Combat: Task Force 121 is a game that's just as hackneyed as its title makes it sound. Available for the usually telling price of $19.99, Task Force 121 is a thoroughly rudimentary military-themed first-person shooter that puts the bulk of its focus on online play. Up to 16 people can play online, and there are several different modes of play. While this might sound like a pretty good deal, the unbalanced shooting mechanics and mostly lousy maps pretty much do away with that notion right away. And the thoroughly terrible single-player campaign further reinforces this fact. Had the developer perhaps just skipped the single-player portion altogether to spend some more time hammering out the problems with its multiplayer, the game might have turned into a decent little shooter for Xbox Live subscribers. In this form, however, Task Force 121 simply can't compete with the myriad of other shooters available for the Xbox.
There are multiple multiplayer modes, from simple split-screen, to system link, and all the way up to Xbox Live. You can play with up to four people in split-screen, eight in system link, or 16 online. Multiplayer games include general and team variations of capture the flag, deathmatch, king of the hill, and last man standing, as well as a game called VIP escort, where one player acts as a VIP who must be escorted to a safe zone while the other team tries to kill him. On paper, all this sounds great. There are a nice variety of modes, the interface is simple and easy to use, and in every game, different players can play different class types, like basic soldiers, close-quarters combatants (who prefer weaponry like shotguns), demolitionists, heavy weaponry combatants, and snipers. Unfortunately, once you actually get into the action, it all becomes painfully clear that no amount of game modes can make Task Force 121 enjoyable to play.
The main problems with the multiplayer gameplay have to do with the weapons. There are six guns in the game, including a pistol, a shotgun, and a few different types of machine guns. While each weapon feels initially like it packs a good punch, some of the balancing between weapons feels kind of strange. Shotguns, for instance, are almost always one-hit killers, so long as you're near an enemy. Conversely, some of the larger assault rifles seem like they take way too many hits to actually bring down an opponent. Even apart from this, the action just has a very tired, bland feel to it. The maps are a big part of this problem, because they really don't have much variety to offer at all. The corridors are often too cramped to be much fun, and even the open spaces seem to lack much in the way of space. Plus, certain soldier classes, like snipers, feel altogether useless in a lot of maps, because there are rarely any good vantage points to properly play them. The multiplayer, as a whole, just feels severely antiquated, like some kind of holdover from the Xbox launch days. If you're a forgiving person and don't mind the weird balancing and mediocre maps--and are just in desperate need of some run-and-gun action--then Task Force 121 is serviceable. But there are loads of shooters available for the Xbox that do FPS multiplayer as well as, if not a ton better than, this game.
If you're not an Xbox Live subscriber, Task Force 121's stock drops even further. Though the system link and split-screen multiplayer is decent, the online is really where it's at. Plus, when you factor in that the game has absolutely nothing to offer in the way of a single-player experience... Well, OK, it does have a single-player campaign, but it's so unabashedly lame that you won't want to bother with it. Essentially consisting of a scattershot collection of brief missions with seemingly unintentionally hilarious names, like "Operation Crazed Liberty" and "Operation Outraged Tension," the mode is just no fun at all. Basically, all the missions are a bunch of fetch quests where you have to find keys, safe combinations, and other assorted bric-a-brac before getting to the end. That's it. It's simply: Get from point A to point B, and find a key or something in between. It's not much fun at all, really.
In between all that, you'll shoot a bad guy here and there. Though the developer did go to the trouble of making the enemy artificial intelligence at least decently smart, it apparently couldn't be bothered to add things like health packs. This teams with the game's checkpoint system, which starts you out with depleted health after you die, to cause you a great deal of frustration. All in all, the single-player campaign will probably take you only a few frustrating hours to blast through. And at no point is it ever fun. Thus, those without multiplayer on the brain will have a terrible time with Combat: Task Force 121.
Task Force 121's graphics are mediocre. There are only a scant few character skins to choose from, none of which look all that great, and the models animate in a pretty herky-jerky fashion. All the maps have a decidedly muddy look to them, with a lot of nasty-looking textures, ugly set pieces, and occasional sections of the environment that just don't look quite finished; and even with the unremarkable visuals, the game still has slowdown issues that pop up in certain areas. The audio is perhaps the one saving grace of Task Force 121. When you're in combat, the echoes of gunshots can be quite fierce, and they sound wholly realistic. Similarly, though the enemy dialogue is a little on the repetitive side, it's well recorded and delivered and isn't so prevalent that you'll be hearing it constantly. Unfortunately, there's not really much in the way of music in the game, and what is there isn't very impressive.
Combat: Task Force 121 is a game that seems content to stick closely to the quality of those budget shooters that have come before it. While the online play is merely average at best, its single-player play, as well as its overall production values, present themselves as seriously subpar. You could certainly say these problems aren't that big of a deal, especially since the game is only $20, but on a console as rife with multiplayer shooters as the Xbox, this excuse doesn't really hold much water. In the end, you should just take a pass on Combat: Task Force 121.