Apr 22, 2011

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Review: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs

Review: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs

Tuesday, gamers were hit with at least three major releases: Mortal Kombat, Portal 2 and SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs. With three very different genres at hand, you may be wondering how well SOCOM represented the shooter genre. Even though it doesn’t provide the spectacle a lot of other games today do, it succeeds on a number of important levels and delivers a quality experience.

Fans of the original SOCOMs I, II, and III will be disappointed to find that SOCOM 4 does not drop the player into different regions of the globe. SOCOM 4 takes place exclusively in Asia, offering mostly jungle environments. Players take the role of Cullen Gray, who leads a small team of NATO forces into the jungles of Asia. Gray, an American, is teamed with British operatives Schweitzer and Wells, and South Korean operatives Forty-Five and Chung. The game’s story takes place over six days and 14 missions and on a few occasions, players will assume the role of Forty-Five.

The actual story started off quite slow and was for the most part generic. The pace picked up as the missions progressed, though, and by the last mission, it was sprinting. Zipper has somewhat mainstreamed the single-player aspect of the franchise by not forcing players to utilize stealth.  The only time stealth is necessary in the story is when players take on the role of Forty-Five and are tasked with solo missions that take place at night. Forty-Five’s missions are actually a nice change of pace and give those gamers yearning for stealth a taste of a previous life.

It might be best that the missions that actually require stealth are solo, because sometimes a player’s team can leave them speechless. Players will often find their squad wandering around when instructed to go to a certain location, and it will almost seems like teammates are programmed to walk directly into not only your line of fire, but your enemy’s as well.

Gone: that would be the best way to describe the deep command menu that allowed a player to issue effective and accurate orders to squad mates. In its place is a system that is fairly unique in its own right, and allows for some cool things, like taking out two enemies simultaneously using each squad so you don’t have to fire a shot. Teammates, when setup in good positions and actually following orders, are generally great at their job. Unfortunately, because the commands are done using the d-pad, there are a limited number of command possibilities.

There are a variety of weapons in SOCOM spread across five different categories, and each weapon is upgraded by using it frequently in combat. The downside to the fantastic variety is the similar feeling each gun has to the next. The exceptions are silenced weapons. Silenced weapons provide a very different experience and make for a good time. While the bullet spread for each weapon is noticeably different, your load-out never affects how well or quickly your character moves, so Zipper missed an opportunity to implement another tactical element to the game.

Controls within the game are responsive and make for a pleasant experience. The typical third-person shooter often provides players with moments of distress, but SOCOM seems to handle everything well. Gray never takes up more space than he should on screen, and it is a nice touch to see hand signals when you issue orders. Character models are extremely responsive to controls, and the reload and grenade throwing animations look authentic. Although I have not been able to play the game using the PlayStation Move, the Dualshock 3 proved to be an adequate input method.  Like most PlayStation 3 games in the last couple of years, no use is made of the Sixaxis system.