It’s the season for online-based shooters, and a new challenger has stepped into the ring trying to leave a dent in the oversaturated market. Enter Zombie Studios’ Special Forces: Team X (STX), an online multiplayer third-person cover-based shooter where two teams face off in unique, area-based maps. However, is this unique gimmick enough to distinguish it from the competition?
Special Forces: Team X
Developed by Zombie Studios/Published by Atari
Available on the PC and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
*Review copy provided by Zombie Studios.
STX is solely an online affair. Upon booting up, the only options players have are jumping straight into multiplayer sessions, or customizing your avatar.
Customization is one of the most important features in shooters nowadays, and in STX, it’s somewhat lacking. The presentation and organization of the customization menu is horrid, and the class options available to the player when starting up the game are virtually non-existent, which leaves newcomers at a slight disadvantage.
The problem is that in order to gain more weapons, attachments, perks, secondary weapons, and some laughably bad avatar skins, you’ll need to level up. You won’t have access to much expect four guns when you start the game, but after pouring hours into matches (which you’ll do because leveling up is somewhat slow) you’ll gain access to better equipment little by little.
This is somewhat frustrating because newcomers to the game will be severely underpowered when they first hop into their matches. Players with higher levels have access to way better equipment, so it’s an uphill battle to score kills and win matches for first-timers, as they’ll probably get mauled by stronger guns equipped with attachments and perks they don’t have access to. This wouldn’t be an issue if everything was somewhat balanced at the start of the game, but sadly it isn’t, so getting those initial levels in order to score better gear will be hard, because you won’t be able to kill and win as much as the more experienced combatants.
Things eventually get more competitive and enjoyable when you level up, since you’ll have access to nifty guns and toys, like attack dogs, ordinance strikes, and more. Some of these tools are excellent, while others just don’t work (ex. Dogs frequently don’t head to your intended target, will freeze if they bump walls, occasionally not come out on button press, the list goes on.). At higher levels you’ll also have better kill/death ratios as well, so the appeal of the game grows with the amount of time you invest in it.
As I mentioned previously, the unique gimmick in the game is the tile-based maps. Each match takes place in a map that has three tiles, and these tiles can be exchanged amongst each other by voting in the pre-match lobby. This leads to dozens of map combinations, but really, at the end of the day, every area feels the same. Not to mention that the stages are somewhat poorly designed, causing your avatar to frequently clip or bump into things which impede mobility. Additionally, the stages are so large and labyrinthine that it’s easy to get lost and stuck on your way to where the action’s at, and the map doesn’t help either.
The gameplay in STX is very hit-and-miss. While movement is decent and the guns control excellently, cover is an absolute horror. I don’t know why the developers included a cover button, because you’ll stick to virtually anything if you dash into it. This leads all too often to people accidentally going into cover when they are fleeing from adversaries, which results in horrible death. I also on many occasions witnessed my avatar sliding into cover, only to find out he was standing against a non-existential wall where bullets could easily rip him apart. The cover system here sucks.
Using grenades is also a big problem. There’s no lines telling you where it’ll go, so expect plenty of grenades being tossed in the wrong direction or even bouncing back at you since you send it flying right into your cover.
Spawning is another annoying issue. When you die, you’ll spawn so far away from your objective or the battle that it’s just a hassle running all the way back to the fight, even if it costs teams valuable points. I’ve seen so many people annoyed at this fact that most just sit back and wait till the opposing team comes to them, just so they don’t have to run so much. And when the game doesn’t spawn you far away, it’ll sometimes spawn you in tight, disorienting locations, or worse, inside walls. This has happened to me, I swear.
The game comes with your standard gametypes. There’s the classic team deathmatch and capture the flag, and common game modes like high-value target, command point, and hot zone. There’s nothing too fancy or unique here.
I really wanted to like Special Forces: Team X. The cel-shaded graphics and the trailers really painted the game in a positive light, but upon playing through it for a great bit of time I found the game to be broken, buggy, and unfortunately not that enjoyable. There are better shooters out there, so save yourself the time and get those instead.