We live in a world where shooters are a dime a dozen. The market is over-saturated, and yet, there are only four shooters that are continuously successful. Of course I speak of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears of War, and Halo. So why do these games keep getting churned out when the market is clearly cornered and owned by these four titles? The answer is simple, lack of originality.
Enter Special Forces: Team X.
Special Forces: Team X is a cover-based third person shooter developed by Zombie Studios and is something of a reboot of MicroProse’s 1991 strategy game, Special Forces. The game is hugely reminiscent of Gears of War. Now I know I already harked on about a lack of originality, but this game is good so it gets a pass, shut up. The game was made using Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, so it’s safe to say that the game had no other destiny than to be like Gears.
Let’s jump into the gameplay!
When you dive into a multiplayer game, you will find yourself thinking “hmm, I’m already a master at this”. There is nothing new to this game in terms of gameplay, everything you see, you have already seen hundreds of times over. But you do find yourself getting committed to the quick shoot-outs and the protection and survival of your team. As I was apparently the only person in the world who knew that I needed to take cover rather than doing a Usain Bolt around the map, I found dispatching my foes quite simple. When I say this game is cover-based, what I mean is, get into cover or die all day long. Cover is the most important facet of the game as you do die quite easily. Sometimes even cover won’t save you. An exposed arm is more than enough to break your enemies’ will. The game is very hectic as sprint speeds are fast as hell. You won’t take very long to get embroiled in the beauty of a battle at all.
The game boasts five different modes for you to go gung-ho in. They are Team Death Match, Control Points, Capture the Flag, Hot Zone, and High Value Target. I won’t bother explaining Team Death Match or Capture the Flag to you as you’ve played these hundreds of times before. Control Points sees you battle for three separate points on the map. It’s essentially Domination. Hot Zone requires you to occupy moving zones for the most points. High Value Target is what you’d expect it to be. Kill the HVT and become the HVT. Survive as long as you can to gain the most points.
Map-design in this title is solid; nothing seems to be out of place or popped in the map ‘just because’. They’ve really thought it all out. You’ll almost never be able to know where to go whenever a new game starts, however. Ah, here’s where the confusion begins. The map-voting has been completely switched up from the norm. Now instead of voting on the one map you’d like, you choose between three. That’s right, the game space is divided into three. You vote on what parts of what maps you want for the left, middle, and right sections. This is a completely fresh idea, and one that I really hope could one day be utilised again. There are nine different map archetypes to choose from with three selections per environment. That means you can play over one hundred different level configurations. How’s that for choice?
The visuals in the game are absolutely beautiful. Cel-shading gives this game a comic book feel that lends itself to the game’s over the top split your head in two style of action. Some people would draw comparisons with Borderlands, but I feel that it is a lot more reminiscent of XIII. The game is nice to look at, and that’s different for a shooter these days.
Now levelling up works almost exactly as it does in the CoD series. Level up to get more unlocks that will ultimately make you stronger. Unlocks come in all shapes and sizes ranging from character body unlocks to weapon attachments. Heck, you can even go as far as to unlock dog torpedoes. It also involves special player missions that can gain extra XP to get more unlocks. Again, just like CoD and Gears. There are even licensed weapons such as the Kalashnikov and the Pechenga.
My main gripe with this game is the poor connectivity. Playing two matches in a row without getting disconnected is the unattainable Holy Grail. I’ve never found the connection to be poor once in the game, however. So far, the matchmaking is the only issue I have with the game.
To summarise, Special Forces: Team X is the culmination of the inspiration of some of gaming’s top shooters over the last decade. There are no new leaps and bounds in the gameplay, that doesn’t stop it from being a boatload of fun, though. Controls are easy to use and extremely accessible. The maps are well designed and a new innovative map voting/generating system has been introduced. The game looks amazing and cartoony because of well used cel-shading. Connectivity and matchmaking is a bit of an issue. An array of game modes should help the longevity of the game. But I can’t see this becoming a mainstay due to the repetitive nature of all shooters for the last…forever.
All in all, Special Forces: Team X is a delightful romp that is well made and damn fun to play. It should become a mainstay in the gaming community. Whether it will is down to the consumer.
Special Forces: Team X is available now on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points.