- Fun in short bursts to pick up and play
- Diverse map selections and layout
- A blast with friends
- Glitches in the terrain
- Cover system can become stuck
- No bots for solo offline play
“Another game for you to review, it’s from Microprose”. Wait, THE Microprose?! Back in the 1990s, Microprose grew up with me during my teenage years. They were synonymous for classics such as the birth of Sid Meier’s Civilization, Pirates! and Geoff Crammond’s Formula One Grand Prix. One such classic in their vast library was Special Forces, and with Team X comes a rejuvenated version with a considerable graphical uplift from its 1991 origins back in the DOS and Amiga days. Having a vague memory of it being rather fun (I was a DOS and Commodore 64 gal, never an Amiga or Spectrum heretic), this piqued my interest.
Being in the 21st century means the advent of computing beyond 16 bit, which helps a great deal when bringing an old IP back to life. Let’s say this is Special Forces in name only, loosely based on the original in terms of team play and tactical engagements but with more graphical oomph. Upon first look, the cel-shaded graphics are reminiscent of Borderlands and in doing so it is clear that it is not heading towards the realism route. Having said that, there are some real world guns in your arsenal such as the trusty AK. Being a third-person shooter, the developers at Zombie Studios also included the use of cover manouevres behind walls, rubble and so on. With a quick tap of the spacebar, you can enter and leave cover at will much like in Gears of War. You can also run and slide into cover and pretend to be Bruce Willis in Die Hard. But good ole Bruce doesn’t have a dog at his disposal.
Ah yes, the infamous dog which is one of the main selling points. With the two equipment slots alongside your main weapon and sidearm, you can equip grenades and also the Attack Dog. This trusty pooch will sniff out your target and tear their face off when called upon. Unfortunately, the execution is hit and miss. While chasing the enemy down a flight of stairs, he promptly rounded a corner and entered a warehouse. I decided to let Rambo loose and as I watched, the pathfinding failed completely. To the average onlooker, it would seem like a horrible transporter accident happened as Rambo had half his torso stuck in corrugated iron. With his legs thrashing wildly to a silent tune of Staying Alive, it was virtually impossible to free him. If your target runs into buildings or darts behind large obstacles, it is most likely that the Attack Dog will get stuck like this and then be put down quite swiftly. Although having a deadly canine is nice to have, it would be more useful to equip both slots with frag, flash or stun grenades.
The maps are varied and boasts over 100 combinations, with different areas available for each map which can be voted on before the game begins. This does give more variety than other games out there, when individual maps usually remain static. Although there are some open spaces, it is all about using your environment for cover and flanking with your teammates. There are five modes of play available, Team Death Match, Control Point, Hot Zone, High Value Target and Capture The Flag. TDM is self explanatory; kill the other team and try not to die yourself, the team with the most kills wins. Sticking together adds bonuses or if you veer towards going solo you can gain Lone Wolf points as well. CP and HZ are similar in that capturing certain points in the map gives points for your team. The difference in Hot Zone is that the longer you stay, the more points you receive until the opposing team neutralises you and takes your place. HVT is a more unique mode of play, a game of shoot and tag so to speak. Kill the person tagged as the HVT for you to become the next target. CTF is well, CTF.
With a maximum of 16 players that can be split up into four teams, you never find yourself pausing for breath. Staying still is a death sentence in most situations, as you can be attacked from behind, flanked from both sides, up above and even underneath you… such is the layout for most maps. Although good for an action-packed session, it can also introduce frustration from the cover system. There are moments when you are stuck in the terrain and you cannot leave the wall you were using for cover. Upon the sudden realisation I was being shot from behind, I tried to press spacebar to leave cover to return fire. Unfortunately I was left kissing the wall, while my would be assassin knifes me from behind with enough time to put the kettle on. This has happened more than once and although the maps complement the cover system well, the mechanics need refinement. There are some other niggles such as vsync not working correctly and as anyone would attest, texture tearing is not attractive. Forcing vsync on the graphics card instead of allowing the application to control this setting did help alleviate the problem.
Character development allows you to customise your weapons such as adding red dot scopes and silencers. Skills can be added to your guy such as a Radar Pulse to reveal every player and item on the map or the ability to rewire enemy mines. Levelling up will unlock these and more, from XP gained after each match. There are some fun items that can be picked up during a game, such as chainsaws and rocket launchers. These cannot be kept in your character’s inventory after the match; going postal at first instance is your best bet to maximise use. The chainsaw is by far the most fun, with ample blood splatterings for maximum effect. The addition of female skins would have been welcomed, not everyone wants to play as a steroid induced yeti. Maybe this is something to add to the wishlist.
Special Forces: Team X is a mixed affair, plucking DNA samples from Team Fortress 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Borderlands and Gears of War in terms of graphics, style, team play and third-person shooter mechanics. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but does not allude itself to any lofty pedestal. As a multiplayer only game, it’s a fun blast if you feel the need to pick up and play with little time investment. It would have made the deal a little sweeter if bots were available, since there are only a handful of servers that were fully populated. However, this may improve over time. Special Forces: Team X is available now on Steam and Xbox Live Arcade.
This review was based on the Steam version of the game.