Special Forces: Team X
Special Forces: Team X has so many ingredients in its blender it’s hard to tell just what exactly it’s supposed to do better than other shooters out on the market. In a nutshell, it’s a third-person shooter with multiplayer that has elements from many different sources. It has Gears of War‘s cover system, team-based gameplay from SOCOM, the whimsical graphics and humor from Borderlands/Team Fortress 2, and topped with a leveling and perk system that’s prevalent in so many other online shooters. The result is a game that, despite all of its elements, blends into the crowd.
There’s no story to speak of, just a bunch of military dudes shooting at each other. With it being online-only this makes sense, and the game chooses to grab the player’s attention with a cel-shaded visual style that’s at odds with its generic military theme. One of the more interesting ideas is the feature having players vote on one-third of the map’s layout, allowing for many permutations. This effectively puts every player on an even keel since no one can truly memorize the landscape and exploit that knowledge. It also means each section is an indistinct slice of generic industrial wasteland.
Lack of personality aside, the mechanics are solid and work. Despite its wealth of influences, STX is most like Gears of War. Copying the infamous roadie run, sticking to cover, and blind-firing, everything is taken directly from Marcus Fenix himself. A few control issues do rear up—sticky cover, getting caught on surfaces—but none of these are game-breaking hindrances. Shooting works from the standard over-the-shoulder perspective: zoom in for better accuracy, fire from the hip, or blind fire from cover.
Everything from a third-person shooter is here with grenades to flush out or kill enemies, assault rifles that kick and reduce accuracy, and melee kills you can manage to get behind enemies. The last method proves to be the most effective and frequently employed by players with the highest kill count. When players gain more XP they can unlock additional weapons, clothing, and abilities. Unlockable weapons are standard fare—shotgun, sniper rifle, combat knife, and more assault rifles—with each one being pretty balanced with no clear winner over the others. A few of the heavier outfits unlocked at the highest levels turn players into bullet-sponges capable of taking many shots, but as with most online titles, the best stuff is saved for last.
One of the early unlocks is a pair of attack dogs that sic enemies only half of the time in one of the technical oversights that occasionally happen, particularly connection issues. Bonuses are given out when in close proximity to fellow players, which serve as a means of encouraging teamplay, but these are passive bonuses that have little effect and going alone is a perfectly viable option. It’s a strange choice given its source material’s penchant for outflanking enemies, requiring players to create distance from each other.
Another oddity is the occasional zany weapon spawns on the battlefield such as miniguns or chainsaws. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition to see an otherwise by-the-numbers military shooter interrupted with some maniac waving a chainsaw over his head like Leatherface on cocaine. These flashes of personality are fleeting as STX is painfully generic in every area. Modes included are old standbys like team deathmatch, juggernaut, control point, and high value target. HVT is slightly more fun with one player as the target and the other teams tasked with taking them down, thus becoming the new target in the process.
If none of this sounds particularly interesting, it’s because it isn’t. There’s nothing inherently wrong with STX, but that everything it does has been done better before. Its slapdash blending of styles reinforces its image as a generic title trying to catch up to the first Gears of War while jumping on the military shooter bandwagon and being cartoony at the same time. None of the elements feel particularly developed. Rather than trying to do one thing well, STX does all three and ends up in the realm of mediocrity.