A closed-door event held at the Colosseum on Sat, 24 Oct, saw a huge turnout made up of invited fans, gaming media, and eSports teams. All were present to discover just what Special Force 2, the latest first-person-shooter from Korean developers Dragonfly Interactive, would bring to a crowded free-to-play market. There were plenty of varying opinions at the end of the day but all could agree just how fun the game actually is.
F2P has boomed to present gamers with a buffet spread of options, many of which boast unique gameplay experiences. Even paid games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, an iconic eSports pillar, has become highly accessible thanks to seasonal sales. In other words, Special Force 2 needs something to really bank on or face obscurity.
Dragonfly went with variety. The event’s opening presentation talked about how there’d be over 2,000 weapons and skins, more than 50 maps, and at least 25 game modes, all released over time. They were selling us with huge numbers and it was convincing too, once you consider that most ‘AAA’ releases these days only come with a handful of modes and paid map packs.
Whether all of those weapons wind up being useful, or just how many of those maps and modes turn out to be duds, remains to be seen. Still, it’s hard not to admire the fact that they’re trying.
After getting our hands on the game proper, I couldn’t help but notice how Special Force 2 draws inspiration from a number of popular titles. One of the available weapons was a compound bow – a pain to use but very satisfying – and two highly enjoyable game modes that can be traced to the Call of Duty and Left4Dead franchises.
Nonetheless it has its own interpretations to make the game fun, a thought I kept coming back to during the entire demo session. It wasn’t stressful, didn’t stir up toxic attitudes, and didn’t leave us wondering where to go or what to do – every match was a blast.
You can point to its low entry barrier as a major factor; not in terms of price but design. Gunplay is essentially a point-and-shoot affair, with zero need for leading shots or compensating for bullet drop and recoil. This observation was echoed amongst the media players, as well as professional eSports team No Use Talking (formerly Bf.Nut). The long-term question is whether this approach will hurt the game’s competitive aspirations.
Even so, Special Force 2 doesn’t sit in the same realm as CS: GO or COD. Straightforward aiming aside, the hitboxes here seem forgiving as I saw headshots with higher frequency. A few rounds with the same group is hardly an adequate sample size, of course, yet it still felt evident enough to mention. This also means that if you and your friends want some old-school sniper battles then this is the place for it.
The maps I saw were mostly corridor-based, with alternative routes and some hints of verticality. They’re also pretty small so shots are fired in mere seconds, while running to the opposite end would take less than a minute. Again, this helps reduce complexity and focuses on fast, hard-hitting action.
In Sabotage, a bomb-centric mode, we played on a map that featured light environmental changes. The “terrorists” could blow up a wall for a new angle of attack, and there was a crane that could raise or lower a container for a significant shortcut. Those of us in the media room loved it; Dragonfly should seriously consider implementing this concept in all of its maps for greater variety.
Special Force 2 has its share of classic FPS modes such as team deathmatch and bomb defusal. In all honesty, you’re better off trying out the different modes on offer. Our highlight of the day was Slaughter, where one team gets to play as one of three alien types. Extraterrestrials will be a recurring enemy type across modes, and in this one they happen to have some great synergy between them.
The default alien class is a huge and stealthed (unless fired upon) insectoid that scythes through humans with its forelimbs. The next is a small beetle-like harbinger of despair, scuttling out of cover and blowing up among unsuspecting foes. Lastly we’ve got a slow, unwieldy alien that hurls acidic projectiles in an arc, essentially taking on the role of artillery. Playing as these, or going up against them, is a surefire recipe for some memorable moments.
If you grow tired of PvP there’s a co-op mode where players must defend a core from ceaseless waves of aliens, putting cash earned towards rebuilding barricades or purchasing weapons – it’s easy to tell where this is from. On the other hand, Escape mode requires one team to fulfill certain objectives before leaving by helicopter, all while being hounded by the other team. And that’s just a taste of the modes available, and I suppose that validates Dragonflys decision to shoot for variety.
Being free-to-play, Special Force 2 has a cash shop and a tiered VIP system. We were assured during the presentation that the game was not pay-to-win, and that all weapon enhancements were strictly cosmetic. Regardless, I poked around in tabs and menus as much as I could anyway.
Let’s touch on the VIP system first. Tiered approaches are the current trend, rewarding players who purchase these VIP memberships consecutively – the higher you go, the juicier your rewards. In Special Force 2, each tier unlocks an exclusive weapon. Being locked from some content is, unfortunately, nothing new for F2P, but without seeing what the statistics of these weapons are we’ll have to reserve judgement.
With the cash shop offline I couldn’t look at pricing for skins and weapon customizations either. We already know the game will have plenty of these so it would have been nice to get a rough gauge. However I did come across a pair of speed-boosting boots in my inventory. Currently that sounds like a mild modification but it’ll be worth finding out how, and to what degree, these buffs can stack.
There’s also a gacha system with rotating rewards. According to in-game descriptions I had to play matches against the AI to earn capsules, and saw no mention anywhere about simply buying them instead.
PlayPark already has an eSports roadmap planned out. In this year alone there will be a series of local qualifiers to send two Singaporean teams for a league hosted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Things get even bigger next year, with online tournaments leading up to a world championship hosted by Dragonfly – Special Force 2 is already available in the US and Europe in addition to Korea.
Can the game be competitive? Deferring to eSports team No Use Talking, the agreement was that Special Force 2 being easy to pick up may draw in a large pool of players. This means that skills can be honed to the very highest of levels, and once you have all these different types of skillful players around what really comes into play is strategy and tactics.
Like most games, a competitive scene taking off is entirely dependent on the community. The only issue I see with rushing into tournaments this early is whether there’d be a large enough audience for it in the first place.
On the other hand, I’m also interested in plans on involving the rest of the community. Not everyone wants to compete, and it sounds like PlayPark may have a few things brewing. There are no announcements just yet but the official Facebook page is a good place for updates.
Try the closed beta now
A closed beta test begins on 28 October at 2PM SGT.
Special Force 2 can comfortably exist in anyone’s FPS rotation thanks to its simple twitch-based controls, fast action, and vast number of modes. It won’t drop jaws with its graphics but anyone wanting to unwind with friends won’t go wrong picking this as an option.
Clients can be downloaded right now over at this page. The closed beta runs until 3 November and all participants will earn an exclusive character skin.