SOCOM III: US Navy SEALs Review
SOCOM developers, Zipper Interactive, have already expanded greatly upon the original game with SOCOM II, but with SOCOM III they have done a real solid job of overhauling the overall experience of the series' original concept of giving gamers a real SEAL experience. Taking into perspective what supporters of the series truly want, Zipper has gone back, renovated and expanded just about every aspect of the game. Some of the many major improvements include multiple vehicles, gigantic streaming environments, new game types, expanded controls, and a better single player campaign mode to back up its all-important online play. The new features give you something fresh to look forward to, while the original authentic feel of SOCOM I and II has gone unscathed.
Shooting is done in a realistic way by making your accuracy depend upon the recoil of your gun, which in turn is affect by whether you are standing, crouching, or in a prone position. For instance, shooting a high caliber gun equipped with a bipod is most effective if used while in a prone position rather than standing, or running, while shooting. A prone or crouching position stabilizes your recoil and allows you to achieve maximum accuracy. Also, firing in bursts helps keep your cross hairs on the desired target much easier than unloading a whole clip on your enemy. This provides for a realistic shooting experience that is truly combat-evolved.
Controls are once again very smooth as they have been since SOCOM I, but getting a firm grasp on all the button functions may be a small challenge as there are many different actions and commands to be learned with a limited amount of buttons. If you are particularly new to the game I recommend a quick reference to the instruction booklet to get a good feel for the control layout. It sounds crazy, actually reading the directions, but you'll be better off for it. A new addition that some feel is overdue is that you now have the ability to swim through strategically placed bodies of water. While more than waist deep in the water you will be unable to fire your weapon, but the ability to temporarily submerge yourself will allow you to use stealth to get to a more desirable position without out being seen by the opposition. Being able to get your feet wet makes that much more representative of what being a real Navy SEAL is all about.
Choosing what to bring to the battlefield is very important and now more customizable than ever before. Players choose a primary weapon with an option of two attachments. There are quite a few attachments to choose such as a grenade launcher, suppressor, 4X scope, 12X scope, or maybe even a bipod to steady your more high-caliber machine guns. In the secondary options there are more pistols to choose from, with your choice of an attachment. But wait... there's more. You can also choose two of your favorite explosives to take along. You'll want to be careful not overload your SEAL with too much equipment, because each piece of equipment you bring will add to your overall load. Too much equipment and your SEAL will be considerably slower. Mixing and matching your equipment to find your most effective load size is key. Give or take a few, there about 900 different combinations to choose from; so be sure to choose wisely.
Since single player campaign has not been the forte of past editions, a little more effort has been put in to the campaign this time. It's much-improved, but there are still several reasons that it's not as compelling as the online experience. First and foremost squad A.I. could stand to be a bit tighter as Bravo might get you into an unnecessary firefight while you are counting on getting a stealthy kill. You also may find yourself repeating a simple voice command three times, and your team will still be asking you what the hell you're talking about. These factors may ultimately result in you telling your squad to hold position while you attempt to get things done yourself. Enemy A.I. on the other hand is highly responsive as enemies will duck and cover when being fired upon, and limp away in agony when hit in the non-vitals. Zipper has even added some pretty cool blood spray when an enemy is hit.
While the squad A.I. can be frustrating at times it is more than tolerable as you fight with your squad through Morocco, Poland, and South Asia on maps at least five times larger than any maps in previous SOCOM editions. The skillfully crafted levels are streamed off of the disc while you play. This allows for an almost seamless progression through checkpoints on absolutely enormous levels. Zipper has also added a variety of vehicles that compliment these giant levels. Vehicles for terrorists include civilian vehicles such as buggies and pick-up-trucks equipped with turrets. The military utilizes vehicles including Humvees, assault boats and the almighty tank. Vehicles have a good feel to them, control well, and are great addition to the series that keeps getting better.
SOCOM III doesn't look much better than its predecessors, and it feels like most of the effort here went into the technical challenges of crafting the large level environments. Textures on the ground, walls, and other objects are lacking in detail, but the shear size of each level almost cancels this factor right out. Great attention to detail was given to making SEAL and terrorist appearance and movement realistic, and the hard work paid off. Explosions and smoke effects are improved and look especially nice. Small details like these are great for providing a realistic experience, which the game does. In addition, SOCOM III supports widescreen as well as progressive scan, both of which look great.
Like the video, the audio doesn't seem to be a whole lot different this time around. Fortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of work needed here, as the voice acting is solid, and the sound effects are realistic. Your neighbors will agree that it's great when you crank up the volume so they too can hear your team yelling out to you while bullets fly and bombs explode in the distance.
Online games now have a capacity of up to 32 players. This is especially nice because the levels are so large that you need that many players to make it exciting. Online play is particularly smooth with the exception of a little bit of a decreased in the frame rate and lag when in the middle of a 32-man skirmish. Besides this understandable problem online play has the same feel as playing single-player campaign. Many people are having a problem when going online with the headset. Some players, including myself will not be able to speak to other players or be able to hear their transmission. We tried various "fixes" and contacted Sony, but didn't receive a response and still haven't solved the problem.
Online, a variety of game types are available on your choice of twelve enormous maps. Two new additions to the game types are convoy and control. Convoy stages a skirmish where terrorists try to get two trucks to a point on the map where some illegal goods are held. The terrorists then have to attempt to load and transport one of the trucks full of goods to the drop off point where if done successfully the terrorists will be victorious. If the SEALS eliminate all the terrorists or destroy both supply trucks, the SEALS will be victorious. Convoy missions work well for the new vehicles and ultimately force teamwork out of your allies when everyone saddles up to obtain the contraband or intercept the terrorist convoy. While engaged a control game, each team will try to plant beacons on points on the map to ultimately control the map. After a beacon is placed it cannot be removed by the opposing team, so the first team to deploy all the beacons will win. You can now choose to fight in the daytime or get up some courage and try your luck in the night. This is a great option to include, because it adds to the variety of how some people will choose to fight and what weapons they might choose.
In conclusion, the new edition is more than an expansion pack with only minor improvements; it is a complete overhaul of one of the most popular and greatest games ever. With its new features, SOCOM III easily holds on to its title of the best online game for the PS2. Who's to say it might not even become undisputed champion on the PS3 as we somewhat near the launch day? You know it has got to be in the works. Since Zipper has added so many great new features, long time supporters should not hesitate to pick up the newest edition. If you are new to the world of SOCOM, I highly recommend you pick up a copy so you can play one of the best online games out there on any system.
11/1/2005 Daniel Thomas