Special Forces – Story of a Failed Let’s Play

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The Mortal Kombat: Special Forces Let’s Play isn’t happening. Let me explain why.

Believe it or not, I actually have quite a bit of it recorded. Instead of uploading parts as soon as I finished my first recording session, my gut told me to hold on to them and wait, and I’m very glad I did.

As I played through Special Forces, I commented several times on how hard it was to see in some of the levels. I felt like I needed a flashlight to navigate some of the darker areas, and found myself wandering around in pitch blackness on a couple occasions. I chalked this up to the game’s rushed development cycle and didn’t have too much trouble with it. As the game went on, however, it became more and more of a problem, and I began dying a lot and having a hard time navigating levels in the darkness.

It is important to note that MK: Special Forces has no mid-level saving. The game’s levels are grouped up in a pattern: Level-Level-Level-Boss, repeat, and you can save after every boss fight. If you lose your last life during a boss fight, for example, you will have to go three levels back and play through them again. This isn’t particularly punishing because the levels are short, but repeatedly dying and starting the cycle over gets frustrating quickly, and your lives are not replenished after you get a game over – if you saved with one life left, you will load with one life left every time you continue. This, coupled with the darkness and death pits of later levels, became an insurmountable problem.

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It finally occurred to me that there was no way the game should be this hard to see. It didn’t make sense. Why would they put you on narrow bridges above bottomless pits and then turn all the lights off? I wanted to turn up the brightness, but the TV in my room is an old model that doesn’t actually have a menu with adjustable brightness/colors/etc (well, I think it did, but in order to access that stuff you need the remote, which we no longer have!). Special Forces doesn’t have any in-game brightness adjusting, either, so I was in a bit of a pickle.

I had already played through these levels several times and gotten very frustrated by this point. Not a funny kind of frustrating with lots of swearing and yelling, though – I eventually degenerated into a seething, frustrated mass that translated into complete silence on my part. I was more confused than anything, and after losing my last life for the third or so time I decided to grab all of my equipment and move to the living room TV.

I hooked everything up and started the game. To my relief, the game was much easier to see on the living room TV. After encountering so many frustrations and getting stuck for so long, I became determined to beat the game and put it to bed. Special Forces refused to give up so easily, however.

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I started recording again and began telling this story as I played the game. I explained how the lighting made it basically impossible for me to complete the level and how I had been fruitlessly trying for the past hour or so. As I explained this and played the game, I casually took a glance over at my computer and noticed something strange. The footage my card was capturing from the TV was still super dark, as though it was being captured from the old TV in my room. Worse, the Dropped Frames counter, which normally rests comfortably at zero, read 350 dropped frames. The capture was lagging like crazy, and I had never seen my card do anything like it before.

I immediately stopped the recording and tried unplugging and replugging in the capture card. The software refused to acknowledge it, however, and attested that no capture device could be found. I was getting very frustrated by this point. I began closing the program to try restarting it, but my computer abruptly blue-screened and catastrophically crashed. I sat there dumbfounded, staring at the now blank screen.

At this point, I began accepting these events as a clear message from the universe. I put all of my stuff away and played Warframe and Rune Factory 4  for the rest of the night, instead. To be honest, it wasn’t turning out to be a very good Let’s Play, anyways. Special Forces isn’t the kind of game that baffles you with hilarious design decisions or anything like that. Yeah, Jax says some cheesy one-liners and the dialogue is a bit hammy, but the game just kind of wears you down after a while and saps your energy. It’s repetitive, kind of boring, and kind of frustrating in its design. Offscreen enemies pelt you with instantaneous gunfire, combos are unreliable at times and I quickly ran out of silly and/or insightful things to say, opting instead for groans and, “Come on!!!”.

Mortal Kombat: Special Forces is a silly, curious piece of gaming history plagued by a rough development cycle. I’m glad I bought it, because it’s a neat, silly thing to own, but it doesn’t seem to make for very good Let’s Play material, at least not for me. After that night, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to muster up the courage to try finishing the game again. My TV might explode.

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