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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

SCEA

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Tight, squad-based game play

- Great use of headset

- Fun, varied mission structure

 

 

- Broadband only

- Single-player mode a bit short

 

 

Review: Tribes: Aerial Assualt (Playstation 2)

Review: Halo (XBox)

Review: Serious Sam (XBox)

 

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S.O.C.O.M.: U.S. Navy Seals

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

SOCOM is the major release Sony is using to lure reticent gamers into the world of online (and, more specifically, broadband) gaming, and it is likely to do a good job of doing just that.  SOCOM is fun, frantic, and cleanly designed.  Playing the game online or offline is a good experience because of the game’s polished graphics, innovative use of accessories, tight mission design, friendly controls, and smooth frame rate.  In fact, all of these elements are good enough that I would recommend SOCOM to PS2 owners without a network adapter if the solo play was a tad longer.

 

socom-navy-seals-1.jpg (18729 bytes)          socom-navy-seals-2.jpg (21660 bytes)

 

In SOCOM, players take on the role of a leader of a group of Navy Seals and participate in a series of linked missions that grow exponentially more difficult as they go along.  Stealth is certainly the recommended way to attack the game’s twelve missions, but many of them can be completed using brute force and some clever obstacle avoidance.  Either method results in a rewarding experience and the option to do both means the missions have some replay value.  I often replayed a mission to try a different approach (and to attempt to improve on my seemingly ubiquitous “B” grades).

 

Played from a third person perspective, SOCOM’s offline game play feels more like Metal Gear Solid than Counterstrike.  Players even need to do MGS-style hiding of bodies and silent walking to avoid detection as they travel through the levels.  As such, initially the FPS like controls seem a little clunky, even more so because nearly every button of the DS2 is put to use.  A few missions in the controls seemed to blend in to the background.  From those missions on, I never noticed the controls, which is a solid compliment for an action game.

 

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The graphics of SOCOM are some of the best yet seen on the system.  The frame rate, offline, rarely stutters—only during the busiest of firefights and never to the point of distraction.  The lighting and particle effects, as we have come to expect from the PS2 are first rate.  The textures, also, are some of the best yet seen on Sony’s black box.  Additionally, the character models and animation routines for the main character and his support squad are excellent.  In all, the graphics are good enough to allow the player to become immersed in the world of Navy Seals, and that, of course, is the whole point.

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As good as the graphics are, SOCOM’s sound environment is even better.  Every sound has been carefully modeled.  The reports of the various weapons, at least the ones I am familiar with, are spot on.  The voice acting (especially the radio chatter) is solid and believable.  As the player works his or her way through missions, lots of candid dialogue between the terrorists can be overheard, adding a sense of realism to the game.  This dialogue isn’t as funny or informative as that of No One Lives Forever 2, but it is welcome nonetheless.

 

Though the good guys vs. terrorist theme is beginning to feel a bit overdone, and none of the missions in SOCOM feel all too fresh, SOCOM manages to feel original because of both its squad-based game play and the method in which the squad-based play is orchestrated.  Throughout the missions, the player is responsible for directing the four-man team (sub-divided into two, two-man teams—Able and Bravo).  Many missions are impossible, or at least extremely difficult to beat without making good use of the whole squad.  Orders can be given to the teammates using a pop-up menu, but SOCOM offers a much more enjoyable way of giving commands—a headset with microphone.  Even offline, the player can issue orders to his teammates by speaking them aloud.

 

The voice commands are achieved by pressing the square button to bring up the pop-up menu of usable commands.  Every command that the player can make is in one of three columns.  The first column has the possible subjects, the second the possible verbs, the third the possible objects.  Players need only to speak the words from the lists clearly to have them register.  “TEAM—RUN TO ZETA” would send the other members of the squad running to the spot on the map designated ZETA.  “BRAVO—FIRE AT WILL” would have two members of your support team riddle some guy named Will with lots or bullets (or something like that).  Though all of the usable words are in lists, they are easy enough to remember, so later in the game players will be able to issue orders off hand without consulting the screen.  The headset usage goes a long way towards building the sense of immersion in the game world, and it is just plain fun.

 

Headset gimmick aside though, it is the squad-based game play that really shines here.  Having total control of three other soldiers gives the player amazing flexibility in the way he or she can attack a mission.  I played most of the missions twice—once with the main character doing most of the work (diffusing bombs and such) and once with the squad members doing all the room clearing and bomb diffusing while I covered their butts.  The latter method was surprisingly fun.  The game simply does a great job of making you feel you are a part of a Navy Seal team (albeit a videogame Navy Seal team that can take ten bullets point blank before going down among other super-human feats).

 

socom-navy-seals-4.jpg (21527 bytes)          socom-navy-seals-5.jpg (27334 bytes)

 

As good as the offline game is, most players will be looking to SOCOM as their introduction to online gaming on a console.  As such, it is a great starter game.  Online play (broadband only, for the record) is smooth as silk and there always seems to be a ton of servers to choose from with the full compliment of different modes.  Online, the headset allows players to talk to their teammates using their real voice and, for this reason, SOCOM online is noisy and not necessarily for the youngsters.

 

The online play coupled with the well-done single player modes makes SOCOM a must-have for PS2 owners with a broadband connection.  Users with only a dial-up account won’t be able to play online, but SOCOM is good enough to still warrant a purchase for those players enamored with stealthy, squad-based military adventures.

 

- Tolen Dante

(November 27, 2002)

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