The no-holds-barred action movie is a dying breed. In the 80s, movie stars such as Sly, Arnie and Bruce dominated our screens in endless over-the-top movies that had little substance, but lots of explosions and violence. In recent years videogames have gone the same way. It's rare that you play an action game that doesn't include some kind of squad control or gameplay so realistic that one hit could take you down. Games like Rainbow Six certainly have a place in our collections, but some mindless action hero stuff is good from time to time.
CT Special Forces: Fire for Effect is a definite throwback to a time when storylines weren't all that important and a high body count is all people cared about. As an elite Counter Terrorist operative you must enter a number of dangerous situations and pretty much take down everyone that poses a threat. The game is played from a pretty tight third-person viewpoint and anyone familiar with modern third/first person action games will feel right at home.
Despite being a budget release, CT doesn't lack ambition. Throughout the game you'll get a fair bit of variation in the gameplay. On-foot sections make up the majority of the game, but you'll also get to control a number of vehicles and skydive - gun in hand - fairly frequently. While none of these sections could be said to be excellent in their own right, when combined they make for a very entertaining overall experience. Taking Namco's Kill Switch as inspiration, the game allows you to take cover behind sections of the environment and fire from safety. Your aiming accuracy will be greatly reduced, meaning you have to fire wildly in the general direction of the enemy and trust to luck, but a casually thrown grenade will usually sort things out.
During the game you control one of two Special Forces operatives, Raptor and Owl. You don't have a choice over who you play in each mission, but Raptor missions are generally Rambo style affairs, while Owl's are more secretive and often require an element of stealth. Being a trained killer who has to put his life on the line you'd expect to have some high-tech gadgets at your disposal, and you do. Raptor is given a shield that allows him to take a fair amount of shots to the body and it can be conveniently recharged at charge stations located around the levels. This gives you the freedom to enter combat zones head-on with the only real danger coming from large groups of enemies or hidden snipers. Being the Rambo type he also has some powerful weaponry available to him, which includes a quadruple homing missile launcher, which is as devastating as it sounds.
Owl has a Predator style cloaking device which makes him almost invisible to the enemy, but he lacks the almost bullet proof shield of Raptor. The cloak will run out of energy over time, but thankfully the handy energy outlets can be used to recharge. Not to be outdone by Sam Fisher, you also have a number of enhanced vision modes that come in handy to see in dark areas or to pick out enemies hidden behind cover. He also has a handy gun that can shoot around corners, but ammunition for this is in seriously short supply.
You can pick CT up for approximately Â£15 and compared to other games that are released at the same price point CT looks very good indeed. Character models and environments are extremely solid and the special effects for explosions and the like are all done well. Surprisingly the game also supports widescreen, with the only real blemish coming from the lack of a 60 Hz mode in the PlayStation 2 version, resulting in some borders at the top and bottom of the screen. The game's storyline is told through numerous in-game cutscenes which feature some reasonably good voice acting, and the in-game music is a cut above the usually terrible budget soundtrack.
For most of the game you'll have a great time. The game generally moves at a fast pace and there is rarely a dull moment, particularly when playing as Raptor. On the rare occasion where you are forced into a more considered approach the game doesn't fare as well and these slower sections don't gel well with the rest of the game. I guess the developers wanted to make sure the action didn't become stale, but more skydiving and all out action would have been more entertaining. The vehicle sections mix things up a bit, but they generally control poorly and you are praying for the section to end.
When compared to action games from the big boys of the industry CT Special Forces can't compete, but it's really competing in a different market. The game's AI is pretty basic and the scope of the game is perhaps a little too wide, but for its price the game has a lot to offer. Budget games are big business, particularly for casual gamers, and for once they have the chance to pick up a game that punches above its weight. If you fancy an 80's action movie in videogame form you could do much worse than CT Special Forces.