Special Forces: Team X ReviewFebruary 11, 2013
Special Forces: Team X is a surprisingly good time, despite some concerns.
I’m not a big fan of this genre. There, I said it. Running around mindlessly shooting at each other with no concept of ‘end game’ or ‘finale’ bores me to tears. Despite this, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time in Special Forces: Team X.
I started the game with an admitted sigh, but within minutes found myself immersed in the moment as I ran from cover to cover, inching ever closer to the enemy squad like a hunter going in for the kill. Granted, my terrible aim meant more often than not it was my head that was (literally) blown apart, but that’s okay, it was fun. Then came that shining moment when I got the headshot, a rather empowering moment of absurdity as my victim’s brain matter flew at my screen. The irony is this came only once I ditched the cover mechanic, every player so intent on stealth tactics that they were oblivious to me jogging blithely up behind them and shooting point-blank into their skull with an assault rifle. Delicious.
Special Forces: Team X will feel very familiar to vets of the genre; it’s comparable to games like Team Fortress and the more recent Renaissance Heroes, but therein lies its issue for me. There are really only two mechanics that set the game apart from its competitors, one being its graphics. While stellar, they are highly stylized and thus may not have large-scale appeal from an aesthetic perspective. Personally, I loved the comic book feel of the characters and world, it seems nothing if not fitting considering the exaggerated style of action and the choice of weapons. Just the same, the game walks a line between realism and style that may have trouble finding its audience.
The second is the cover-based gameplay. When starting a match, the teams have 40 seconds to vote on a combination of 3 maps that combine into one much larger one, each with specific layouts aimed at tactical hide-and-seek. Players spend the majority of their gameplay learning and then using the layout to their advantage, with weapon sets gaining advantages (in the right hands) across certain terrain. For instance, one of the map options is a gutted building with a second floor with objects by window openings to hide behind, perfect for those with inclinations toward the Sniper Rifle. In one of my matches, this map sat adjacent to a warehouse-type area with a lot of ground cover but little in the way of vertical protection, making snipers particularly deadly to whomever was in the area at the time.
Here lies a problem, however. I dislike greatly when developers circumvent their own mechanics, and certain skills, while fun, detracted from the feel of the game. There are dogs, for instance, that nearly everyone uses and they will find you and eat your face. While you want to prevent players from turtling behind a wall, I’d prefer these issues be handled with team tactics, positioning and planning rather than what are essentially cheap homing missiles. I never played with anyone who was strong enough to call in air raids, but that also seems incredibly cheap to me if the gameplay videos are any indication. Other level-based skills have the potential to massively unbalance a team, such as a leveling mechanic that I’ve never felt belonged in these kinds of games, including team-wide boosts to everything from armor to accuracy.
As a whole, how much of an issue this is depends on the player; for me, it was occasionally frustrating, but didn’t necessarily detract from the fun of the game. I view winning as less a goal and more an inconsequential end to a fun game. More competitive players however, may feel differently.
Just the same, as I was playing I couldn’t help but feel that if I was going to suddenly get into this genre, it wouldn’t be with Special Forces: Team X; it would be with a game that already has a following, one I know my friends are playing and are likely to play with me. If Special Forces: Team X had something to make it unique, I might feel differently. It’s a beautiful game for what it is and the developers should be commended for what they’ve created and offered to gamers for the low price of $20, but is it enough?
At the moment, Special Forces: Team X has all the makings of a good game, but whether or not it’s an enduring one remains to be seen.