Alien Swarm – Loadouts 101 (Classes and Characters)

In addition to there being 4 classes, each class also has two character choices. Some of the differences between characters are minor, while others can make a noticeable difference with your loadout choices. For example, Jaeger’s high Explosives Bonus gives him three trip mines per charge when most characters get one (Sarge and Crash get two), and Bastille will make all Adrenaline used last ~60% longer if present in the squad.

The rather confusing mish-mash of damage bonuses which Sarge has.

A quick note regarding the “Damage Bonus” trait: this does not apply to specialist weapons like the Vindicator and Autogun. Those weapons have their own bonuses, and having both will not make those weapons deal more damage. “Explosives Bonus”, which affects things that go boom (e.g. Grenade Launcher) also doesn’t stack with Damage Bonus – either the weapon uses explosions — and is affected by Explosives Bonus — or it doesn’t, and is affected by Damage Bonus. Perhaps a bit unintuitive for new players, but not too difficult to understand once you know about it.

Officers: Sarge vs Jaeger

  • Sarge’s maxed out Leadership makes him a great addition to a squad that sticks together during a mission. Jaeger’s moderate bonus is still helpful, but may make more sense if your squad tends to split up to complete objectives (so that you’re not losing as much of a bonus when you do split).
  • Jaeger’s maxed Vindicator Damage and nearly-maxed Explosives Bonus makes him the best option for that equipment, including things like grenades and mines. Sarge’s bonuses for these are middling but not bad, so he’s still perfectly capable of using them effectively if chosen.
  • Although Jaeger is great with the Vindicator and explosives, he has no Damage Bonus for other weapons, making his effective arsenal somewhat limited. On the other hand, Sarge’s moderate Damage Bonus allows him to deal competitive DPS even when using non-specialist weapons.
  • Jaeger’s Melee Damage bonus gives him a reliable way to take out stray Drones with little-to-no ammo usage. “Melee Damage” is a bit of a misnomer, since the bonus actually also increases the swing speed of the melee attack as well as the damage each swing does.

Verdict: Sarge seems to make more sense for a “sticks-with-the-team conventional officer”, while Jaeger’s prowess with the Vindicator and Explosives make him superior for clearing out larger swarms – he can almost fulfill the tactical role of a Special Weapons player but as an Officer.

My classic loadout choice: Jaeger with a Vindicator, Flamethrower, and Freeze Grenades. Incredibly proficient at dealing with large swarms with minimal assistance. Unlike when using an Autogun or Minigun you retain flexibility with your movement.

Special Weapons: Wildcat vs Wolfe

  • These two are arguably the most similar out of any of the characters, as four of their five traits are the same, just with small differences in the proportions of each.
  • Wildcat and Wolfe share similar moderate-to-high bonuses for Autogun Damage and Piercing Bullets. Wolfe’s is higher on each by one point, but it’s not a big gap.
  • Wildcat makes up for the difference by having the highest Damage Bonus in the game, giving her the most damage output out of the entire roster when using any non-specialist non-melee weapon.1 She also reloads marginally faster.
  • The biggest difference between the two is Wildcat’s Speed Bonus vs Wolfe’s Health Bonus. These bonuses are fairly straightforward (speed = run faster, health = higher max health), and have some synergy with the distribution of each of their respective traits.

Verdict: Wildcat’s high speed bonus makes it easy for her to employ some speedrun-esque tactics even when not actually trying to speedrun, especially since she can deal more damage than anyone else with non-specialist weapons. Wolfe’s higher health pool, combined with slightly higher Autogun Damage and Piercing Bullets bonuses make him the better pick for your primary frontline alien-mob-mower.

In the running for the ultimate “hold the line” loadout: Wolfe with a Minigun, Devastator, and Damage Amplifier. Ludicrously good at mowing down screen-fulls of aliens if you can provide him with healing and ammo. Low mobility and limited range somewhat hinder usefulness in general combat situations.

Medics: Faith vs Bastille

  • Faith’s maxed out Healing Bonus and Infestation Curing make her the obvious choice for a “full time” healer. Bastille will cure an infestation slower but nearly matches her healing rate with his own nearly maxed bonus.
  • Faith has close-to-worthless weapons bonuses, with the single lowest and equal lowest Damage Bonus and Reload Speed Bonus in the game respectively. Bastille fairs slightly better, with a moderately high Damage Bonus and slightly higher Reload Speed Bonus.
  • Bastille’s special sauce is his Combat Drugs bonus, which nobody else has. It could really be renamed “Adrenaline Duration Bonus” because that’s actually the only thing it does.2 The bonus applies to everyone on the squad so long as Bastille is alive – he doesn’t need to be the one holding/using it.
  • Neither Medic has the Health Bonus trait, leaving them vulnerable if isolated. Faith’s moderate Speed Bonus does negate this somewhat, as it at least helps her stay out of harm’s way.

Verdict: Faith is undoubtedly the best dedicated healer, and her ability to “heal off” parasites quickly make her especially good for an inexperienced squad to have on board. Bastille’s Damage Bonus — and subsequent ability to offer competitive damage output — may make him a better choice for a squad that only needs their health topped up now and then during a mission. His longer Adrenaline time also offers additional utility, and will further help an inexperienced Tech complete a hack during the slowdown.

A Faith loadout that purely focuses on healing and utility to help her team mates. “Mercy main btw”

Techs: Crash vs Vegas

  • Both Techs (fortunately? unfortunately?) have the same maxed out Scanner, reducing the differences between them down to four traits instead of five.
  • Crash has a minimal Engineering bonus, whereas Vegas’ is maxed out. If you and/or your squad tend to do lots of welding and/or deploy Sentries a lot, Vegas will make both of those tasks meaningfully faster for you.
  • Crash has a moderate Damage Bonus, a high Reload Speed Bonus and is the only non-officer to have any amount of Explosives Bonus. These make him competitive in the “second tier DPS” slot compared to Vegas, who has none of those bonuses.
  • Despite his combat bonuses, Crash is a fragile little pea with the default (low) health pool. On missions where a Tech is required to progress, this can make Vegas’ Health Bonus of >+50% max HP very appealing, particularly if your squad is struggling to keep the Tech alive.
  • Although unskilled with guns, Vegas does have the highest Melee Damage bonus in the game (which I suppose synergises with his Health Bonus). Not only does that make him head-and-shoulders better at bare-handed “Drone-dueling”, it makes his Chainsaw damage downright nasty. With some team coordination (and/or some crowd control effects), he and his Chainsaw can take out Shieldbugs with ease. A (nearly) double-damage Chainsaw also means that doors can be quickly taken down without any need for hacking or unwelding.

Verdict: Vegas is a better “Tech” Tech, but won’t add that much damage in fights unless you let him bring a Chainsaw. Crash brings some respectable combat bonuses to the table for when you need another source of damage in the squad, but his fragility can be a concern.

A Crash loadout to try sometime: Railgun, Ammo Satchel, and Laser Trip Mines. It takes advantage of his damage bonus, fast reloads, and explosives bonus, while letting him stay safely behind his beefier team mates .


Next Page: Squad Composition


  1. Other than the Desert Eagle, a gun added in Reactive Drop. The Desert Eagle (for unclear reasons) does not receive a damage bonus from any of the character traits.
  2. I’d love to see other equips that are affected by Combat Drugs in some future campaigns. I feel like it doesn’t live up to its cool name by only increasing the length of Adrenaline and not doing anything else.

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