As the developers of F15 Strike Eagle II, one of the best flight simulators ever created, Microprose hold a special place in my heart. So, it was with great joy that I plunged into a new title from the studio, Special Forces Team X.

STX is a downloadable, multiplayer, third-person shoot-em-up. No attempt at storyline, this is straight up, leap-into-the-action-and-shoot-stuff-in-the-face multiplayer mayhem. It has to be said that the world of gaming is not exactly short on games of this ilk, so a new entrant to the arena needs to do something pretty damn special to grab the attention. The question is, did STX manage it?

First off, let’s look at how it works. It’s a simple enough quick match, find match or create match setup. The usual suspects are present in gametype selection including Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag, as well as “new” gametypes, High Value Target (VIP variant) and Hot Zone (A lot like the Hardpoint gametype in COD:BLOPSII). Special Forces Team X borrows a leaf out of the SHMUP 101 playbook by offering customisable loadouts and appearance.

Where it really does do something different, is in the level selection. Each level is split into three sections and a vote is held at match start, which allows players to opt for a more customised layout and does vary things up somewhat. The maps are also nicely designed, offering a decent mix of open area and close quarters. A particularly good combination seems to be Construction and Junkyard, either side of Warehouse. That popped up a lot during my playtime and it definitely provides a good mix of cover and firing lines which keeps things interesting.

My experience in multiplayer was most definitely what you would call a mixed bag. I came out of some games feeling like a cross between Rambo and The Terminator and others feeling more like a cross between a corpse and…another corpse. I did enjoy the execution animations, not just because I am one sick puppy but because they were very smooth and quick to pull off. I also like the ragdoll physics which I was able to admire often as I was frequently grenade spammed out of existence.

One thing I have to mention is the weaponry. Let’s face it, if we’re talking about shoot-em-ups we want to see a large, varied and horrendously destructive array of weaponry laid out before us and STX doesn’t disappoint. As well as your primary and secondary weapons, which can be changed and upgraded by spending points earned through gameplay, there are a range of heavy weapon drops.

Boxes containing weapons such as sniper rifles and the devastating mini-gun will be dropped into matches from time to time and grabbing them can definitely turn the tide of a match. I can vouch for that, having managed to lay hands on a mini-gun during one of my early matches and subsequently mowing down an entire enemy team in about five seconds. Another nice touch is the inclusion of attack dogs, deadly canine companions that you can bring into battle. Love them, stroke them, wince as they tear the throat out of your enemies, good times.

Special Forces Team X definitely rewards teamwork, offering score bonuses for teams that work well together. That being said, without my regular gaming amigos out there I definitely felt like a lone wolf as most people I played with were off doing their own thing. That’s no reflection on the game, of course, just a normal day in the world of gaming with randoms. My advice though, would definitely be to play with friends if you want to get the most out of this one.

The game runs well and it looks nice. Think Call of Duty gameplay with Borderlands graphics. There’s nothing wrong with Special Forces Team X, but there’s also not anything revelatory about it.

I’m perfectly happy to take a game at face value and say “Yes, this is a fun title which probably won’t win Game Of The Year but I can see me and my mates having some laughs with it” but, given the cries for originality and “the next big thing” in gaming these days, I fear STX will probably gain a small following but for most will slip quietly under the radar. It would be interesting to give it a shot on PC as STX has dedicated servers with a variety of gametypes on offer, perhaps that’s where this title will really find it’s niche.

Overall: 3/5

Special Forces Team X is out now for Xbox 360 and PC.

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