Game Review: Special Forces – Team X
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Special Forces: Team X joins the fray of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears of War, Borderlands, and countless other shooters before it to try and carve out it’s own forces on the battleground: but, does it come out unscathed?
In a generation defined by the rise of the First/Third-Person Shooter across the last decade, the idea of going up against the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears of War, and so many behemoths of this genre, is almost akin to the task of blowing up a tank with a capgun.
With no ammo.
Yet, Zombie Studios arms up for their take on an admittedely crowded genre that has already seen (almost) every possible permutation imaginable; from team-based strategic shooters (Battlefield/Ghost Recon), lone-wolf frag-fests (Call of Duty), goofy and stylish hybrids (Borderlands/Team Fortress 2), or even ones that feature a small portion of all of these variations (Halo). Taking a little bit of all of these attributes, Zombie Studios creates their own downloadable multiplayer-only shooter, Special Forces: Team X, and while the idea of trying to incorporate all of these various elements from successful franchises before it sounds like a match made in (FPS) Heaven, Special Forces: Team X tries to take on some insurmountable odds with applomb, yet ultimately takes a few bullets for the team in the fight.
Almost as if it were the baby produced by mixing Ghost Recon with Borderlands, Special Forces: Team X is a third-person shooter featuring your fairly standard assortment of traditional shooter gametypes: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Capture Point, etc. Emphasizing teamwork and strategy a la Battlefield and Ghost Recon, mixed with a little bit of the cel-shaded stylings of Borderlands, Special Forces: Team X is definitely a shooter by blood, featuring solid online play with rarely a hiccup or patch of serious in-game lag, or any major occurances of any of the usual suspects in online multiplayer shooters. Yet, as good as combining all of these elements from the most-established shooters in the current gen sounds on paper, in execution it creates the most glaring issues of Special Forces’s existence: that being, it’s a shooter game with an identity crisis, and finds itself a bit shell-shocked on the battlefield in trying to be an FPS Jack-of-All-Trades.
From a gameplay standpoint, Special Forces is perfectly adequate with responsive and fine shooting, yet at times movement and precision feel a bit impaired due to some stiff animations that don’t particularly make your character feel agile as much as a bit bumbling, especially in transitioning between on-foot movement and in traversing from cover to cover. Likewise, the modes and gametypes, as mentioned previously, have all of the hallmarks of other typical shooters as well, but much like the game itself, it’s left at that: just the typical. Even when combining all of the elements that would sound fantastic in a late-night conversation while shooting up friends (“Dude: Battlefield mixed with Borderlands? AWESOME?”), Special Forces only takes things to the surface-level.
Yes, it features competent shooting, combat, and gameplay, but other than that, it is a fairly-barebones presentation with little to offer new to the table in comparison to its shooter superiors. The art-style is a fun diversion from the realm of “gritty THIS HAS TO LOOK AS REAL AS POSSIBLE” military shooters, but even then the art direction only adds to the game’s jumbled confusion of what it wants to be. Trying to be both a strategic shooter with the ingredients of Counter-Strike or Battlefield with the flavoring of subvervise kook from Borderlands may be a neat idea, but without any defining elements to make it unique, it makes Special Forces: Team X come off more as a “me-too” shooter, rather than a worthy fighter trying to dig his own plot in the trenches.
Even if Special Forces is still just earning its stripes in most regards, it does bring a few new items to the militia with nifty map design that, if the game at least manages to find a small yet devoted community, could provide for at least some intriguing new possibilities to the shooter scene. While the game features your hallmark server/matchmaking lobby systems of Counter-Strikes, Halos, and Call of Dutys of old, complete with map voting systems in place, the one area that Special Forces is able to carve its own territory for is in a randomly generating map design that changes with each new round. Maps are voted on like most other traditional shooters of today, however players vote for three individual “segments” of map that are then combined into the map that results in gameplay – while the map segments thmselves are of the typical “Industrial Warehouse/Abandoned Combat Zones/Buildings!” variety of most other shooters, the idea at least is novel and gives each map that sort of “first-time discovery” feeling when playing, allowing for quite an assortment of variations each round.
With a solid gameplay center and interesting take in its map design, Special Forces: Team X is the type of game that, while not at all revolutionary in a tough-to-budge genre, at least knows its ranks and provides a fun, light shooter experience, especially in its $15 price point and filling a great niche in the XBLA lineup, even up against some similar competition in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Gotham City Imposters, and Monday Night Combat. However, the real question will come to pass in the game’s longevity and community survival, in whether the game can hold up an audience for the next few months/years, or just a few weeks. It’s only been a week since the game’s release and overall games were fairly easy to find, but whether Special Forces: Team X rises up in the ranks, or ends up fading into the dissipating wisps of battle, will remain to be seen when the dust settles.
(Review based on Xbox 360 version of the game – Review code provided by publisher)