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Platform

PSP

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Slant 6

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2008

 

 

- Much different than the stereotypical squad based shooters

- Multi-language selections add for some cool variety

- Extra missions and multiplayer modes

 

 

- Interface is still a mess

- Dumb AI doesn't help

- Load times when starting are long

 

 

Review: SOCOM III: U.S. Navy Seals (PS2)

Review: SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Fireteam Bravo (PSP)

Review: Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow (PSP)

 

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SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Tactical Strike

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

socom tactical strike          socom tactical strike

 

It's taken them long enough, but someone finally realized that you just can't do 3D shooters on the PSP, a system which completely lacks the control inputs necessary for this type of game. It's refreshing that the latest SOCOM game isn't so much another action title, but rather, a tactical strategy game. Rather than directly commanding your commandos, you take the role of an omniscient commander, floating above them and issuing orders. If you want to move somewhere, bring up the movement cursor and point them to their destination. If you want something or someone to die, just center the viewpoint on them and hit X to command your soldiers to fire. If you hold down the command button, you're given additional options -- to run to your destination as opposed to moving stealthily, or to take out enemies quietly instead of launching a full on assault. As such, it's like a squad based real time strategy game, a bit closer to Full Spectrum Warrior than traditional SOCOM.

 

This is an interesting change, and while it's more intuitive than a typical 3D action game for the PSP, it still doesn't feel right for the system. The biggest pain is that your viewpoint is always chained right to your squad members. As a result, 

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guiding the movement cursor through the scenery can get awkward, especially since it's so sluggish. The camera doesn't help, and tends to get caught up around corners, completely obscuring your view. You can use the L and R triggers to select specific squad members, or change the viewpoints amongst them, but it's hardly intuitive when you're under fire and need to react quickly. This

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command system would've greatly benefitted from an overhead perspective like most real time strategy games, where it would be easier to individually select soldiers and give them specific commands. But here, the system is not only compromised due to the lack of a mouse, but made even more awkward when shoved into the PSP's limited control scheme and sluggish frame rate.

 

When you're sneaking through the back alleys, taking out bad guys from behind, the controls take a bit of time to get used to, but generally work pretty well. It's when you get into combat that they tend to get frustrating. It's exacerbated by the fact that the AI for your soldiers are monstrously stupid. You'd figure that they'd run to cover when you tell them to, but they have a tendency to stand up in the middle of a field and return fire, making them an easy target. Technically you can issue various orders to cancel all firing, but you have to remember to bring up the command menu to do it, further entangling the web of confusing controls. You can resurrect party members with an unlimited supply of medikits, but it takes several seconds for them to be revived, so it's putting the medic in the line of fire if there are still enemies around. And if you let a single fallen comrade lie on the ground for too long, they'll bleed to death, forcing you to restart at the last checkpoint. Overall, the game really isn't too hard, but there are a number of roadblock moments that can potentially require numerous restarts. But dying and restarting takes at least a minute to load, which just adds to the aggravation.

 

socom tactical strike          socom tactical strike

 

For all of its stumbling points, there are a few particularly notable aspects to Tactical Strike. At the beginning, you can choose the nationality of your squadron from numerous different countries, including America , France , Spain , Germany , Italy , Britain, Australia and South Korea . The basic plot and levels are exactly the same -- nothing too exciting to begin with, just an assault through your usual South American villages and jungles to save an ambassador -- but your commanders will speak their native language, which is a cool touch. There are also a number of quick missions set aside from the standard campaign levels. These are pretty much just altered versions of the main scenarios, but with different objectives. The multiplayer mode has some similar options as well, which greatly adds to the overall package.

 

The concept of SOCOM Tactical Strike is remarkably cool, and when the controls aren't getting in the way, it's a pretty fun game. Sitting in the middle of a firefight, figuring out the best way to position your soldiers, and ultimately taking down your foes using mind over matter is a refreshing change from the usual gung-ho action games. But the interface tends to muck things up too often for it to be truly enticing, leading to a game that's alternatively fascinating and frustrating.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(March 10, 2008)

 

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