SOCOM: US Navy Seals Review
SOCOM: US Navy Seals has been one of the most anticipated Playstation 2 titles ever since its revelation at E3 2001. It wasn't very well received, as attendees were skeptical of the choppy frame rate, among other things. The game had to be delayed a full year, primarily because Sony wasn't ready with its online gaming network yet. As E3 2002 rolled around, Sony dedicated a really important portion of their booth to SOCOM, by creating a platform that had a circle of eight SOCOM kiosks that were not only connected to one another, but also to eight other SOCOM kiosks about 400 miles away in San Francisco. At E3, SOCOM was the one kiosk I repeatedly kept on coming back to throughout the whole show. Something about the game really drew me into it. I'd wait in the line to play the incredible network mode that Sony had set up, which specifically dueled eight E3 attendees versus eight various people at the Sony Metreon store in San Francisco -- the E3s were the Navy Seals, while the Metreons were the terrorists. I had noticed many of the same people returning to play the game, which was pretty much the same as I was doing. That goes to show you that the level of interest in SOCOM was quite high among E3 attendees. I'd play the single-player standard kiosks, as well as the standard eight player LAN deathmatches. Needless to say, I was hooked. But enough about E3, SOCOM has finally arrived nationwide; the game is every bit as engrossing as I had expected it to be, and sure enough this is one PS2 title you MUST have.
Providing gamers with two different perspectives was a brilliant move on Sony's and Zipper's (developer) part. It broadens the appeal of the game, so not only Rainbow Six/CounterStrike enthusiasts will love this game, but Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter fans as well. SOCOM plays more like the Rainbow Six titles, as it allows gamers to switch from 1st to 3rd person. But the camera in SOCOM isn't as floaty in 3rd person, like it is in Rogue Spear and etc. The camera is extremely accurate and never trails. That said, allow me to mention that SOCOM isn't exactly the most gorgeous game on the PS2, visually. Some spots may look a bit simplistic, and background textures aren't really the hottest out there. But there are spots in the game where the environments do look good - these good looking textures are mostly found indoors and not out. The textures are hardly terrible, and not even mediocre, but they just don't live up to games like Metal Gear Solid 2 or anything of that sort on the PS2. Now the character detail is more pleasing to look at. Every character features really nice and spot on details, such as camouflaging face paint, and more. Zipper Interactive claims that each character in SOCOM is composed of about 4-megs in detail, which is quite large considering that few games get that deep into that specific part of character detail. The game is fully anti-aliased, and shows almost no signs of jaggies. On top of that, the game is progressive scan 420p compatible. So for those of you with high-end TV sets, put that feature to use. The environments in SOCOM range from jungles to snowy hills to a warehouse filled setting and much much more. The lighting effects are great and the frame rate never takes a hit. The action in SOCOM remains smooth pretty much at all times and that's key in a 1st person/3rd person shooter.
Having played a two and a half hour session of SOCOM online, I used the headset quite often. I'd chat with my fellow teammates, and not just about SOCOM, but other subjects such as other online titles, and the locations of the people in the room. Let me assure you that the headset works almost flawlessly. During an online multiplayer game, it's like a phone; you just hold down the circle button until you hear a beep, from there on you have 15 seconds to talk. During a single-player game it'll recognize almost every squad command you give it. For the wise assess out there, you can't say idiotic things to them and expect them to do it. You have to be precise and give general commands like "Team: Hold your fire," Team: Fire at will" or "Team: Follow me" and they'll listen (refer to the list of commands in the game to make sure your orders are always understood). Throughout each stage, you'll be given a list of mission objectives that you must complete in order to file your mission as a success. It's almost weird how the game can feel as if you're playing Syphon Filter, and at the same time Rogue Spear. If you think you're good enough, you can run and gun and breeze through a stage -- except when you are required to tread softly. But that kind of skill only comes with experience, which is earned by replaying the stages over and over, and memorizing the locations of the terrorists and whatnot. I've gotten far doing the 'run and gun' in one stage, but eventually I was surrounded and got shot up from all around. The key to success is to play it slow. Silence is key to victory as well, so you'll want to keep that in mind, and always remember to tread softly, hide the bodies, and use silenced weapons whenever possible.
SOCOM's stealth aspects are what make it such a great single-player experience. While multi-player is what everybody's been bragging about, SOCOM has a great solo mode that'll take you through 12 individual missions, ranging through different locales and environments, including Turkmenistan, Congo, Alaska and Thailand. You will of course be faced with many objectives per stage, some that are crucial to complete, others that aren't quite as important. Your mission objectives will be given to you via headset and not speakers. So expect to hear your duties given to you straight into your ear. SOCOM arsenal of weaponry is quite vast to say the least. There are 21 primary weapons, such as sniper rifles (M40 A1, M82 A1, M87 ELR, SR-25, SR-25 SD) machine guns (AKs, HKs, etc), shotgun, and even a grenade launcher. The secondary weaponry consists of 7 hand guns, including a 9MM SD pistol, Desert Eagle.50, .226, MARK 23 SD, MARK 23, M9 and a Model 18. Lastly, SOCOM features equipment such as an ammo box, binoculars, C4, claymore, smoke grenade, stun grenade, frag grenade, laser designator, and much more. Something that I have yet to stumble across is the ability to wear thicker (or thinner) armor. Other than that, SOCOM features a ton of weaponry and lethal equipment.
SOCOM takes place during 2012. The US Navy Seals have been called in to fight off a swarm of terrorists across various countries and locations, as previously listed. As the leader of your squadron, it is up to you to lead your team to victory and prevail over evil. Practice, and a little patience will always help, especially with SOCOM's pretty alert AI. The game is fairly long as a single-player title, but altogether it pretty much features infinite replay value. The online mode allows up to 16 players to participate -- 8 Navy Seals and 8 terrorists. Getting online with the PS2 and the PS2 Network Adapter took no more than 15 seconds on my Time Warner Road Runner cable connection. All I did was set the settings on auto, answered two questions with "No" and my online set up was complete. From there on I was ready to go. I booted up SOCOM and the next thing I knew, I was in the lobby. Online installation is pretty easy for the broadband folk, especially if you're using cable. When it comes down to it all, in the gameplay, SOCOM is an incredibly well playing shooter title that'll appeal to a wide range of action gamers -- the Metal Gear Solid fans, the Syphon Filter fans, and the Rainbow Six/Counterstrike fans.
Zipper Interactive has done a fantastic job with the audio, as it features a lot of great voice acting. You'll hear terrorists communicate in Russian (a language I can understand) and even curse in Russian too. While the actors don't sound like native Russian speakers, you can still make out very well as to what they're saying. If you can't, you have subtitles on the screen. You'll hear your Navy Seal associates converse with you as they point out sighted enemies on the field. To seal the deal (no pun), the developers have even recorded the actual sounds that every single weapon makes, when it is shot or detonated - how's that for attention to detail? The mission briefing is done very well, and is nicely explained to the gamer. Lastly, the voice recognition works incredibly well. Once you get the phrases down and remember them, you'll make making commands on the fly without any problems.
SOCOM controls very nicely, I got used to the controls fairly quickly. It was easy to get adjusted to. Everything just kind of fell into place on the controller, and I felt as if I had played SOCOM before. Every nook and cranny of the Dual Shock 2 is used, including the digital pad, which comes in handy as it lets you switch between 3rd person, 1st person, and sniping views (done by pressing either up or down). Left and right make your Navy Seal peak around corners. So if you're hiding behind a building, and you are near the corner of it, by pressing either left or right, you can peak and see where the opposition, which you are hiding from, is. Analog is supported well, too, and not just for movement. So if you want to throw a grenade, the harder you hold down the R1 button, the further the throw will be. You can customize the controls to your liking. I prefer the precision controls over the simple mark shooter controls. Precision control makes you use both analog sticks, and is a bit more complex but much better to use. Meanwhile, shooter control makes you use only one analog, and is pretty much like playing the game with auto-aim.
All in all, I can't be more satisfied with SOCOM. It's challenging, addictive, and most importantly fun. The controls are straightforward and take no time to get adjusted to. The game has been one of my most anticipated titles since I first saw it last year, and I'm glad to see that it has lived up to expectations. Broadband users should definitely pick up SOCOM as its support for 16 player matches - 8 Navy Seals vs. 8 Terrorists - adds a whole lot to the replay value. The bundled Logitech headset works like a dream, and is worth the extra $10. The game plays like a dream. It's almost like a hybrid of Metal Gear Solid, Syphon Filter, and Rainbow Six. And honestly, what more does can action fan ask for? Visually, the game looks, moves, and plays perfectly fine. It may not win any awards, but it sure does get the job done. Final word: SOCOM is an exceptional title that action fans should keep their eyes open for.
8/28/2002 Arnold Katayev