The MOFPS (Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter) Special Force 2 (SF2) is set due release in America, Europe and Russia. MMO Publisher Aeria Games will operate the game under the title Soldier Front 2 in North and South America. Publisher Gameforge has acquired rights to publish it under S.K.I.L.L.: Special Force in Europe and Russia. Special Force 2 in the spotlight: Here is what we think about the Korean version, Special Force 2 - a review and more.
Special Force 2 (SF2) is the sequel to the long-running MOFPS (Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter) Special Force, also known as Soldier Front in America and Europe. The game is pretty much based on the same concept: SF2 is free-to-play (f2p) military shooter in which players engage in max. 8vs8 combats, set in various, small-scale warzones. There is a background story, but with no significance for gameplay. At the beginning you can choose between 6 special forces: Delta, a special mission unit of the US Army, GAFE, a Mexican special force, SAS, the Special Air Service of the British Army, Spetsnaz, special forces in Russia, GIGN, a special operations unit of the French Armed Forces, and the UDT, elite forces of the Korean Naval Special Warfare. It does not matter what special force you pick at the beginning, although the special forces do have abilities stats (they don’t differ for the moment). They can carry the same guns and they don’t have any different characteristics – except their distinctive battle dresses.
Of course SF2 offers various game modes, which you find in other popular free-to-play FPS, such as team deathmatch, defense, bomb planting, seizure and many more common modes. The only unique feature that you find in SF2 is the Hero Mode: MOBA meets FPS - your mission is to destroy the enemy’s base by working through hordes of aliens and firing turrets.
Needless to say that SF2 provides a ranking system, a clan system, character and weapon customization options, that are not that extensive in my view, and an item shop with most of the stuff being of cosmetic nature, such as sprays, weapon camouflage, boosters, special packages and more. Other than this, SF2 follows all familiar f2p FPS game mechanics.
One could say: SF2 is just another generic f2p military shooter.
So, what’s the story?
I am playing SF2 since it’s entered open beta in Korea. That was in August 2011. And ever since, SF2 is my favorite f2p FPS. I am not a hardcore gamer and not a clan member either. I usually want to play it for stress relief, but end up getting stressed while playing… This game can be very addictive.
SF2 is about pure skill-based FPS gameplay. There are no fancy features, no special action moves, no extra skills, no unlimited customization options, no intriguing story, no overpowered gun. SF2 does not reinvent the formula of its predecessor and it doesn’t even add something innovative or new to its genre.
But, it is technically advanced in every aspect, looks great, plays flawlessly and sets a fresh, challenging playground for competitive FPS gamers.
What makes SF2 so enjoyable is this combination of balanced and skill-based FPS gameplay and an acceptable level of realism, created through stunning, detailed graphics, lifelike motion captures and game physics, and an intense sound backdrop. The developers at Dragonfly squeezed as much out of the Unreal Engine 3 as possible. For the fun of it, try out once to play SF2 with the highest graphics setting and enjoy the whole package of effect layers, lense flares, motion blurs, blood splatters, dust, smoke, particle and lighting effects and much more. But as an advanced FPS gamer you would probably play with even the lowest setting to maximize performance and turn off everything that might distract.
With other words the visuals are great, but so is the gameplay. The controls are fluid and precise. In deathmatch modes you find your little finger most of the time on the left shift key together with the standard WASD-keys to activate sprinting. You play SF2 super-fast-paced style in deatch match modes, but cooperative, tactical and sometimes slow-paced style in many mission modes. Shooting is accurate and realistically translated through distinctive weapon characteristics and ballistics, e.g. bullet wall penetration only with large-caliber guns, but those have high recoil, are heavy and need more time to change the magazine, etc. And what adds to the physical shooting sensation are thick weapon sound effects. I love the thundering sound of my CheyTac sniper rifle.
Two major components determine SF2’s game balance. In a f2p shooter you might expect that there is a limited arsenal of “overpowered” weapons that you could trade in for real money. SF2 offers some premium special editions of the standard weaponry, which have the same characteristics but add a scope and camouflage. We could have an discussion whether the scope on a HK417 is a massive advantage. But my experience is that during the past fifteen months I have seen that most of the skillful FPS players in SF2 do not even use premium guns, they carry the same free standard weapons that are available to anyone. And I also realized that various guns are being used by SF2 players throughout the ranks, which indicates that the weapon system is fairly healthy. In SF2 there is no such moment like “Oh my God, he’s got that cool HK417 Jabberwock gun! I need to have that too!”, and then spend $5 for a 10-day trial weapon that elevates you to a superior player. Standard models are permanent, special editions are time limited. I give more details about the weaponry and the item shop in SF2 later on.
Map balancing is a gradual process in SF2. The Korean version of SF2 boasts more than 30 maps, with textures, structures and the layouts beautifully designed. The backdrop of the maps deliver an almost realistic, sometimes authentic atmosphere. Locations are diverse, as you find urban, industrial, oriental and many more themed settings, but each map with unique settings: multi-levels, fixed or relative spawn areas, small or large in size, tight or open. In terms of balancing, Dragonfly had tweaked the maps many times. I have noticed that map changes haven’t been dramatic, but they added little bits, slightly modified the layout and adjusted field of views to elimate unfair positions, that make it hard for campers to be in favorable position or hang out for too long.
In brief, Dragonfly had released countless patches with some minor and some massive game updates. Numerous changes have been made, map layouts modified, UI and graphics tweaked, award systems upgraded, and a lot of new content, such as maps, characters, weapons, items added. In a certain way, what comes to America and Europe is a polished and matured game. We will see later on, if SF2 will be still a balanced shooter and what changes in both the American and the European version could inflict.
To sum it up: balanced gameplay, a realistic graphics and sound setting, various thrilling game modes and maps provide the basis for this competitive FPS that some might call next-gen. And like most free-to-play online FPS SF2 is highly competitive. It’s all about competition and improving your skills. Beating the others as a single player or winning a match with your team. SF2 has got massive potential to become a new reference as f2p shooter in eSports.
Newcomers in SF2 can matchup in the beginner channels. I mean, they should, because it can be very frustrating experience to play with advanced players who show no mercy. But at the end was is the point. I may roughly outline the structure of a TDM: about 1/3 of the players are skillful players (not necessarily the veterans), 1/3 are average just like me and 1/3 are noobs (not necessarily all newcomers). The noobs are cannon fodder and great to play with because they keep my k/d (kill death ratio) at a healthy level. If all players of the two teams would be as average as me, the match would become as interesting as shooting against a wall for 10 min. But it’s that 1/3 of players that drives me: “Is he a hack or is it the lag?”, at some point I acknowledge that those kids are simply skilled.
More about Special Force 2 in part 2: The Item Shop – Is SF2 a pay-to-win game? Weapons, game modes and maps.