Special Forces: Team X review
- Encourages teamwork over running solo
- Quick learning curve
- Several game types to suit preferences
- Lots of unlockable options to encourage further play
Not so much?
- Third person view can cause blind spots
- Multiplayer only, so success as a team depends entirely on random selection
Special Forces: Team X is undeniably a good game. While individual elements can feel familiar from other titles – the Call of Duty and Gears of War series especially – it combines well what it has into something different, and manages to make a game where teamwork really is key to success.
How best to summarise Special Forces: Team X? Imagine that Call of Duty and Gears of War decided to move in together, and asked Borderlands to do the decorating; this may not be the most accurate or fair way to describe it, but it’s a good starting point to work from.
To untangle that description, let’s start with the basics – Special Forces: Team X is a cover-based, multiplayer only team-based third person shooter… and yes, that is a lot of descriptives. There are five different game types, with up to 12 players per game [16 players on PC for the Steam release] spread across two to four teams, fighting through the generally accepted terrains for competitive shooters – warehouses, junkyards, contruction sites and the like.
Before you even pull a trigger there are several things you can do. Initially, you can customise yourself by selecting from several types of gun and sidearm (and attachements for these), deciding what to equip in utility slots (from the obvious, such as grenades and mines, to the unusual such as attack dogs), which skills to take (both active ones to give nearby teammates a boost, and passive ones to help yourself) and adjusting appearance. A majority of the customisation options are locked at the start, but open up as you gain levels via XP from games played.
The playing field is also customised – the arenas are “built” out of three segments, with players getting to vote on which piece to have snapped on (a lot of the promotional material has mentioned “over 100 combinations of combat zone”. There are currently nine different ends segments for each end with three middle segments to join them, which are often where the main conflicts occur. By my maths, that’s 243 potential combinations, although in practice you only need to learn the layout of 21 separate areas).
When choosing a game to join, there are five types – a straightforward Team Death Match; a High Value Target (HVT) variant where one player scores triple for a kill until someone kills them and in turn becomes the HVT; Capture The Flag; Control Points, flipping nodes to your side to gain points; and Hot Zones, where a single node on the map gives points while members of your team are next to it.
As well as having games that generally require teams to work together, the game also encourages teamwork by awarding score multipliers the longer you are in close proximity to other players. And ultimately it is a team that you need – the cover based nature of the game has you forever trying to catch the opposing team(s) unguarded, diving behind low obstructions or peering around corners, while hoping someone is preventing them from flanking you in the process.
While mention of “cover-based” may give the impression that games quickly slow down into stand-offs with the teams firing at each other from concealment, the pace is actually quite fast, usually requiring moving from point to point every few seconds to try and gain an advantage.
There are several “special” weapons on the field too, items that would be game-breaking as a load-out but can simply tip the balance when available for a short while. Some are regular military shooter fare – a chain gun, rocket launcher and air strike marker – while the last is far more over-the-top: a chainsaw.
There are some quirks with the game. Being third person, the view is at an angle to allow seeing ahead of the player, but this can leave you with blind angles that you would otherwise be able to see, and with the amount of cover around opposing players can sometimes catch you out this way. Some pieces of cover also feel sticky when run into which can sometimes prove momentarily disorienting – although running headlong into obstacles is something more often done when things are going bad anyway, so doesn’t exactly add to the player’s mortality.
One other irritation is the immunity player’s gain while performing an assassination animation – when doing a one-hit-kill animation on someone, the attacker cannot be killed themselves, regardless of how much ammunition the victim’s team use in an attempt to help them.
Ultimately, the game is staking a lot on the player base. Being multiplayer only, and requiring the support of a team to win in the various game types, you need to know there will be people around who can play. At present, the player base does seem to be extremely healthy, with games running and filling at all hours – perhaps too few using headsets to coordinate as a group, but thanks to the games’ fast learning curve and implicit encouragement to stay close for bonuses, this isn’t fatal to playability.
Special Forces: Team X is undeniably a good game. Perhaps the biggest criticism is of how different elements making up the game all feel familiar from other titles, but they combine into something that is just a bit different from anything else around. What it does, it does well, and if you like games where the team tends to succeed instead of lone heroes trying to wrack up points you should definitely give it a try.