Special Forces: Team X PC
In this day and age, you can just about play any type of multiplayer, first-person shooter (FPS) on the PC, ranging from popular military shooters, such as Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty titles, to games like the sci-fi-themed Crysis 3. Even the free-to-play market has brought a wave of FPS games on a grand scale. It’s a genre that is constantly flooding the market, so it’s nice to see that Zombie Studios, who actually have their own free-to-play FPS by the name of Blacklight: Retribution, are attempting to fill an area of the market that lacks any substantial, big hitters at the moment.
Team X is pretty standard when it comes to the general formula of the action. It’s a cover-based shooter with two teams of up to eight players a side, so imagine Gears of War but with a coat of cel shading (which is certainly intriguing to see), and you pretty much have an idea how Team X plays out. It even uses Unreal Engine 3, so animations and camera effects, such as when using the roadie running, look near-identical to Epic’s testosterone-filled shooter. At least using Unreal Engine 3 to produce a game like this means that the shooting feels adequate enough, if a little loose, and that is something that needs to be right in a multiplayer-based game to be fully enjoyable.
It’s probably best to start with what Zombie Studios are touting as the game’s unique feature – the dynamic map tile system. Initially, this seems rather cool, because it allows players in the lobby to vote for different parts of the map, rather than a standard level, before the battle commences. The area you play on is built of three tiles that join together to complete the whole map. Each of the sections can be switched, with the left and right having six tile sets and the middle having three, technically adding to over 100 map combinations. The highest voted tiles by players then become the ones that are picked. The problem is that these tiles are the same, no matter what position they are chosen in. For example, having the water treatment as section one will look exactly the same as if it was placed in section three. This causes repetition after a few sessions, as even though there are plenty of combinations for a map, there aren’t enough pieces or themes (it’s basically an industrial setting) to spice it up; you are still seeing the same segments again and again, and having them in different placements does not stop it from becoming boring.
This is a team-based game, so to reward players who are working with their buddies, the game gives out bonus multipliers when a squad works close together, which translates to more experience points. The different gameplay types are focused on this team work – no solo modes – and their presence is nothing new for the genre. Included modes are Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Capture Point, Hot Zone and High-Value Target, in which one person is a target and the rest of the team must defend that player from the other team. Problem is you will hardly get to play most of the modes, as Capture Point and Team Deathmatch are the most popular. Although, I should retract that statement because when I say “most popular,” I actually mean that these are the only servers on the browser list. Whenever I jumped on the game to play, I would never find any more than three to four populated servers at any given time, and this includes both EU and US servers since a patch brought in the removal of region restriction. This is extremely poor for a game that is purely a multiplayer experience, and like many other smaller, multiplayer-only titles, it becomes the death of the game if the community is not there. It makes me wonder if Zombie Studios should have made this free-to-play like Blacklight: Retribution, since I never had problems finding matches in that game.
There are no classes to speak of; instead, a level-up system is in place that unlocks additional weapons, weapon customisation accessories (scopes, barrels, magazine clips), skills, gear, and character customisation such as hats, shirts, taunts and body style. The ones that you will pay most attention to are the skills, since these activate when you are together as a team and will buff everyone around you by offering increased damage or accuracy, which again is rewarding the importance of team play. Gear, on the other hand, includes such tools as grenades, mines and attack dogs, which are laughably bad. The AI often gets stuck behind walls, and even at a couple points did nothing but stay on the spot, giving me free shots to kill the poor, disabled Alsatians.
You can certainly have some fun with Special Forces: Team X, but when you are, you cannot help but feel that the game is fighting back at you and trying to stop you from having a good time. I also can’t help but feel that Special Forces: Team X could have done with more time in development; things just do not always work as they seem. A few patches have been released during my playtime, but still problems persist with the dog AI, characters clipping through walls and spawning in places that you simply should not be spawning in (help! I’m stuck in a crate!). With these problems that need addressing, along with a lacklustre community and a price tag of £11.99, you can see that the game is going to be an empty place until some sort of Steam sale happens or they move to a free-to-play model.
One of the first things you notice with the game is definitely its cel-shaded graphics. This is a curious style to go with and certainly adds brightness to the often brown and dull areas you come across in shooters, but the detail is lacking and looks as if someone just coated models with a graphics shader to give of this effect. The models do not seem to show signs of life on their faces, so you’ll hear voices but no mouths or facial animation with it. Shooting guns and using grenades sounds fine – you shoot stuff and it sounds somewhat like a gun, so it is passable. The music, on the other hand, is very forgettable.
From the initial trailers, Special Forces: Team X showed some promise, but after spending some time with the game I find it hard to recommend it to people, especially with the problems it is faced with at the moment. There is nothing particularly wrong with the title itself, even if it is a little generic – you can still have some fun with it once you find a server with some others playing. What hurts it, though, is the unfinished polish, occasional bugs and lack of players, to the point where I believe Zombie Studios needs to rethink the future for Special Forces: Team X, because it will soon go the way of the dodo and be long forgotten within a month or so.