When I was at E3, I played SOCOM quite often. It was the one kiosk I repeatedly kept on coming back to through the whole show. Something about the game really drew me into it. I'd wait in line to play the kick ass network mode that Sony had set up, which dueled eight E3 attendees versus eight various people at the Sony Metreon store in San Francisco (a good 300 or so miles away) -- 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 more and more, basically the same as I was doing, which 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. Luckily, I now have a really nice preview copy of SOCOM in my hands, and here I am telling you how kick ass this game really is.
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 face camouflage paint, and more. Zipper Interactive claims that each character in SOCOM is about 4-megs in size, which is quite large. 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.
Unfortunately this little demo didn't include the usage of the headset, but I did use the headset during my stay at E3, and let me assure you that it works almost flawlessly. During an online multiplayer game, it's like a phone. 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. 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. 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 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.
Some of the minor things I should mention are the controls, audio and so forth. SOCOM controls very nicely, and is easy to get adjusted to. Every nook and cranny of the DS2 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. Lastly, I'll mention that the audio is done incredibly nice. You'll hear terrorists communicate in Russian (a language I can understand) and even curse in Russian too. 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?
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's living up to expectations. Broadband users should look forward to SOCOM as it supports 16 player matches - 8 Navy Seals vs. 8 Terrorists. The bundled Logitech headset works like a dream, and is worth the extra $10. Remember, mark your calendars and hit your local game specialty store up for a pre-order of SOCOM: US Navy Seals. Come August 27th, you'll experience the excitement yourself. Final word: SOCOM is an exceptional title that action fans should keep their eyes open for.
6/22/2002 Arnold Katayev