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!
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.