This generation has seen the third person shooter genre gain an enormous foothold in the market. For a new property to be successful, it needs to innovate. When I first saw game play footage of Special Forces: Team X, I immediately thought of SOCOM. The cel-shaded art style had me intrigued, and even though that might differentiate it from Zipper Interactive’s military series, the game play comparisons are easy to draw. Zombie Studio has style, but the game play is too familiar to stand out.
Special Forces: Team X (SFTX) is an online-only, third person shooter that relies heavily on the chest-high cover walls found in so many other titles in the genre. For the most part, the game controls a lot like Gears of War. Hitting A will put you into cover, Left trigger zooms in with your gun and Right trigger fires the weapon. Clicking in the left stick will allow the character to sprint much like Marcus and company’s roadie run. If you have played a third person shooter in the past five years, you will understand the control scheme within minutes. There are also special perks and equipment that can be used in combat. Attack dogs are a big standout. These guys chase after enemies and attack on sight.
Many of the standard online modes are available to play in SFTX, including team deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill modes. There is also a special VIP type called High Value Target that taps one player as the HVT. The team with the HVT has a scoring advantage, but like an inverted game of schoolyard tag, should an opposing player take out the VIP, he or she takes over. This isn’t entirely dissimilar from Max Payne 3’s Payne Killer mode, except that the teams are balanced. There is also a Headquarters type that offers a moving capture point for a frantic King of the Hill experience. The modes are fun and offer up a good variety.
There’s a big emphasis on teamwork in SFTX, such that the more time you spend around your teammates, the bigger the bonuses. There’s a team boost that increases the longer you stick with your teammates and figures into both your end of match XP and some of the perks players can equip on their character. A higher team bonus translates into faster progression and more potent skills. It’s nice to have a feature that rewards players that work together.
As mentioned above, everything a player does, from getting kills to helping capture objectives, offers up XP for your profile. Leveling up will unlock new weapons, skins, perks, utility powers and many other things to equip to your character. Unlocking the better weapons and customizations will give you the competitive edge over the other players.
The most ambitious part of the game is the map design. Before a match begins, players vote on sections of the map. Basically, you can build your own layout by choosing different stage elements. There are a ton of different environments that can be placed, making it entirely possible that you may not play the exact same setup twice. This is a unique and clever feature. Even though there are three different sections, the maps still line up perfectly and feel like the same basic landscape.
Of course, if you take one look at this game, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the art style. It reminds me of the Xbox/PS2 game XIII. The cel-shading works and evokes a cartoony overtone that gives the game character. It works. It also has a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor when it comes to the loading screens and kill notifications (“You humiliated [Gamertag]”). It never takes itself too seriously.
The shooting feels rather tight, but players absorb too many bullets before going down. The movement is fine, but it seems like characters get stuck when even remotely touching something. This becomes rather bothersome in firefights and when trying to run. The camera is just a little too close to the character’s back. Sometimes I would run into things not even knowing they were right in front of me.
I did experience a significant glitch twice while playing the game. I played a session and progressed to level 4. I came back to the game a few hours later to find that I was back to level 1, but kept all the equipment I had unlocked. I made it back to level 3, but returned the next day to find myself at level 1 again. Needless to say, I was very frustrated with the game at that point, but I did not encounter the issue a third time.
There’s a healthy player base right now, but without an active community over the long term, this game is really nothing. There’s enough here to keep players busy for a good long while, and with a few patches here and there, the bugs may be remedied. As of right now, for $15, you get a decent shooter with a solid package and a few problems here and there. Just make sure you have some decent teammates.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.