SpecForce is the follow-up to Techland's Chrome (also published by DreamCatcher as Advanced Battlegrounds: The Future of Combat). The game is a first-person shooter set in a future where spacefaring humans discover a rare and valuable resource, called Chrome, while colonizing a distant solar system.
Crysis, Quake Wars, Call Of Duty 4, Rogue Trooper, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2. There's a list of reasonably modern shooters that are all better than Chrome Specforce. Going back a few years, we could also add Max Payne and Quake 4 to that list. The thing is, though, Chrome Specforce isn't actually all that bad...
Let's get the character name out of the way to begin with. It's Bolt Logan. Right, now we can ignore that ridiculous decision and discuss the game. This is a FPS with action elements that almost wander into RPG territory (such as hacking locks). It includes a decent array of land and air-based vehicles that, although basic, are easy to control. It's the standard story - you're an elite soldier who finds himself in the middle of a conflict that could threaten the Earth and only you can stop the nasties imposing their alien-esque values, ways and weaponry on to the innocent humans.
Aside from the lack of originality and mediocre visuals, one of the biggest problems is the lack of fun. There's a lot of wandering around involved, the weapons are pretty uninspiring, and the vehicles can't take much damage before exploding. In fact, with the vast array of superior games on offer, we struggle to recommend this competent shooter. Unfortunately for Chrome Specforce, 'competent' simply isn't good enough any longer.
Chrome: SpecForce is a generic futuristic shooter. It's the kind of game that I imagine would be created from a template by students taking a videogame development course. It's basic and has its share of faults. I might pass the student that created it but I would certainly give him a C minus for his efforts.
Bolt Logan and his SpecForce squad are called upon to put a stop to the training of terrorist supersoldiers on the planet Estrella. Presided over by a ruthless corporation, these terrorists-in-training are poised to take over the planet where they will launch an assault against the rest of the galaxy. SpecForce will be confronted by a variety of missions including hostage rescue, seek and destroy, recon and combat. Although the missions are run-of-the-mill, there is some variety to how they are played. It's just unfortunate that the combat is so lackluster.
First and foremost there are no cutscenes. This keeps the story from reaching us emotionally as most of the information is presented as text-based briefings before each mission. There are a lot of games where the cutscenes are really just a waste of time and I wish we could just skip them and get on with our mission. But in a game such as this, with virtually no personality to distinguish it from the myriad of shooters out there, it really would have benefited from a good storyline with interesting characters.
Much of the game involves running and gunning but there are some added features such as the ability to drive a bike, pilot a mech and man a turret that keeps the gameplay somewhat fresh. These elements are required to compete various areas of the game and are therefore integral to the gameplay. If there's any complaint it's that these elements may be a little too simplistic. I'm thankful that they work well and they don't require navigating a huge learning curve but it just doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment to complete the objectives using these weapons and vehicles. They feel as though they were included just for the sake of breaking up the gameplay - like an over-enthusiastic developer giving you a tour of his game and all the neat things he included in it. Let me try another analogy. It's like a stew that doesn't totally blend. You can taste all of the individual ingredients - even those mushy vegetables that I'm not crazy about.
The AI on both sides is not well programmed. The enemy AI can be very unfair as they lie in wait around corners and in bushes to pick you off as soon as you enter into the region. Just about every time you peek around a corner you can expect to take a few hits. The enemy, thanks to your weak firepower, can take up to three times as many hits as you before they kick the bucket.
AI members of your squad will stand up in the middle of a fight and take on severe damage as though they were unaware that they were in the middle of a fight to the death as opposed to a tea party. This is not exclusive to Chrome but it is confined to poorly developed games worldwide. Fortunately for your character there are plenty of health kits to pick up and store. You can even store weapons that you scavenge from dead enemies although the inventory makes this more complicated than need be.
The main weapon of choice is the assault rifle. All the other guns, from the pistol to the shotgun, are virtually useless since you can use the assault rifle's scope to pick off enemies from a safe distance. It also makes a great melee weapon. The inventory has limited room and you have to enter the weapon's stats in the various grids which is a real pain. You can't beat the rocket launcher for sheer destructive force but the best overall weapon, and handiest, is the assault rifle.
Armor is available but it's not as effective as it could be. There are four components to the armor: powershield; motive support; camouflage, and neural boost. As long as you've got your meter filled you can use the various armor features. The powershield will give you some protection from enemy hits. Motive supports gives you a speed boost which makes you move quicker. The camouflage rarely fools the enemy and even though you may be invisible, you aren't invincible from projectiles should the enemy fire in your direction - and they will. The neural boost slows everything down like a form of bullet time but it also slows your character down with everything else. What's the point of that, I ask?
Graphically the game looks like a virtual training environment. The forests and plant life is 2D and flat which looks totally fake. The various buildings and compounds are relatively clean and empty. The music is sparse, highlighting the emptiness. Clipping and slowdown accompany the appearance of enemies. The sound effects of the guns and explosions are weak which belie their overall impotence. The voiceovers are few and far between but what is presented here isn't that bad.
Up to 16 player can take part on the online modes which include King of the Hill, Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Even though the game has been out for a couple of months it was difficult to find enough people online to fill all the available slots. I tried for three days and nights and I was never able to find more than 10 people to play with. Not that you would be missing much since there are a lot of better games that do these various modes justice.
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