When it comes to talking about shooters, calling the market "crowded" is an understatement. If you want to make something that can compete with the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Counter-Strike or any other numerous established shooter franchises, it’s not enough to make it cheap or even free. Alongside a price point that makes it attractive, you need a hook — some sort of innovation or series of innovative twists on what’s come before — to stand out.
For Zombie Studios next game Special Forces: Team X, the hook comes from the fact that it’s a less-than-serious, third-person, cover-based shooter with a cool take on map design. Sure, cover-based shooters have been partially explored on the Xbox thanks to Gears of War, but virtually not at all on the PC, making it a much easier genre to become a potential competitor in. Combine these mechanics with Special Forces: Team X‘s sub $20 price tag, and you have what could be an attractive alternative to players looking for a cheap, multiplayer-only option in the genre Gears so firmly established.
Let’s just get all of Team X’s similarities to Gears of War right out of the way. It puts a similar premium on utilizing cover. Battles don’t boil down to who can rush in and get themselves killed the fastest, but who can play methodically, out-flanking the enemy team. Moving between cover is crucial, and Team X gives gives you a very roadie-run-like sprinting ability that lets you press on enemy positions. You can also vault and blind fire from cover and you have recharging health.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s focus on how Team X mixes it up, namely by tossing in elements from Call of Duty. Just like COD, Team X gives you loadouts, and you unlock new gear for your loadouts based on your level, which is raised by killing people, completing objectives — you know the drill by now, right? As you level up you’ll unlock new weapons for your two weapon slots, new perks (called Skills in Team X), as well as a host of options for changing your appearance. Weapons can be further customized with attachments, but Zombie has intentionally made it so you only have to worry about a few items and stats, rather than the slew of options that were in their last game, Blacklight: Retribution. The point of this isn’t too think too much about how to best min-max your loadouts stats, but to put things on that sound fun and then see if they work. Since it’s not a free-to-play but rather a single transaction, you don’t have to fret over whether or not you want to pay to rent or buy items, either.
One really cool thing that Team X does different from its competitors is its map generation. Instead of launching with a few pre-made maps, Team X lets players vote on the map layout before each match. Every map is composed of three segments, and to vote you simply swap out the segments until you find a combination you like. Then, after the timer counts down, Team X counts which map sections got the most votes in which slots and generates the level accordingly. This results in a few things that could make Team X a lot of fun to play. First of all, it’s a great way to keep you on your toes, since this means that you can’t simply learn a map in its entirety, but instead have to learn the ins and outs of sections, and then understand how they’ll play off one another when next to one another. Second, it makes voting on each round feel more exciting, because you’re not just picking between two maps that you might not like, you’re actively participating in the design of the level — albeit on a very basic level. Third, it means that Zombie Studios could roll out new map DLC at a fast rate if Team X does well, since the team only has to create single segments at a time rather than entire maps.
Other standout features in Team X could also help differentiate it. For instance you can play traditional modes like team deathmatch and king of the hill with two teams, but Team X also allows as many as four separate teams against one another at a time. Or if you don’t like to use grenades as your method for breaking someone out of cover, you can also bring dogs into the fight, sending them at your attackers to kill them or provide a distraction while you flank your enemy. Even the Skill system in Team X tweaks the standard formula a bit, with some Skills giving area of effect bonuses to your teammates instead of only benefiting you. These group-focused skills are important, too, because they encourage you to stick together — something particularly important in a cover-centric shooter.
With so many generic shooters or blatant clones releasing in recent years, it’s nice to see a studio attempt to innovate on established formulas. Whether or not this will bring success to Special Forces: Team X, though…well that remains to be seen. At least we won’t have to wait long, since Team X is slated to release on XBLA and PC before the end of the year.
Source : feeds[dot]ign[dot]com