copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Chrome SpecForce  



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Impact: Faint


It’s been a while since Chrome came out. If the reader is going, “Who?” I’m not surprised. Not many people it seems have noticed this shy thing standing in the corner. It wasn’t completely undeserved as it had several serious problems with the gameplay. Now its son is out, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, as Chrome SpecForce seems to be troubled by the same problems. Nevertheless, there’s a lot in SpecForce to talk about.


GAMEPLAY


You play as Logan (anyone gets a flashback about Syphon Filter?), a new operative in the Federation’s special forces, FSB (anyone thinks about the Russian FSB?). After a tutorial at a training camp you’re sent in with a partner to investigate about a corporation that is suspected to produce a new and illegal aggression enhancing drug (sure, whenever something that makes you a lot better comes along, they outlaw it). Things don’t go as planned for the two of you though…


As a member of a futuristic super force, you have several tricks up your sleeve. Optic camouflage allows you to sneak around unseen, although either the problematic AI or the scripting of the game ensures that some enemies are magically immune to this. There’s also a strength and speed enhancing mode, and the names speak for themselves. Finally, there’s a mode that slows down time. This is especially useful when sniping at several unsuspecting foes. All of the modes are temporary but powered by rechargeable batteries.


A sufficiently large arsenal is available to your disposal. You will be forced to use each type of weapon during the main campaign since the locations you will visit vary from huge open spaces to claustrophobic corridors, and your enemies vary from people to jet fighters.


Different machines are available for you to drive and fight around in. They range from something that resembles a bike to walkers (like in Mechwarrior) to stationary cannons. Most of these machines are really well looking, and by that I don’t mean the graphics but the construction. They look like something that could actually work if it was real.


There’s a standard shooter game set of things to do in SpecForce: chases, sneaking around (if you choose to), sniping and close combat. The events are well scripted and flow well into one another. Missions include planting explosives, hacking into computers, assassination, ambushing enemies and generally getting from one place to another, killing everything on the way. Sounds like tasks performed in tactical shooters, don’t they? Do not be fooled however, SpecForce is NOT what they call a tactical shooter. You are in a team sometimes, but you are following rather than leading, and the action is all about shooting and shooting and shooting some more, trying to penetrate the “thick” enemy armor.


There’s a little bit of puzzling in the game. Hacking into computer consoles to achieve different effects is done by playing an infamous game found widely on the internet. It’s about turning over pictures one by one and remembering which of them are identical. This is rather weird to use it here but it actually works. As the game progresses, the puzzle gets more complicated, although still pretty easy to solve. Developers should’ve gone further in this.


The first major downside in the gameplay is the enemy’s AI. The enemy must be on some really magic drug if he is able to hit you with the first shot from 500 meters away, the very moment any part of your body appears on his horizon for the first time. Jumping, going stealthy or running fast has no use. You WILL be shot many times in the game, and though it doesn’t at all have to mean death, it can still get pretty annoying depending on one’s playing style. It’s especially annoying because damage is indicated by a loud sound and the screen going red. It almost starts hurting in real-life after a while. Another weird thing was happening when you shoot someone in the stealth mode, and all of his allies nearby seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that there he lies in a splatter of blood. These problems were present back in the first Chrome and I’m negatively surprised to see that the mistakes weren’t corrected.


There’s another, much graver sin within SpecForce’s gameplay: it’s inexcusably short. The game can be played out in 1 day and that’s a Guinness book record for me. Making enemies very bullet-resistant is not an answer to making a game longer, and even so it’s still too short. The game is not expensive, yes, but even for this amount of money one expects a longer game. To all of that add a multi-player mode where only about 3 servers can be seen with no one on them. The short single campaign is the game’s main downfall. The lack of attention results in an empty multi-player which results in even less play-time and in the further reduced value of the game. There’s a possibility for custom missions if you can make them. There’s a mission editor but it’s confusing and I couldn’t go anywhere with it. I also doubt that anyone will make and upload a map on-line with such a poor popularity of the game.


SOUND


Voices are generally well done, although some of the text could be better. Here and there I heard some simplistic lines that you might approve in a really cheap action movie but not here.


There are proper generic sounds of animals and wind that create quite a mood for the traveler in some of the game’s massive environments, but some sounds are missing completely like, for example, footsteps when crawling. I’m sure you make SOME noise when sneaking through the bushes (even if you are a super soldier). Music consists of techno-orchestral compositions and is well chosen for the game.


VISUALS


Visuals are a controversial thing to talk about. There’s an old metal-shine effect and there’s some complex Doom3-like shadowing on stones and trees, but a lot of the textures still look rather outdated. Then again, some of the environment looks detailed like the inner walls and the worn down weapons.


The game does succeed to be very atmospheric in some places. Now you are crawling through a dense forest with gigantic trees, and another time you are making your way on a small ledge surrounded by steep cliffs. The levels are crawling with vegetation. It doesn’t all look perfect but there’s a lot of it, it’s varied and is moving in the wind. All of it is complimented by a really long view distance. Sun isn’t perfect but has the blinding effect. The sky at some point looked bad with low resolution clouds, but the clouds were varied and also moving at different rates. It's like all things in Chrome SpecForce look both bad and good


A thing about cut-scenes: there practically aren't any. In my memory there’s only one small cut-scene at the end of the game. Cut-scenes aren’t really necessary in any game, but many of us will go “huh?” at this point. And indeed it could’ve been used to help the storyline a lot and maybe even fill the game's time somewhat.


THE VERDICT


It’s hard to give Chrome SpecForce a verdict. If you can overcome the feeling sorry for the developers, due to the low attention to their game, you’re left with a rather controversial game. Problematic enough when it comes to playing length and the enemy AI to spoil the gameplay, it’s still a worthy shooter and at least deserves to be recognized if not liked. Maybe the developers should go back to their computers, finish the game by adding a better AI, cut-scenes and more levels and then spend at least some cash for advertisement and server support. Then, release a game that is $45 instead of the current $29, but has a lot to show for it.


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The game resides somewhere between Vietcong, Battlefield series and Far Cry