Review - Special Forces: Team X is all about guns and glory
MicroProse and Zombie Studios -- the studios behind BlackLight: Tango Down, Saw and Saw II: Flesh & Blood -- have given their take in a crowded genre of shooters. Special Forces: Team X lacks a storyline, but it’s refreshing to know that Zombie Studios tried to keep it a simple shooter. Yet they implemented a ranking and customization system that will have you egging yourself on to reach higher levels for weapon upgrades and character items. Navigating menus is easy on the eyes; it's simple and to the point. I have noticed that there is no single-player option, only multiplayer (which is titled 'Find Game'). The main menu features a 'Weapons + Gear' selection for character customization. My character had the Macho Man Randy Savage look -- sporting a beard, backwards cap and dark shades. Yeah, you can do that. It will have you chuckling.
As I already mentioned, 'Find Game' allows players to search for matches online. This is where all of the action takes place. Like all multiplayer shooters, matches rely heavily on team-based objectives. As a matter of fact, all game types are team-based. There's your standard Team Deathmatch -- easily the most recognizable game type. Teams are set on a maximum 12 players, and you score points for kills and player-kill bonuses. Interestingly enough, there aren't any specific names given to the two opposing sides, just color coordination.
Hot Zone is a fixed-point-based game where players work to secure a zone. The longer players remain there, the more points you accumulate until they come out victorious. High Value Target (HVT) is like a game of 'Tag, you're it!' The HVT will accrue three points-per-kill for their team, while the remaining players will score two points. The main focus of this game mode is to take out the HVT, netting you those whopping three points and making you the 'hit man.'
Another recognizable game type is Capture the Flag. Like all other CTF games, each team has a flag placed on their home tile. To score a point, you must reach the enemy's flag and rush it back to your home tile. Control Point is probably one of the most played game types in STX. With three control points on the map -- labeled A, B and C -- you and your team must work together to capture these points.
So how does the game play? Well, the controls are solid at best. Aiming, running and performing melee attacks on enemies are pretty basic for the genre. STX is played in a third-person view. In some ways, I feel the third-person view is exactly what this games needs to play right. You need to be on your toes at all times, and having the freedom of moving the camera around to peek down corridors or around corners is crucial in STX -- I can't stress that enough. It’s possible Zombie Studios is a fan of Gears of War; the animation when your character runs seems all too familiar -- crouch-running with the surroundings closing in with just a bit of shaky-cam. It takes getting used to if you aren’t familiar with that style of sprinting, but you can reload while sprinting. This is a nice feature I wish all shooters would implement.
The shooting also holds up pretty well. Each gun has stats on its capabilities for reloading, damage, spread and recoil. I found it best to fire in short bursts to keep my accuracy up. While running and shooting can help you stay alive, the game wants the player to take cover -- a lot of cover. There are objects all around the map to regenerate health, reload or even blind-fire those enemies who won’t stop shooting. (See what I mean about the Gears feeling?) Like I said, this tactic will be your go-to strategy throughout a match.
The battlegrounds selection is unique. It’s made up of three sections, and you and fellow players vote on all sections to construct up the map. The choices can result in numerous combinations. In these maps are item boxes that contain a random special weapon. I once had the pleasure of wielding a chainsaw, allowing me to run around like Leather Face.
The game’s graphics are all cel-shaded, maybe even a little on the comic side in terms of style. Some gamers may not be accepting about the graphical choice, and we can see eye-to-eye on this. If you are used to Borderlands' graphical approach, then by all means, two thumbs up. I, however, am not too fond of the cel-shading. I found myself cross-eyed at times because STX can be fast-paced, and the environment may be too blurry. The environment and character details are negligible. The game is bright, and you can spot your enemy from long distances easily. And yes, there is blood involved, you little heathen. It presents more as a large spatter.
The headshots during the mass firefights have taken the core roots from the Gears series, yet again, but are enjoyable when seen. When hit, you’re left with a lifeless body with flesh dangling! One thing I really enjoyed was the melee attacks; it’s a right haymaker, and bare fists are all you need. Gone are wimpy knives to slice the gut; in it's place are just knuckles to your face. If done directly behind an enemy, the kill-animation is more than satisfying.
My initial opinion was shot down by this well-made game, even though I don’t care for the graphical appearance. It’s a solid shooter that stresses teamwork and guns, with your occasional grenade kills. If you are looking for extreme action regarding automobiles, aircrafts, missiles and turrets, you won’t find it here -- just entirely guns ’n’ glory. And I welcome this with open arms. Special Forces: Team X is absolutely worth a try with friends or just for the pure enjoyment factor.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]