2002 has been a remarkably good year for both single-player and multiplayer PC action games. Several of these games have been exceptional examples of advancements in innovative gameplay, great sound effects and music, and impressive 3D graphics. Unfortunately, US Special Forces: Team Factor from Czech developer 7FX isn't among these games. The game might have been innovative or graphically impressive if it had come out about five years ago, but unfortunately, it's 2002 and Team Factor couldn't have been released at a worse time.
As its name suggests, Team Factor is a team-based game. It's a first-person shooter that lets you play on one of three teams as one of four character classes: the sniper, the machine-gun-toting soldier, the heavy-weapon specialist, and the support scout. The main difference between each class, as in most other realistic team-based shooters released in the past two or three years, is its primary weapon (the sniper carries a sniper rifle with a zoom-in scope, the scout carries a submachine gun, and so on), though all four classes can also carry pistols and knives, and some can also carry grenades and sensors used to hack into computers. Each class also has slightly different physical attributes that ostensibly affect their health and accuracy, but they don't really have a noticeable effect on the actual gameplay.
In Team Factor's 22 maps, your team will have to hack into computers, capture briefcases full of intelligence documents, or simply wipe out opposing teams. Each of the game's maps has a different objective that you'll learn about by reading the briefing just before the game starts--there are no separate gameplay modes in Team Factor, so you can't actually choose to play capture the flag, deathmatch, or anything else. Beyond that, if you've played a team-based first-person shooter like Counter-Strike in the past two or three years, you won't really see anything new in Team Factor.
Furthermore, if you've played a new team-based shooter in the last two or three years, you've definitely seen and heard better. Though Team Factor's maps have a surprising amount of variety, including jungle, desert, and swamp areas, the game generally has simple level geometry (the buildings in many of the game's city levels aren't much more than large, simply textured rectangles), stiff character animation, and poor special effects (muzzle flashes look like jagged orange stars cut out of cardboard, and the actual shots are represented by an opaque yellow line). You'd think that Team Factor's minimalist graphics would at least let the game run at a high frame rate, but even on midrange and high-end systems, the game's performance is choppy.
This may sound like an extremely critical assessment of Team Factor's graphics, but it's difficult not to focus on them because of the game's extremely sparse sound. The game has music at the opening title screen, but nowhere else. No music of any sort plays in the actual game, and though Team Factor has a voice-command menu that lets you issue orders to your teammates, you probably won't make much use of it. Otherwise, the only sounds you're likely to hear in a session of Team Factor are gunfire and grenade explosions. These sounds are loud and clear, but the sound effects for each weapon aren't especially distinctive, nor do they give you a good idea of where they came from.
These problems don't help Team Factor's multiplayer or single-player modes much. There are very few servers that host the game online, so you may not even be able to find a game, but if you do, you'll find that a multiplayer game of Team Factor is much like a single-player session, jerky frame rate and all. And since Team Factor doesn't have any separate play modes or any kind of single-player campaign, playing a single-player game of Team Factor isn't all that interesting either. To the game's credit, Team Factor's bots are actually pretty decent--though they'll occasionally get stuck on walls, they'll often run straight for their enemies and mow them down efficiently. In fact, in larger games with teams of five or more, you'll practically feel like a useless spectator as your computer-controlled teammates sprint out of sight and annihilate your enemies before you even have a chance to get your bearings.
Even though developer 7FX spent a long time developing the game, time (not to mention all the great games that have been released in the past few years) has worked against it. Team Factor's dated graphics, sparse sound, and lack of interesting play modes keep it from measuring up to action-game heavyweights like Counter-Strike, Battlefield 1942, and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, and even to budget-priced shooters like Serious Sam. In and of itself, Team Factor isn't a horrendous game, but considering all the other outstanding games that are on the shelf right next to it, it just can't be recommended.