The Playstation 2's online service is planned for release this August with its premier online game, SOCOM: US Navy SEALs. SOCOM can be played as a third or first person shooter, whichever perspective you prefer is up to you. It's an action title from Zipper Interactive, the developers behind both PC hits Crimson Skies and MechWarrior 3.
SOCOM is a broadband only game (sorry 56kers), but there are many reasons why. First of all, SOCOM uses a voice recognition system so you can contact other team members, and for this to work properly latency must be non-existent (in other words, no lag). You can tell players what to do and where to go through the headset, which is included with the game. To get your voice on the air, you must press the circle button and then talk. One concern that the developer had was that players could hog up the line by holding the circle button and use it as a damn phone. In order to eliminate this problem, players only have 10 seconds to talk before they get cut off and have to restart, so make it snappy! Another reason why broadband is essential is that the game supports up to 16 characters per game, which is too much information for a narrowband connection to maintain.
While the game's main focus is its multiplayer aspect, the game also features a single player mode where you are a SEAL commander that takes on terrorists in various locales, such as Alaska and Turkmenistan. Some missions have you guarding a certain base; all while troops infiltrate other enemy bases or put you in a situation where you must save hostages. Players can talk to their computer-controlled allies by either using the headset or through a set of commands that can be found in the menu. If you're wondering about the AI, you should be pleased to find out that these virtual baddies are extremely brilliant; they hide using the same tactics that you are granted with. Also, if you kill an enemy and leave him in the middle of a hallway or open area, his affiliates will find his body and will be on higher alert, similar to Metal Gear Solid 2. It's smart to dump the body in a shaded area or into bushes. Also, enemies won't just stand there and let you throw grenades at them; most of them will pick it up and chuck it back your way if they have time, or dive for cover.
The meat of the game is found in the online multiplayer mode. The game focuses on teamwork, so if just two or three team members die, it's game over. Making sure you have your comrade's back is very important, because only a few shots to the chest can mean the end of either their life or yours - and of course a head shot results in instant death. Using camouflage by hiding in nearby foliage or against walls will help you move through areas unnoticed. There are many different methods you can use against your enemies, including distractions such as throwing an item or shooting out the lights and turning on your night vision goggles to pick off blind enemies. Finding areas to set up a sniper shot is always important.
The reason the game is so authentic is because Zipper Interactive hired the help of special-forces groups. Members of the US Naval Special Warfare branch lent real life tactics and motion captured movements for the game. They also broke down the attire worn by real life SEALs so everything you see in the game is what you would see in real life. Also, they showed them some of the weapons they use and helped implement them in the game with real sounds of gunfire.
Speaking of weapons, players can only carry up to two weapons at a time, a primary and a secondary weapon. The game features up to 40 weapons. Some of the weapons include an M4 and a .50 caliber sniper rifle. Using the left analog stick you can change your rate of fire from single-shot to a three-shot burst that, while useful, can empty a clip quick. If you're smart with your ammo, you can take out a lot of terrorists with minimal shots. Shooting through penetrable walls to hit guys on the other side and lining up two enemies can make for a two-for-one opportunity.
A cool feature that will be included with the online mode will be a ranking system. This ranks every single player competing and you gain points by not only your total number of kills but finishing missions with all of your teammates still alive or blowing up enemy bases with no innocent bystanders left inside. Making a name for yourself will probably make you popular in communities and you can expect to be offered spots in clans, which is a group of gamers that play in packs (always together) and have certain meets online at specific times. You can expect being challenged by other clans to see who is the best, thanks to the ranking system, which also ranks clans. This type of competitive nature is sure to draw a huge following from Playstation 2 owners.
Right now the biggest concern for gamers is connectivity. While broadband is a great connection to have; only 40% of all console gamers have it. Actually most of the staff members here at PSXE only have narrowband connections (Arnold and Matt being the exceptions). Hopefully, as the years go by, broadband will be the connection of choice, which will in turn open up possibilities for games of larger scope that everyone can enjoy.
More of SOCOM's features and game information is expected to be revealed at this year's E3. SOCOM US Navy SEALs shows a lot of potential and could possibly be Sony's most acclaimed 1st party game of the year. The game is set to be released and sold as a game and headset bundle at a suggested retail price of $60. Its release is expected to coincide with the PS2 online adapter later in August.
5/7/2002 Anthony Perez and Arnold Katayev