Saturday, June 4, 2011

SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs Impression

Does SOCOM 4 move the franchise into the upper-tier of next-gen warfare?

The SOCOM franchise has always been a solid military excursion enjoyed with friends but it's never quite moved into the echelon of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises. With a pedigree stretching back to PlayStation 2 and solid offerings on the PSP what can the series do to reach new gamers and establish itself as the must-own military offering on PlayStation 3? Should it deliver a richer single player story? More online options and modes? Utilize new technology? The answer is yes to all but what else and will it be enough? Let’s take a closer look at the latest offering, SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs on PlayStation 3.

Gameplay – A military based shooter that plays from an over-the-shoulder perspective and offers a single player campaign as well as a handful of online modes. The previous SOCOM console titles as well as the Fireteam Bravo on PSP, focused on a more realistic squad based shooting experience, which is of course present in SOCOM 4 but the story-telling moves to new, more accessible levels this time around. The single-player experience mixes in unique personalities and a decent storyline that will hook gamers looking for a solid single-player experience. The online modes allow for jumping in alone or joining a clan and will feel recognizable to fans of past SOCOM’s. Not much more to add on the gameplay front as both single and multi-player modes present an objective, a team and multiple methods to accomplish those goals.

Graphics – The environments, from jungle to city/town, vary from detailed to cookie cutter meaning … well the game looks good at times, looks normal, expected, at others. This is the real world so there are no amazing, out of this world settings, but overall it’s a solid effort with some good explosion and weapon effects. The character models stand out as these are no longer no-personality blank soldiers, they are real people with emotion that the gamer will look to connect with. The look of these characters helps and is a strong point in SOCOM 4.

Sound – While the faces may seem a bit ‘off’ in their chatter the voice work behind them is rock solid and helps drive the story and emotion. Sound is outstanding especially with a solid, surround system in place as explosions rock, literally, with the proper bass. It’s a good sounding game but the soundtrack is forgettable.

Design – The single player campaign mode is welcome if a bit out there on story compared to the realism SOCOM brought in the past (relatively speaking). There are times the action seems more Rambo than operation take-out-Bin Laden. The inclusion of female operatives based on services, Korea, which utilize them, is another interesting angle for a military shooter.

Miscellaneous – The Move controls and sharp shooter are pulled off well and while it would make sense to talk more about this aspect of SOCOM 4, one just has to wonder where are the helmets? How many special ops folks would go into a hot zone without a standard issue helmet … just annoying to see this.

Overall SOCOM 4 feels closer to the Call of Duty, Medal of Honor titles in story and pacing than past SOCOM’s but is just a bit short. The 3D and PlayStation Move offerings work but feel like the add-on’s they are. At its core this is SOCOM and fans of the franchise will enjoy the experience but for war gaming fans this is a nice excursion that holds much, much promise. SOCOM 4 is solid and fun, while it lasts but the real hope lies in the groundwork laid for SOCOM 5.

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