Where's Professor X?
It's the future, and a research station has gone rogue. A lone scientist transmits a desperate cry for help. And the only ones who can answer her plea are the members of the X Squad.
X Squad. Not exactly an original title. Something about it sounds familiar...maybe the members of X Squad are mutants with superhuman powers! Hmmm...doesn't really matter, I suppose, since X Squad isn't a terribly original game, either. It's a third-person action game that takes you from level to level, wiping out nameless drones, in an attempt to get to the bottom of Project Medusa.
This game really isn't in the stealth genre it purports itself to be. The whole stealth concept gets tossed around like yesterday's trash. The enemies have ranges of detection, but that doesn't make it a stealth game. X Squad is more action-oriented, sending you into the fray against steady waves of baddies.
The squad is headed by Ash, a white-haired punk tough guy. He's aided by the chunky Shaft wannabe, Judd. Toss in a redhead and a blonde named Maya and Melinda, and you've got" (drum roll) the X Squad! These guys aren't my idea of a covert government operation, but hey, whatever.
You take control of one X Squad member, and your three crew members move with you, coaxed by a limited degree of control. During your mission, you can set how these other characters move, selecting different modes, including assault, recon or stealth.
Unfortunately, there isn't any inherent strategy because the foolish AI limits what your pals can do. Maybe they'll take some of the fire away from you. Or maybe they'll actually manage to hit something, like the broadside of a barn. It feels like they were planning more depth with this feature, but it sure as hell didn't make it in.
As you run about shooting like a maniac, you'll be aided by an auto-aim feature. Were it not for the auto-locking aim, the game's control would end up too loose and iffy. As it stands, the controls are slightly jerky and just barely decent enough to pass. Instead of stealth, you often have to simply jump in and strafe across a room while dealing out prodigious amounts of gunfire.
I'm annoyed by the incredibly limited close combat. Your arsenal of melee maneuvers consists of dishing out "supposedly" painful kicks to the shin (kind of like AYSO soccer - Ed.)
The levels take you from buildings to caverns, flowing from tightly packed corridors to larger spaces. Most locked doors have a switch or lever in a nearby room. Open the door, and you can proceed. With the built-in mapping feature, these areas aren't difficult at all to navigate, and the levels usually end up fairly direct from beginning to end.
In a surprising act of gameplay depth, you can earn points during each level that can then be spent on heavier firepower and supplies for the next stage. But why do they keep going back to their headquarters for meetings, when their next mission is right in front of them? Wacky covert operation specialists!
Everything is too scripted and set. The plot involves pointless remarks and commentary by boring characters. When you cross a certain point, Maya is scripted to say something. Then you get a call from Melinda. And then Ash tells everyone to stay on guard. The dialogue seems like the characters are reading their lines from a cue card.
The main character models aren't too creative, but are constructed pretty well with no polygonal seams at all. But other characters work their way into the story and look awful. This game might as well have started out as a Playstation game, with some last minute window dressing. Graphics are a cut above the last generation, but don't represent anything near what the PS2 is capable of producing.
One piece of music distinctly sounds like Michael Jackson's Beat It. Another track references the tunes in that hallway sequence from The Matrix. But while the music isn't unique or that good, it fits with the brash nature of the game.
The voices are typical fare, though there are places where characters respond with the wrong voices. Perhaps a better developed story would lead to some better dialogue. Instead, the cut scenes are usually filled with characters spouting some form of covert operation protocol and then agreeing to take on a mission. I sincerely hope that real covert operative aren't so wishy-washy.
This game reminds me of Fighting Force...which isn't a good thing. The marks of a more ambitious product are here, but it comes out too typical and boring. Moving from level to level cutting down waves of baddies isn't really what we need on the PS2. X Squad delivers very little. Remember to ask more of your friendly neighborhood covert operation teams.