Military style shooters are as varied as the soldiers of an imagined military training school. You have your standouts, like the one who turns in his work on time, does a pretty serviceable job at it, but thinks that if the paper isn’t covered in glitter explosions, it won’t get more then the B+ he’s earned. Or the hard worker, constantly dotting his I’s, crossing his t’s, and curling his q’s, when he’s not spending all his available time in the tank simulator. There’s even the one who comes in late, everyday, blames his issues on every extenuating circumstance he can think of (aliens ate your homework, really?) and promises to be better even though you know he won’t.
Mixed in with all the soldiers that stick out in your mind whenever your asked about your day (yup, I just made you the equivalent of Viper from Top Gun) are about 4-5 you never think of. It’s not because they’re not worth the thought, cause they are, each soldier is worth something, it’s that they sink just below the radar, hanging right in between both the super rad ones and the “shuffling blind through the sewer” terrible ones. Special Forces: Team X is one of those average, certainly not annoying but not overly impressive soldiers/students.
Taking a cursory glance around the classroom, you’d be likely to miss it, especially when it’s next to the same table as Glitter-Bomb: Modern Jazzling or Giant Map Vehicle Trooper 3, even though it’s clearly a different kind of student. For one, it’s a third-person cover based shooter, with it’s camera deployed back and to the left of your slightly customizable version of Dudebro the Soldier. DB’s looks range from pale and mean to dark and grizzly, and his clothes are all different shades of camo, because nothing says serious soldier looking to eat ice cream, take long walks on the beach, and scatter some brain matter with this assault rifle like different shades of camo.
SF:TX shoots well, like his combat brethren at the noticed table. He knows how to use the multitude of weapons he can be assigned at any one instance, but he’s still a kid in this crazy, wildly inapporpriate kindergarten class, so the rest of his arsenal, is kept behind a level wall, just like the kids at the other tables. Cover is handled competently as well, though the experience is not as tight as an Uncharted or Gears. Movement is often restricted to simply turning in place, especially against walls where it looks like you would be able to slide across cover without issue.
Much like GMVT3, he prefers working with other like-minded individuals, even offering up a team bonus if you do your dirty while within a group. It’s not a perfect system, because sometimes, doing what’s best for the group means dropping out of group range and flanking the other team, but it does encourage team play, and the little XP multiplier SF:TX wears on his shirt even serves as a kind of range finder, letting you know that you have friends nearby.
Unlike those older, larger, more standout soldiers at the other table, SF:TX is an always online multiplayer experience. Made up of the standard online war games (Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Control points), it also adds a few new ones, though even those are simply different takes on common tropes. Any of the modes that focus on team play, like Control Points or the newer HotZone, are fun and benefit from the team mechanic, more so when compared to deathmatch type maps.
What SF:TX really likes to call attention to though, what he thinks really pushes him away from the glitter bombs and GMVT3′s vehicles, is his love of the building block. The maps SF:TX employs are separated into three pieces. Each piece (ex. Junkyard, Water Refinery, Empty Office Building) can be voted on independently of the other two, and at the end of the voting period, the pieces with the most votes are literally stuck together, creating a unique map.
It’s a neat idea, but when put into practice, it’s not enough to keep maps from functioning like the pre-built maps of every other multiplayer shooter out there. Each section functions like it’s own mini premade; when you move into the “warehouse” the section is always the same, so you know the paths, you know where the cover is, and you know the likely points where a fire fight is going to break out.
Special Forces also seems to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. Unlike some of its classmates, it doesn’t know if it wants to be serious or funny. Loading screens have jokes about there not being enough beard, one of the random weapon drops is a chainsaw that straight up uses Leatherface as inspiration for its run animation, but the available outfits are all real-life military inspired, and there is nothing dynamic to any of the maps, or any of the character models.
It also doesn’t help that all the map pieces look the same. Every map, even the junkyard, has the same business like color scheme of beiges, whites and browns. It’s more disheartening when you see that SF:TX employs the same cel-shaded art style of the more visually varied Borderlands 2, so the bland soldiers and bland backgrounds don’t need to be… they just are. There’s no specialness, no life,
That seems to be the rub with SF:TX. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is. Sometimes fun, sometimes pretty rough, most of the time I spent with it was with the though that the only reason I was still playing was to give it its fair shake. For someone looking for a new shooter, Special Forces Team X fits that description. For 15 dollars, the price point is a low enough point of entry that you should feel you’ve gotten what its worth out of it by the time its lack of character becomes all emcompasing. As sad as it is to say, the liberal application of glitter might have gone a long way. Or tanks. Nothing wrong with some tanks.