Developer: Zombie Studios
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Review Copy Provided By: Atari
Release Date: February 6. 2012
It takes a special kind of game to release on Xbox Live Arcade and be solely multiplayer and still have a community that plays it. Heck, if you aren’t Battlefield, Call of Duty, Gears of War, or Halo it is hard on the retail side of things also. Zombie Studios hopes to buck the trend with Special Forces: Team X, a cell shaded third person cover based shooter that seems to mix the gameplay of Call of Duty with the mechanics of Gears of War and the graphics of Borderlands and XIII. Team X has a lot of adjectives and influences when you describe it, but is that enough to keep it out of the wasteland of dead online games?
If you have played any of the popular multiplayer shooters over the past couple years, Team X will be nothing new for you. Gun play is acceptable. It’s not bad or great but just a tad above average with no glaring negatives or standout features. Match that with progression system that unlocks new guns and customization options each level and you have a stripped down version of the multiplayer from decent third person cover based shooter. One of the few interesting features is the ability to use dogs to attack and distract enemies as regularly as grenades.
All five modes (Team Deathmatch, High Value Target, Capture The Flag, Hot Zone, & Capture Point) are all team based and standard fare much like the gameplay. A nice feature that encourages team play over lone-wolfing it is that the closer you are to your team the higher the multiplier is for score. Run as a group of 3 or 4 and expect a 3x multiplier. While the focus and rewarding of team play is nice, a deathmatch mode would have been a great addition to the mode offerings.
Team X features an extremely interesting take on maps and the vote process prior to maps. Each map consists of a left, middle, and right section that can be mixed and match with around a half dozen choices each. When voting for maps before games, the piece in each section with the highest votes will make up the map for that game. Unfortunately, even with a couple hundred variations, the maps could not be more generic. It is disappointing when something could have been done to make the pieces stand out and actually make players care about which one to vote for.
The find a match interface is a cluster…fail. Instead of using matchmaking, which has become the norm over the past 7 years, Team X follows the old PC model of listing out matches for you to join. The only problem is that these aren’t dedicated servers but actual games hosted by the game creator. There is no migration if you jump into a game and the host leaves. The matchmaking is enough to drive away a lot of players when you add in issue with latency, server lists constantly outdated despite how many times you refresh, and games being different modes than what you selected by the time you enter. Not to mention that the party system leaves much to be desired. There is no lobby and your whole Xbox Live party is invited to whatever game you join. It is easy to see how this will irritate your party members, especially the ones not playing the game with you.
Team X shines in one area with cell shaded graphics and animations. Despite the generic maps and environments, it is hard not to see the charm when most other shooter titles outside of Borderlands this generation have been attempting the ultra realistic path. Rag doll physics have been around forever but they make explosions satisfying in Team X. Nothing quite beats seeing enemies fly in an exaggerated manner from a well placed grenade. Players also have a nice selection of unlockable canned animations to use as taunts. If timed right after a kill, the dead will see it on their killcam.
Special Forces: Team X is only worth your time if you don’t have anything else more fully featured and popular to play. It has a couple of interesting ideas that are squandered in an experience that is best described as average. A more fleshed out title might have had a chance to keep a online community for a couple of months at least, but Zombie Studio’s offering will probably be dead before summer.