In the distant future, on the fringes of human populated space, we encounter yet another corporation trying to take matters into its own hands. As Bolt Logan, you lead a bunch of elite soldiers called the SpecForce in attempt to curb lawlessness and megalomaniac companies who think they themselves are running the show on the planet Estrella.
Some of the highlights of SpecForce include the use of powered armor. This makes you look like one of those Elemental mechs from Battletech/Mechwarrior and there are upgrades and enhancements when you’re fighting in one besides the obvious. For example, you can use the camouflage function to covertly approach enemies or you can turn on the powershield to take more damage. In some missions, you’ll also have access to a vehicle. Vehicular physics used to be a bane for first person shooters but since the advent of games like Battlefield and Halo, it seems developers have gotten a handle of it. Here, SpecForce is no exception.
Technically, the presentation of SpecForce oscillates from good to bad. Some of the textures, in spite of the developer’s claims that it is photo realistic, look muddled. The draw distances are long on a well equipped PC. And they are functional too as enemies will often get into sniping duels from greater distances. When stacked up against some of the more modern game engines, this enhancement on the original Chrome game is on shaky ground. Any other expansion packs or sequels will likely require new software.
The audio side of the presentation is lacking due to that rather generic choice for sound effects. The flora and fauna come off pleasant for the ears but the explosions need more bass. The weapon sounds and choices reminded me a lot of Doom 3, which never left me with any favorable impressions.
The curious thing about SpecForce is the level design. It seems drawn out, probably because there is no in-game speech or storyline to move the game forward, so a lot of it seems like surviving one battle after another. F.E.A.R. of course was somewhat like that, although it mixed in horror and some comm-link speech and e-mails/voicemails that advanced the plot. If only SpecForce could have some of that that would have made the game seem shorter and more tightly integrated. Then again, this game is priced in the value PC game range so maybe they didn’t have the budget to pull that off.
Secondly, the level design feels as if someone played through the whole game and found it too easy so they decided to strategically place all the enemies into choke and ambush points. I would have at least preferred to see some enemies moping around on patrol or catching some unawares but it seems a lot of times the entire planet is on alert that Logan and his team has arrived.
Finally, I recently finished playing SWAT’s Stetchkov Syndicate. Playing through missions there, I really felt like I was the tactical commander more so than any other recent first person shooter. In SpecForce your squadmates are about as useful as the ones in F.E.A.R., except they seem to hang around longer before they get killed. Again, the lack of a story could have been supplemented by some well developed conversations between you and your squad. LucasArts’s Republic Commando is a great example of that.
There is a multiplayer component with the usual competitive team modes. There is no co-operative mode, which would have been a good fit considering the entire game requires no need to pause for a cutscene or a puzzle sequence. A lack of people online is the major impediment.
Overall, SpecForce really had potential. The graphics engine, while not the best, is still competent. The premise, while overdone, can still be worked out. The level design and AI is monotonous, but there are some elements where the vehicles come into play and dinosaurs enter the picture (haven’t fought one since Turok) that show glimpses of imagination. But that’s the whole story about SpecForce. It’s all a hit or miss game. In some departments it seems one step too much (the cumbersome inventory) and in some areas it’s one step too little (the weapons, friendly AI). Thus, the game never seems to get into a good rhythm or manage to stick with elements it’s good at and develop on them. Ultimately, this makes SpecForce an inconsistent title.