SpecForce Review

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Graphics: 0
Sound : 0
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Multiplayer : N/A
Overall :
Review by Kurt Knudsen
A few years back Chrome appeared on shelves out of nowhere, receiving decidedly mixed reviews. Many people mislabeled it as a budget shooter, but underneath its rough exterior lay a very solid title with some interesting gameplay elements. Soon enough, Chrome SpecForce will be hitting stores, and once again we can expect a very solid title. The graphics have been improved, the voice actors are spot-on, and the game is extremely immersive and entertaining.

In some aspects SpecForce can be viewed as a Far Cry clone, since most of the game takes place outside with some indoor activity. The jungle areas are lush and look great, the maps are huge and expansive, and the indoor missions aren’t the same corridors repeated into eternity. Indoor levels mainly consist of finding a terminal and hacking it to open a door or activate/deactivate some security measure. The hacking process consists of matching symbols together. You are given a set amount of moves to complete it in and the number of symbols to match. For the first few levels the game only requires you to match two symbols; as the game progresses it increases to three. Once they are all matched, the door or gate unlocks. Level design is incredible, and really brings the game to another level. All the missions are strung together and build off one another, so it seems like the game is one large map.

The controls and inventory system are as approachable as in the previous game. You have a limited amount of space to hold weapons, ammo, health kits, grenades, etc. Each gun takes up a certain amount of space, and you can’t carry them all. You can also sport a secondary weapon, a handgun, but the chances of ever using it are slim. The variety of weaponry is interesting, with each firearm having their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll find yourself using the machine gun throughout most of the game though, because it holds the most ammo and has decent accuracy and damage. The controls are straightforward and require no remapping. Several armor power-ups are all mapped around the movement keys for easy use.

Power-ups include motive support, neural booster, camouflage layer, and power shields. Motive support allows you to move faster, giving you the ability to retreat faster or move throughout a facility faster. Neural booster slows down time and allows you to take out opponents that move faster than you or are stronger than you. This isn’t anything new, but isn’t a selling point of the game like bullet-time was for Max Payne. In fact, the action is so fast-paced that you will rarely use it. The camouflage layer makes you slightly invisible but once an enemy spots you, they stick with you. Power shields allow you to take more powerful hits without taking a lot of damage. All of these drain the armor’s power, which can be recharged using regen packs found on the field. The armor also features a specialized reticule for spotting friendly units and enemy units, a huge help because the forest levels are so dense and the brush is very high. The reticule locks onto opponents with a red circle, allowing you to easily find them even if they are camouflaged. This reticule is extremely helpful and would make the game a lot more difficult without it.

SpecForce also features vehicles and computer-controlled teammates. The vehicles are great and very easy to control, making for some great gameplay moments. You can drive a buggy, walk around in an armored walker, or float around in an antigravity speeder. The buggy has two seats so a teammate can drive and you can spend your time picking off enemies with the machine gun. There are two types of walkers in the game, anti-troop and anti-vehicle. The anti-vehicle can easily eliminate troops, but the reload time on the weapons doesn’t offer an optimal rate of fire. The anti-troop one cannot rotate 360 degrees like the anti-tank walker, so it’s quite limited as to what it can see. The teammates in the game are excellent, giving you cover fire when needed, distracting the enemy units, and usefully increasing your chances of survival. Your main teammate, Pointer, is a sniper and aids you throughout the game. The downsides to these teammates include not being able to control them, and failing a mission if you fall too far behind when you are supposed to follow them.

Multiplayer is a blast, due in part to the levels. Modes available include CTF, DM, TDM, and TD. The first three are self-explanatory, with TD standing for Team Domination. TD has you running around a map taking control of special checkpoints. As you gain control of these checkpoints your score increases. The levels are great fun, and the huge forest levels allow for many opportunities to hide and sneak around, something we haven’t seen a lot of. You can play multiplayer matches over LAN or the Internet.

Graphically speaking, SpecForce is up there. The models are considerably detailed and character animations are very fluid. The different weapons all look unique, detailed, and sound great, although it is the level design that sets this game apart from others. Both the indoor and outdoor levels look excellent, with strong textures making for some detailed scenery.

The only problem I have with the game is the initial load time at the beginning of each mission. Depending on your machine it could take up to a minute or so, but thankfully there is only one load per mission, so nothing interrupts the gameplay.

Overall, this game exceeded expectations, especially with the price tag. It is definitely a diamond in the rough, as was the original Chrome. SpecForce offers up some intense firefights, great gameplay, awesome visuals, and astonishing voice actors. At $29.99, SpecForce is one of the best First Person Shooters of the year and the sleeper hit of 2005.

11/6/2005