Developing entertaining arcade/shooters has never been an issue for Zombie Studios, as they are the brains behind the well-received Blacklight series. Unfortunately, Special Forces: Team X (a reboot of the ’91 Special Forces game) won’t win any awards for being different than what is already available on the market, but it’s still pretty fun.
Special Forces: Team X is an online-only, 3rd person military shooter, featuring graphic gun fights between multiple units of Special Forces operative while relying heavily on a “cover-system” mechanic. The delightful cell shaded graphics, similar to those in Borderlands and XIII, give a unique cartoon feel, and make it a lot more enjoyable (and less disturbing) when brain matter spews from headshots or hacking off limbs with a chainsaw. The 12-player battles can accommodate between 2 and 4 teams as they are pitted against each other in five multiplayer modes game: Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Control Point, Hot Zone, and High Value Target. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but there’s nothing that you haven’t seen before either.
While other titles tend to lean toward the ‘lone wolf’ method, Special Forces: Team X team-centric approach adds more of a unique identity. Staying with your teammates awards you with group-empowering attribute enhancements and extra points for each member’s actions. It’s nice to have a feature that rewards players for working together. Every win earns you XP, which unlocks awesome accessories, gun attachments and swanky outfits to customize your character, while a loss has very little repercussions.
In each of your two loadouts, you can customize your primary and secondary weapons, pick an active and passive skill and customize your soldier’s outfit. Licensed weapons from assault rifles, SMGs and pistols, to shotguns and sniper rifles have numerous customization options like scopes, muzzles, and magazines including various cosmetic camouflage options. It will take a long time to unlock the better weapons, but the game is balanced enough that those who have played longer don’t have an unfair advantage. In addition to your loadout, spread around the map are supply crates that will give you access to either a rocket launcher, mini-gun, chainsaw or even the ability to call in an air strike. While the idea of portraying Leatherface on the battlefield seems like a novel idea, it’s extremely difficult to get close enough to someone to actually use it.
Adding an extra layer to Special Forces: Team X are Skills. Activated with the press of a button, you can trigger an Active skill like taunts that can can benefit the whole team by increasing different attributes such as accuracy, damage resistance, and speed for a short period. Passive skills benefit you personally, with perks like total health regeneration, spotting enemies for teammates, and even showing the location of enemy mines to avoid. Loadouts can also be equipped with Gears. There include various grenade types, health and ammo boosts, and 2 varieties of attack dog. Once released, attack dogs run at the enemy and can distract or even kill them if they are wounded, making them very useful for stubborn enemies camping behind cover. But they are just a bit too prevalent and easy to use for such a powerful tool.
This leads me into one of my biggest gripes with Special Forces: Team X, the temperamental cover system. It can become a real chore setting up your character to take cover behind a desired object. Jumping over objects is equally as frustrating, with walls seemingly having a ‘sweet spot’ which is the only point that can be leaped. Moving around each map is fine but the camera was so tight on my character that I constantly ran into things. This becomes rather bothersome in intense firefights when you are trying to run for cover. Add on top opponents that can absorb an obscene amount of bullets, and what should have been a fun, Team Fortress style experience quickly transcends into a test of your patience.
The most ambitious part of the game is the map design. Each map consists of three large tiles voted on before play, but this mix-and-match approach just makes each environment feel samey and generic. There are nine different areas to pick from, giving you over 100 different map combinations to end up with. Sections fit together well and feel like a whole map, not separate joined areas. And there are many routes and shortcuts through the maps to find, as well as places to hide and ambush enemies for seasoned players.
The fact that Special Forces: Team X purely relays on its multiplayer, and does not offer a campaign or single player is utterly disappointing. It’s a functional shooter, but with so many other titles around that do basically the same thing, it’s difficult to recommend. It’s success depends on the community that it can form, but for a $15 entry fee, that is a risk I wouldn’t want to take.