GAME NAME: Special Forces: Team X
DEVELOPER(S): Zombie Studios
PLATFORM(S): PC, XBLA
GENRE(S): Third person shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): February 6th 2013
Huge franchises like Call of Duty and Borderlands seemingly have the shooter genre all sewn up. However, for anyone with a sense of history of video games, arena based shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament hold a special place in our hearts. Developer Zombie Studios are obviously of a similar mindset. Having previously worked on Specs Ops: The Line and the Rainbow Six series, alongside developing smaller titles like the Blacklight series, they’ve now delivered a title that they hope can stand up to the heavy hitters from the likes of Activision and Gearbox. So, how does it hold up?
Online only shooters are rare creatures these days, so straight out of the gate Special Forces: Team X offers something very few other modern games can. Combined with a nice cell shaded art style that evokes memories of Borderlands and to a greater degree XIII, the gameplay is solid if unspectacular. From the outset, it’s important to note that this is a game you are going to want to play with friends. Luckily, it being a budget title means that you and a few friends can pick it up for the same as one retail copy of an AAA title.
Taking a few nods from the Call of Duty series, along with almost any other game worth it’s salt these days, Special Forces: Team X has an RPG-esque upgrade system. While you start off with very few options, both in terms of weapons and attachments, rack up some kills and you’ll soon find yourself with access to appearance customisations, more powerful weapons and attachments, allowing you to more efficiently earn more levels and rewards. It’s a system we’re all intimately familiar with and it helps ensure the game is accessible to all, loadouts, class types and all.
The combat is punchy and quick paced, especially for the first five levels or so, perhaps even a little too much. However, once you get to level six and beyond it begins to balance out. While the early weapons lack impact, the latter rewards for positive play feel satisfyingly heavy and weighty. The emphasis on positive teamplay is strong throughout, with players awarded multipliers for working as a cohesive unit. The longer you work together, the higher the multiplier, and the better the rewards. This system works well, especially when playing with friends, but can become frustrating if playing with randoms who insist on going lone wolf. Finally the cover mechanic works well, with chest high walls dotted across the various maps, ensuring you can protect yourself when required.
Graphically, Special Forces: Team X has plenty to offer. The cell shaded presentation looks great and lends itself well to the ultra violence that the title leans towards. Colours are bright, and differentiating between opposing teams is not difficult at all. Gun and weapon models are also well done, as is the extreme damage they inflict. Unfortunately, when it comes to sound the title does suffer a little, with the guns lacking any real depth, sounding almost hollow at times. The voice work is also lacking in any real emotion or character, it sounds so painfully obvious that it’s just someone giving a basic script read. A pity too because with the graphical style presented, an over the top sound selection really would have helped push the game just that little bit further. Sometimes, a little overacting can go a long way.
Finally, a word on one of the key features of Special Forces: Team X, the map generation system. Instead of simply coming with a standard selection of maps for you to learn and exploit over time, the game offers a rather unique system wherein you select to combine three map parts together to create a large, unpredictable selection of areas, numbering more than one hundred in total. This approach, combined with a very effective matchmaking system that offered zero issues during my week with the title made for a very enjoyable experience overall.
Special Forces: Team X is a solid if derivative title. Sure it’s all been done before, but not in a good long while. Call of Duty and other franchises may do individual aspects better, but this game brings together some of the best aspects from a collection of top titles, combines them with a unique map system, and then positively encourages team co-operative play through it’s leveling system. It’s not the best game you’ll play this year, but it’s great fun to play with a few friends and a more than capable way of passing a weekend, or say a slow release week where the only alternative is Aliens: Colonial Marines. When you can pick up four copies of this for almost the same price as one copy of Gearbox’s latest, it’s a no contest in my opinion, drag your mates over to Steam and jump into some glorious cell shaded ultra violence.