Online multiplayer as a whole is oversaturated with first-person shooters, even more so now with yearly sequels that get gobbled up by devoted fanbase. Zombie Studios, the developer behind the free to play Blacklight Retribution, brings a multiplayer centric third-person shooter to both PC and Xbox 360, focusing heavily on team-based gameplay, but is also riddled with game breaking bugs.
Special Forces: Team X’s style of gameplay bears a striking resemblance to Gears of War. Team-based gameplay with a heavy focus on snapping to cover spots sounds quite familiar doesn’t it? Not only due both games utilize the same engine (Unreal 3), the gameplay largely feels quite similar. By adding a dynamic tile based map system, Zombie Studios does change the formula a bit, even if it’s largely visual.
Before every match, players vote on the three different sections that make up each map. Technically there are over 100 different combinations, but in actuality the variations are minor at best. Each of the different environments (including an office building, a construction site and a water tower) are broken up into two end pieces and a middle section. Since each piece must work in unison, the maps overall feel lacking and rather generic at times. Connecting areas will always be located in the same spot and after a few matches, the maps blend together as each one feels similar to the next.
Focusing on team-based mechanics, sticking with your squad rewards players with a bonus multiplier that will yield additional experience throughout the match. The game modes are pretty standard for multiplayer-only games, providing nothing new to the genre. High-Value Target (HVT) has the highest potential, as one person – marked as the target – becomes hunted by the opposing team(s). If you are the HVT, it becomes imperative for your team to protect you in order to score points. It’s a thrilling experience and can provide tense moments when you are being hunted down.
After playing a few matches, killing enemy soldiers and completing objectives, you are rewarded with experience points that level up your character, opening up new weapons, weapon customizations (larger magazine sizes, various scopes), character customization options, as well as unlocking new skills and gear that allow you to buff your teammates or even use attack dogs on your enemies.
As it stands, the Xbox 360 version of the game is vastly dominated by Team Deathmatch servers with a sprinkling of the more team-focused modes including Capture the Flag and Control Defend. It’s disheartening to see the players missing out on these modes, especially since I found them to be more enjoyable.
Both versions of the game suffered from a level reset bug at launch that devastated the community – especially on PC. Every few matches I found my PC character back at level one with all of the previously unlocked items once again behind the level gate. Strangely enough, I never saw it happen firsthand on the Xbox 360, but the community has informed me otherwise. It was recently patched out a few weeks ago on the PC, but with entirely empty servers the last few times I logged on, it may have come too late.
Once you find a match, however you will find an enjoyable third-person shooter wrapped in a generic military theme. The shooting feels fine, as does moving to and from cover locations. When everything works and teams work in unison, Special Forces: Team X can be entertaining, but the trick is to find servers that aren’t empty – or play the game on the Xbox 360. A plethora of bugs including broken achievements, occasionally getting shot through environments and attack dogs that will stand around as often as they will attack are still prevalent and hamper the experience.
Even in its shortcomings Special Forces: Team X provides an enjoyable team-based experience – when you are able to find populated servers. I can’t in good conscience recommend anyone picking up the PC version, even though it features dedicated servers (probably not for long) and a better control layout. Sponsored events are trying to pump some life back into the game on the PC, but servers turn back into a ghost town once the events are over. At this point Zombie Studios should learn from their mistakes and move on.
Note: The Special Forces: Team X review was written based on the Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher. The PC version of the game was also tested.