US Special Forces: Team Factor is the latest game to come out trying to capitalize on the success of Counterstrike. Team based first person shooters are a dime a dozen these days so in order to compete, any new game had better be something special. Team Factor does have a few tricks up its sleeve, but these aren't enough to overshadow the many problems with the game. The graphics are downright ugly; the sound is almost nonexistent, and the gameplay feels like Counterstrike for Dummies. If US Special Forces: Team Factor had come out about three or four years ago, it probably would stand up against it's competition. But the first person shooter genre is filled with a great many games that are much more deserving of your hard earned cash than Team Factor.
In Team Factor, you can play as one of three teams: US Special Forces, Terrorists, or the Russian Spednatz. All three teams have nearly identical uniforms and all play exactly the same, so it doesn't really matter which one you choose. After you select your team, you then pick what type of unit you want to be. You can be a sniper, a soldier, a heavy weapons expert, or a support scout. The main difference between each unit is, as you expect, in what weapons they carry. Again, they are all pretty much the same, so it doesn't matter which one you choose. The soldier is probably the best rounded , carrying an assault rifle with a sniper scope that allows you to dispatch enemies, at both long and close range, very effectively.
There isn't any story in Team Factor, and the single player game consists of just choosing a map and fighting against bots. There are different objectives on each map for each of the three teams to complete that consist of capturing intelligence, hacking a computer, or defending a specific area. Victory can also be secured by simply eliminating the other teams, though, so these special objectives aren't really a factor unless your computer controlled teammates finish the objective for you.
The single player aspect of Team Factor feels tacked on. When you first start up the game, it is immediately apparent that Team Factor was designed for multiplayer gaming first and foremost. The solo experience offers about as much depth as a puddle, and it is clear that it was intended entirely to prepare gamers to play online. There are only sixteen single player missions and none of them are very challenging. They can be completed in a day or two, but after the second or third map the game becomes very repetitive and tedious.
One of the tricks Team Factor has up it's sleeve is the skills system that allows you to gradually improve certain skills the more you use them. Strength, stamina, stealth, awareness, marksmanship, and breath control can all be improved the more you use each of these skills. These different skills allow players to create more individualized characters so that the game feels less repetitive. In practice, though, the difference between a character with full stats and a default character isn't very noticeable. With added strength you can carry more ammo, but that is the only skill that has a real effect on gameplay. This was a good idea, but wasn't implemented very well.
The bots in Team Factor are pretty pathetic. They alternate between running around frantically and being very aggressive to simply stopping in the middle of the battlefield and standing still no matter what kind of danger they may be in. The bots also have an amazing ability to know exactly where their enemies are, but they aren't smart enough to actually go around obstacles in order to reach them. Instead, the bots just fire round after round of ammunition at walls and other objects scattered throughout the environments. When the bots do actually find you, they are fairly good shots, so it is best to shoot first and ask questions later. You can change the difficulty level of the bots, but it seems to only affect how much damage their bullets inflict and doesn't change their skill level.
For a game that was designed from the ground up for multiplayer, the online community for Team Factor is almost nonexistent. Team Factor doesn't use GameSpy or any other matchmaking services, so finding a game online is extremely difficult. The number of people online at any given time can be measured in the dozens, sadly. The game allows up to thirty (30) players in a multiplayer game, but you'll be lucky to find servers with five people on them, let alone thirty. The multiplayer experience, just like the single player game, is pretty dry and doesn't offer anything that FPS fans haven't already seen before.
The maps you'll play on in both single and multiplayer all feel pretty much the same. There are jungles, open plains, and city maps along with a few others, but the level design is fairly similar on all of them.
Graphically, US Special Forces: Team Factor looks very dated and ugly compared to the likes of Ghost Recon or Battlefield 1942. The characters look like they only have about four frames of animation and it is just sickening to watch. Enemies appear to be gliding along rather than running. The uniforms for all three teams look almost exactly the same so it is difficult to tell the enemy apart from your own soldiers. The only thing you need to remember is that when your crosshairs turn red, you had better start firing. The weapon designs are blocky looking, but it is easy to tell what weapon you have.
The sound in Team Factor consists of the same gunfire sound for every weapon and absolutely no music. Occasionally you'll also hear an explosion from a grenade, but none of these effects are particularly well done.
Overall, US Special Forces: Team Factor just can't compete with the multitude of other first person shooters available right now. The first thing I noticed about Team Factor, other than the bad graphics, was that it plays like a poor man's version of Counterstrike. It is terrorists vs. counter terrorists with realistic weapons and environments just like Counterstrike, but Team Factor isn't anywhere near as good as CS or any of the dozens of other FPS out there. US Special Forces: Team Factor isn't even worth a look unless you are absolutely desperate.
Eric Qualls (12/16/2002)