Genres: Third person shooter
Platform: PS3, PC
Release Date: 07/02/13
Special Forces: Team X Review
Dear reader, you don’t need me to tell you about fads in game design. Ever since video gaming became a thing you could do inside your own house, there’s been certain genres that you tended to see a lot of. Back in the Atari days, there were an awful lot of games that were pretty much Asteroids. The 8-bit era brought with it a lot jumping, shooting, or both, and for a while in the 90’s everything seemed to become a Final Fight-style beat-em-up. If you’ve followed the industry with even a modicum of interest over the past, oh, six years, you’ve surely noticed a rise in popularity of over-the-shoulder 3rd person shooters, usually with a dedicated and integral ‘cover’ feature, mainly focusing on multiplayer to the detriment of any sort of campaign mode, if one is present at all. It’s that particular audience that the unfortunately-named Special Forces: Team X is catering to. It’s very clearly a shooter that came out after the year 2006 or so, with all that entails, and all the features you would expect of a game of its type. Competently made? Certainly. A little bland and in danger of becoming irrelevant in an already-crowded field? Perhaps.
Special Forces: Team X (and let me say right now, a title that vanilla certainly set MY expectations for this game pretty quickly) falls into the SOCOM Confrontation category of ‘online-only-third-person-shooter’. There’s absolutely no single player to speak of, so your potential enjoyment will have to take into account the fact you’re at the mercy of strangers on Steam (or console). Call me a dinosaur, but maybe sometimes I still like playing games by myself, huh? But that isn’t Team X’s fault. It has a specific audience it’s catering towards, and it serves that audience well enough. It checks all the boxes you would expect an online shooter in this day and age to check off (Chekov?): cosmetic character customization (or, as no-one has ever called it, TRIPLE C), a lite-RPG system with unlockable ‘perks’ and better gun selection as you progress through the ranks, and a variety of match types (although everyone seemed to be sticking with plain-old Team Deathmatch, at least in the games I was actually able to join). Certainly, if third-person cover shooters are up your proverbial alley, you’ll find yourself interested by, if nothing more, the game’s feature list.
All the fancy-pants hats and beards for your characters don’t make a lick of difference if your game isn’t any fun. And is Team X? Basically, if you can get past the technical issues and occasionally baffling design choice. Matches proceed much like you’d expect: two similar-looking teams of beefy, hirsute SPEC OPS OO-RAH fellows blast at each other with a variety of weapons both realistic (a litany of assault rifles and pistols that use their actual brand and model names) and more fanciful (man-portable Gatling guns and an actual chainsaw), until either a pre-set score is attained, or some previously decided on goal is met. Matches tend to speed by pretty quickly due to high mortality rates on both sides, and once you’re actually in a game your connection remains pretty steady. Your character moves at a decent clip, as opposed to the sluggish meat-mountains you play as in a lot of other popular 3PS titles. The maps, although similar looking and flatly industrial, provide both close-quarters skirmishes and enough room for snipers to get their snipe on. Better yet, the maps are all divided up into three segments, and before the match starts, you can set up your preferred map configuration and vote for each individual segment, which allows for some interesting map-design curveballs. When you can tell all the corrugated steel hallways apart, that is.
This doesn’t prevent Team X from running into its share of technical issues, however. The controls respond well enough… except when you have to get off of cover. You can’t duck behind/cling nervously to everything you would expect; although you may start to notice certain design patterns on what you can actually duck behind, it isn’t terribly consistent and you’ll frequently find yourself fumbling around doors and crates, trying to stop the nightmarish spray of bullets. And whenever you try to detach from cover, you often wind up either continuing to stick to your protective box, or Sam Fisher-duck-walking away from it, continuing to get riddled with bullets. This will, as you can imagine, lead to a lot of other deaths. Additionally, the matchmaking service is a little… wonky. I found myself having to exit and restart the game on more than one occasion to get any available matches to start up, and the player count never really seems to be accurate. Team X is sound enough otherwise, at least. The controls (minus the cover issues) are responsive, the aiming is tight, and collision boxes are well-sized and responsive.
Presentation is likely to be the biggest thing setting Team X apart from the rest of the online 3PS pack. The Borderlands-esq cel shading helps it stick out in a landscape of gritty brown military realism, despite the character designs essentially all being the dude from the Medal of Honor boxart. Deaths result in a comically huge spray of blood and improbable meat chunks flying everywhere, particularly when the chainsaw or attack dogs come into the picture – in addition, the ‘player killed player’ messages tend to be hilariously demeaning, using such terms as ‘violated’, ‘embarrassed’, or (my personal favorite) ‘neglected emotionally’. Also – and this is an absolute must if we’re going to continue insisting on this whole ‘regenerating health’ thing – the game provides both you with a health bar (with NUMBERS! Like shooters USED TO HAVE!), and good, responsive feedback whenever your bullets actually connect with another player.
All the humorous presentation still can’t exactly take away from the fact that Special Forces: Team X isn’t exactly outstanding. That’s not a bad thing – as mentioned, it knows what its audience is and it aims directly for it. But the whole exercise just seems born out of a desire to capture an audience that exists right this very second, one that may not stay with the game for long before moving on to the next duck ‘n shoot extravaganza. Not every game needs to hold up to be a timeless classic, and odds are Special Forces Team X won’t. If you really find yourself in need of a Steam multiplayer game that isn’t Monday Night Combat or that OTHER cartoony Team game what with all the hats, Special Forces: Team X isn’t your worst decision. But with all the other options available for online warfare nowadays, that’s not a decision you need to make immediately.
Duck ‘n shoot man! Duckin’ ‘n shootin’!
Special Forces: Team X, despite it’s fun and humorous presentation, encounters a small but noticeable group of technical problems, and doesn’t really do enough to distinguish itself from other, better online shooters. It’s a decent game, but shouldn’t be your first choice.
- Decent graphics.
- Funny presentation.
- Tight aiming/shooting.
- A lot of beards.
- Connection issues.
- Occasional control problems.
- More of the same you could find in other games.
A few patches could resolve the control/matchmaking issues, and while it isn’t unfun by any means, you already have a lot of better choices for multiplayer shooters on Steam, and it doesn’t really establish its own personality outside of the cartoony art style.