Just because a game may be incomplete (such as one still in or alpha beta stages) that doesn’t necessitate that playing it will be a bad experience, but when that game actually feels incomplete and this dampens the fun of it all, you can’t be blamed for wondering what made you want to give away your dollars in the first place. Special Forces: Team X (abbreviated to STX, because apparently the word “Forces” isn’t important enough to make it into the acronym) is one of these titles that just isn’t worth your money. Even if you don’t mind dropping about $15 on a new multiplayer title just to see what’s happening; trust me, this isn’t worth your time either.
Special Forces: Team X, which hands-down wins the award for most vague and meaningless title, is something I really wanted to enjoy. In judging the book by its cover, I figured the cel-shaded design might spice up the online shooter scene, while the choice of third-person gameplay might make everything a little more clumsy and fickly, but at least it’s not yet another FPS. I’ve decided I was half right, as STX seems to have taken all the things that made Gears of War not quite the fun I wanted it to be and smeared them all over itself. Pressing the ‘Sprint’ button will encourage your character to enter a dorky state of running with +10 camera bobbing, and doing so anywhere near any wall or wall-like surface will give him the great idea of slamming into it and taking cover. Yes, this is a cover-based third-person shooter, as the loading screen keeps reminding me: “Take cover. Live longer.” I’m always irritated by a game that seems to consist of player-triggered animation sequences. Press left-thumbstick to run. Press A to take cover. Press R to fire. Whereas more popular franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield leave the player to decide what to use as cover and choose for themselves how to move, STX consists of a much more boring system that makes the whole act of battle feel artificial and unmoving.
As I mentioned, I was half right (see: disappointment in third-person gaming), which means I must also have been half wrong. I seem to have forgotten that I (and apparently I alone) find cel-shading to be annoying; it consistently gives me a damned headache. Some games, such as the Borderlands series, are worth it by delivering a compromise in the form of some dynamic and downright fun shoot-outs. STX is not, I repeat, not one of those games. Every firefight feels the same, and one of the things I can blame is the environment. As opposed to voting to decide on a single map, players vote to select three map sections which are then chucked together to form the arena of battle. Considering that the middle section has only so many entry/exit points, yet can be aligned with any map section on the left and the right necessitates that every map section is essentially the same. The layout never changes, so the strategy can never change between maps. Each section is designed to have a different environment, but this is made meaningless when it is consistently placed beside inconsistent environments in other sections. This just makes every map feel the same (because it is the same!), which gives it a big -1 below previously mentioned popular titles.
To expand on my feelings of repetition and tediousness; the guns of STX all feel the same and all are unsatisfying to wield, while consumables such as grenades and assault dogs are very clumsy and feel terribly broken. I can’t actually think of anything that isn’t broken. Every time I spawn, I am facing a wall, which means I start every life with an angry sigh as I use the clumsy third-person controls to eventually turn around. There’s also a function that allows you to spawn alongside a teammate (similar to Battlefield 3), though it is something that apparently can’t be relied on. Sometimes it works, and I’m instantly back amongst the action, while other times I’ll just be facing another damned wall. I wouldn’t mind starting at the spawn area every life and spending thirty seconds running back through the unnecessarily huge and maze-y map just to die after five to ten seconds of shooting if I wasn’t promised a more attractive deal, just to have the game say “LOL NOPE” to my face. I’m still bitter.
Also, the assault dogs are downright ridiculous in this game. You’ll often send them out (from… nowhere?) to utterly destroy your enemies, but they move with the worst animation I think I have ever seen in an actual game. Also, if they’re not used quite right (whatever ‘right’ is), they’ll just stand still and do absolutely nothing, staring at the enemy through their dorky sunglasses. Wow, so funny. I’m laughing so hard. Next time, DO SOMETHING, DOG!
I love the idea of having team-based bonuses, where you gain bonus XP, points and perks by fighting alongside your team, and though STX has created a unique system for this, it just doesn’t work. To gain team bonuses, players have to be practically on top of each other, and with the Sprint function putting players into some sort of slip space, it’s impossible to stay in range for the bonus multiplayer to rise. I’ve also never seen how this is of any actual benefit; when I’m near teammates a counter goes up to at least 4 (that’s the highest I’ve seen), and it goes down when I’m alone (or sometimes even when I’m right next to a teammate, for some reason…), but what does it do? What does it all mean? What’s the point? This seems to be just another interesting yet poorly implemented idea.
I really wanted to enjoy STX, and at one point I managed to convince myself I was having fun. Then I started playing again and realised my mistake. Humour is shoved so hard into this game that it seems like Zombie Studios worked harder on their comic material than the silly-looking animations and models, and the childish jokes become very tedious to read after seeing them on every loading screen. There’s nothing really spectacular to mention regarding sound and music, nor the customisation options that feel most identical to Call of Duty: Black Ops, except with more unnecessary aesthetic customisation which still fails to make any character stand out from the rest, and nowhere near enough weapon choices to actually make levelling up feel exciting. Key points are as follows; annoying visual style, clunky third-person gameplay, terrible animation, poorly thought-through map innovation, and overall a big load of ideas that just don’t work. Not worth your dollars.
And even if you got lotsa dollars; definitely not worth your time.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Special Forces: Team X by Sandbox Strategies.