game's story revolves around a conflict between SWAT and an emerging left-wing domestic terrorist group called "the Five Eyes". The game features two separate campaigns, one in which you control SWAT and another in which you take the role of a lieutenant in the Five Eyes terrorist organization.
As a homage, Sonny Bonds, the protagonist of the original Police Quest series, is one of the SWAT officers available for the player to send into missions during the SWAT campaign. Sonny's high initial stats—some of the best in the game—allow him to become certified as an element leader.
With much more positive reviews than the previous two games, it still had several flaws, such as the overly complicated interface and imperfect AI, and a simple trick of selling the sidearms of all characters not participating in a mission that allowed players to ignore the budgeting aspect of the game.
In the game (which was fully endorsed by SWAT, who worked closely with the development team), played in a fictional near-future of 2005, Los Angeles is hosting the signing of the United Nations Nuclear Abolishment Treaty, which will celebrate Global Peace Day 2005. SWAT is responsible for defending the city from the various ultra-nationalist domestic and foreign terrorist groups intent upon sabotaging the treaty. The player is the leader of a five man strike team, and has to issue orders to the remaining pairs (Blue and Red) to properly finish a mission. The leadership rating (which defines how well the mission was played) depends on several factors, such as the improper use of deadly force, killing cooperative enemies and proper communications (calling evacuation for a dead enemy or declaring a downed but breathing character dead would take points) would reduce the rating. Medals are awarded according to the situations faced in the mission, but are rarely affected by a poor leadership score.
The levels (for a total of 13 in the campaign) are varied, from high-risk arrests and dignitary protection to bomb defusals. The hostage and terrorist positions are randomly assigned at each game start, assuring a different experience every time. Some of the maps are based on real buildings such as the LA City Hall or the Convention Center. Common criticisms are the lack of sniper support and predefined tactics, which are at disposal in contenders Rainbow Six series. As a homage, Marie Wilkins, one of the main characters from the Police Quest series, appears as a bank clerk in the bank mission.
Two action-oriented console titles were planned. The first, SWAT: Urban Justice was announced in 2002 but canceled one year later and SWAT: Global Strike Team, released for the Xbox and the PlayStation 2. The "trigger happy" gameplay of both caused some friction between SWAT and Sierra.