by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Allow me to be blunt from the get-go: I probably won’t remember this game a month from now. Special Forces: Team X is, in short, a terribly forgettable game without much of anything to make it stand out from the competition. Even if it had done what it was aiming to do well, Zombie Studios still would have had a fairly stale experience on their hands that is little more than an amalgamation of established mechanics and modes. However, the fact that it falls short of even mediocre makes this a game that should be avoided by all but the most desperate of gamers.
Nice weapons, bad mechanics
At its core, Special Forces: Team X is a third person multiplayer-only cover-based shooter that acts as a sort of hybrid between Counter Strike, SOCOM, and the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3, except without any of the polish, strategy (I’ll get to this later), or awesome biotic aliens. The core shooting and cover mechanics, the two most important aspects of a cover-based shooter, range from competent to bad. I have no issue with the actual gunplay in the game. The weapons are fair and seem different enough. There are four stat categories for each weapon: spread, recoil, damage, and accuracy. There is a noticeable difference in how to best use the weapons that are particularly adept in each category. Unfortunately, the guns that are available to be unlocked don’t really add anything new. I, and most other people as far as I could tell, stuck with the starting weapons even long after earning new ones.
Cover is another story. Once upon a time I accepted cover mechanics that were a bit robotic or imprecise. The times have changed, however, and games like Uncharted and Gears of War have shown that cover shooters can be perfectly smooth and slick. While actually in cover Team X functions decently, but moving from cover spot to cover spot is a pain. There is no “switch cover” button, meaning that in order to move the player must exit cover, stand straight up, move over, then duck down. It might not seem like that big of a deal, but the point of cover is normally to keep you out of the line of fire. Standing up, even for a few moments, often spells untimely death. Additionally, if the cover you’re behind changes heights, such as a wall that starts waist high and then transitions into a full-sized wall, the game treats it as two separate pieces of cover. It is incredibly annoying to be under a window, try to slide over, and have to break and re-enter cover just to stay on the wall.
Where it goes wrong
Special Forces: Team X has a handful of game modes, including one that I really do enjoy, but finding games that you want is oftentimes a chore. Most of the game modes, which are largely vanilla to a fault, are barren of players, with only Team Deathmatch frequently populated with enough players to hop right into a game. The only unique game mode is High Value Target, which functions a small bit like Team Regicide from Halo 4. One player is the Target, and earns three points per kill. The entire team of the Target earns two points per kill, and the opposing team only ears normal points. Kill the Target to become him. It is fun, the games are normally fast paced back-and-forth affairs, and teams generally at least try to work together. I say try, because even with the best intentions any sort of tactics beyond “stick together” is made impossible by two detrimental facts: there is no voice chat and there is no team-only text chat. That means that your only mode of communication is text that everyone in the game can see. It’s puzzling in a team-based shooter, and it does a lot to hurt the mood. Sure there’s always the option of using a different voice chat client, but it’s really a moot point unless you’re playing with people you know.
One potentially interesting element of the game is how the maps are generated. Each map is broken down into thirds, and players vote on what will be put in each third. There are a number of modules, or set chunks, and by having three of them placed together as voted on stops the maps from becoming quite as stale. Unfortunately, none of the map segments are particularly exciting or fun to play. They are not bad, and do a decent job of promoting movement, but there isn’t anything present that has not been seen hundreds of times before. This being the case, the maps quickly become stale. Players might not have whole maps to memorize, but it’s easy to memorize each module since they don’t change, leaving the whole system a bit underwhelming.
No reason to exist
Even though there are a few things that Special Forces: Team X does that actively bothered me, its biggest fault is its mediocrity. Everything in it has been done before, and done a lot better. To top it all off, the game is often buggy, spawning players in the middle of enemies, giving false score and player count readings, and saying there are new items unlocked when there aren’t (or visa versa). None of these separately ruin the experience, but their weight adds up to a hefty load. If you’re looking for a something to give you your tactical, shooter, or even just light gaming fix there are far better places to look. I’m not saying that every game needs to be revolutionary, but I do think every game needs a reason to exist, and Special Forces: Team X just never quite finds a reason to justify itself.
Decent gunplay, interesting map concept, Cool High Value Target mode.
Average audio and visuals, annoying cover mechanics, empty game modes, buggy.