It's a trite and aggressively boring version of what a million other third-person action games have done. And even for its budget price, it's a pretty lousy value.
- You've got to admit, the game does have variety
- Several different weapon types, including a few somewhat innovative ones.
- Broken enemy AI
- Broken stealth mechanics
- Broken gun accuracy
- Not broken, but still ugly graphics
- Free-fall shooting sections are dumb, dumb, dumb.
Hip Games' Special Forces: Nemesis Strike, or CT Special Forces: Nemesis Strike, depending on whether you believe the box art or the game's main title screen, is a console and PC reenvisioning of the publisher's semi-obscure CT Special Forces franchise, which has existed solely on the GBA up to this point. However, whereas the GBA CT games were thoroughly competent knockoffs of the Metal Slug franchise, there's nothing particularly competent about Nemesis Strike. Essentially trying to ape everything from Splinter Cell to kill.switch, Nemesis Strike throws far too many disparate parts into one cluttered mess, and it doesn't bother to polish any of them beyond what was required to get the game gold and onto store shelves. It's a trite and aggressively boring version of what a million other third-person action games have done. And even for its budget price, it's a pretty lousy value.
In Special Forces: Nemesis Strike, you fight terrorists. That's it. That's all the plot you need to know, because that's as much of it as makes sense. You play two different characters throughout the adventure: Raptor, a scenery-chewing commando type that falls somewhere between Jesse "The Body" Ventura from Predator and Thunder in Paradise-era Hulk Hogan (in terms of action-hero bravado and credibility), and Stealth Owl, a predictable copycat of just about every other stealth action hero of the last decade. As these two knuckleheads, you penetrate various locales that have been overrun by terrorists (gasp!) and shoot them all in the face--over and over again--occasionally stopping to fight a ludicrously easy boss, rescue a painfully dumb artificially intelligent hostage, or drive a poorly designed vehicle.
When you play as Raptor, it's all run-and-gun, so you blast away at nasty terrorists with little regard for anything else. Occasionally, you'll have to duck and cover. And when you do, in a kill.switch-influenced mechanic, you can peer around the corner to fire, or you can just poke your weapon out and blind-fire, with a slight accuracy decrease. Of course, that accuracy decrease would only matter if the weapons were even accurate to begin with. Unless you're standing dead still and manually aiming the reticle as precisely as you can, chances are you're going to miss a lot of shots. The machine guns fire wildly, throwing bullets practically everywhere except where the nearest enemy is, and the shotgun even seems to bypass enemies at close range from time to time. As Raptor, you'll also find yourself driving occasional vehicles, like snow sleds, hovercraft, and what have you. However, no matter what kind of vehicle you're driving, they all handle exactly the same, which is to say, badly. Turns are impossibly jerky, every vehicle has a preternatural tendency to slide out, and the few that feature mounted weapons just seem underwhelming in terms of impact.
Granted, Raptor's levels are practically money in the bank compared to Owl's ill-conceived stealth levels. Mechanically, Owl works much the same as Raptor, only with a different variety of weapons that don't hit their targets and a couple of different grenade types that are cool ideas but are poorly executed. Basically, when you toss them, they'll either magnetically pull or repel any metal objects in the room. Again, this is a cool concept, but it's terribly underused throughout the game. All you ever really do is use them to move metal boxes and occasionally pull the weapons from your enemies' hands. Apart from all that, since Owl is a stealthy fellow, you can turn on a Predator-inspired invisibility suit that actually doesn't really work very well. Even though you're supposed to be invisible, enemies will immediately become alerted to your presence if you get within 20 feet of them.
On the plus side, your enemies are idiots, and they're terrible at actually shooting you. You can stand just outside of their detection ranges, picking them off with headshots one by one, and they'll just stand there looking bewildered. That's not to say the game is by any means a walk in the park, but instead of improving the AI of the ground troops, the developer made the game harder by sticking a bunch of snipers and guys with rocket launchers on rooftops. While it's understandable that rocket launchers would kill you pretty quickly (and you can actually dodge the rockets reasonably easily), the snipers are ridiculously overpowered and overly accurate, picking you off from incredible distances with only a couple of shots needed to kill you. Hell, even Vassili Zaitsev would be jealous of their skills.
The one unique aspect of Owl's gameplay sequences involve something of a free-fall combat mechanic. Essentially, before every single one of his missions, Owl has to drop from a stealth bomber, free-falling for a few thousand feet and then parachuting the rest of the way. We love this idea, but it's so terribly underdeveloped. Essentially, you're saddled with an arbitrary time limit during every drop, and all you do while you're dropping is occasionally spin around to shoot other parachuting bad guys and periodic missiles, all while holding down the speed-drop button to gain a little extra movement boost. It's never exactly explained why only Owl has to do this--especially when Raptor has no problem just kicking the door down of whatever area he has to clear out--and the fact that it's so devoid of any enjoyable aspects makes us think this concept was some kind of last-minute addition to the game that didn't really have much thinking behind it.
Both the Xbox and PC versions of the game also have their own unique quirks that make them equally problematic for different reasons. The Xbox version generally controls worse than the PC one, mainly because the right thumbstick control of the aiming reticle is painfully slow, making it way too hard to line up a proper shot. And before you even ask, no, you can't change the speed of the reticle movement. It also doesn't help that the auto-lock targeting, which can be toggled, just doesn't seem to work at all. While that might have made the PC version the clear-cut winner in any other situation, the PC version of Nemesis Strike is dragged down for different reasons, not the least of which is the game's relative instability. The game will always crash when you quit out of it, meaning you'll have to deal with the "this program is not responding" message every time you want to leave the game. Nemesis Strike will also occasionally crash in-game for no particularly understandable reason. And this is made more frustrating by the game's lousy save system, which only saves at the very end of a level. None of the restart checkpoints carry over if you quit out of the game.
Neither the Xbox nor the PC version of Nemesis Strike looks good at all. While both versions generally run at a solid 60 frames per second, it would be hard for them not to with how low-res and ugly everything in the game is. The character models are blocky, animate stiffly, and take up way too much of the screen for their own good. All the environments feature the same bland, colorless look, and apart from exploding oil drums, nothing's especially interactive. Camera movement is a huge pain, as you only get limited movement, and what you can actually do is barely useful at all. The game's audio is equally uninspired, with lots of gunshots that sound recycled from other games, overly subdued militarily-themed electronic beats that are more irritating than anything else, and some really ham-fisted voice acting. Most of the side characters are just stiff and uninteresting in their deliveries, while the main characters are way over-the-top. Raptor's the worst, overly enunciating every word he's given while trying to eke out as much toughness as he can. Ultimately, he just kind of comes across as creepy as he yells amazing things like "Full Throttle!" without even a hint of irony.
Nemesis Strike features a reasonably lengthy single-player adventure, but it offers no multiplayer of any kind to bring you back to the game once you're done with it. And, for that matter, length is about the only thing the single-player mode has going for it to begin with, since it certainly isn't much fun. If the developers at Asobo Studio had found a way to massage the wildly different elements that make up this game into something more cohesive, then Nemesis Strike might have been something worthwhile. As it is, it's just a clunky, uneven, ugly mess of an action adventure game that's devoid of any real redeeming qualities. Regardless of its cheap price tag, it isn't worth your time.