Special Forces: Team X – “Casual-Core” Multiplayer

Fast and fun. Those two words leapt to the front of my mind within seconds of getting my hands on Zombie Studio’s Special Forces: Team X. It’s a cel-shaded third-person multiplayer shooter that embraces many of its genres tropes but adds just enough of its own personality to stand out.

Special Forces: Team X
Developer: Zombie Studios
Platform: PC, XBLA
Release date: Late 2012

My demo began with player customization. I had fun messing with my loadout, clothing, and skills (more of which could be unlocked, I was told) for the one or two minutes before the action began. There wasn’t much time to configure my character, but I could imagine myself grinding away for hours to unlock an awesome hat or the attack dog skill – the existence of which I discovered a few minutes later in brutal fashion.

The match we played involved capturing and holding three objective points. While the map wasn’t massive, I was delighted by how spritely my character moved, dashing in and out (and over) cover like army acrobat. Aiming was dead-on, weapons were varied and balanced, and grenade throwing was as responsive and predictable as one could hope. The game just felt so good.

Then there was the game’s graphical appearance, which will undoubtedly play a huge role in drawing people’s interest (it worked on me). Imagine if XIII and Borderlands had a baby, then Uncharted and Gears of War had a baby, and those two babies grew up and had a baby. That uber-baby would be called Special Forces: Team X. This may sound a bit hyperbolic, but after months of Call of Duty this and Gears of War that, this game felt like much needed refreshment.

Even if the aesthetic and mechanical appeal of Special Forces: Team X are enough to sell me on the game, there is one unprecedented, differentiating factor that makes it truly stand out: the Dynamic Map Tile System. Every map is made up of three sections, all of which are interchangeable. At the start of each round, players will cast their vote to determine which three pieces will comprise the level in which they’ll be playing the next round. Crazy, right?

I needed a bit of clarification, so the next day I spent a few minutes talking to Colin Moore, communications manager for Zombie Studios. We discussed some of the finer details of the mayhem I had experienced the night before. While further explaining the map system, he told me that the interchangeable map tiles offer over 100 possible combinations. He also touted the game as “casual core”: all the features of a hardcore game with the accessibility and price of a casual game.

And while he couldn’t give me a firm price, it was pretty clear that this will fall in the $15 range – especially considering it’s aiming for an XBLA release along with its planned PC release. That also means it’s not free to play, so people will have to earn their ridiculous outfits and overpowered weapons, both of which will give players incentive to continue after the honeymoon period of freshness ends – assuming it ever does.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m excited about this one.

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