Socom II: US Navy Seals Review
It's been a little over a year since Sony broke down the doors and opened up the flood gates to make way for an online console revolution. Ok, maybe revolution is a bit too strong of a word, but the point is there. It was August 27th when Sony launched Socom: U.S. Navy Seals and the Network Adaptor for the Playstation 2 (to this day, I still don't know why it's called "adaptor" and not "adapter"). What many thought would never take off as hoped, turned into one of the largest frenzies the online gaming world had ever seen. Thousands and thousands of people would log online everyday with their PS2s just to play some more Socom. Socom had quickly become the most popular online console title of all time, and one of the most popular online shooters in general. But, as we all know, Socom was full of things that needed to be fixed up. And here's where a sequel comes in to fix that, right? Ermm...well, not exactly.
For the most part, Socom II does take the original and improve on it every way imaginable. For one, your team doesn't come staffed with a moron who runs straight into fire and always ends up dying first - that's been dealt with. Second, as with any tactical shooter, or shooter in general, more guns, guns, guns, and other stuff that goes "boom!" have been added. The enemy A.I. has been cleaned up, so no more will the enemy spot you when your damn near breathing down their neck. Enemy A.I. has become smarter and quicker, not to mention more tactful. So through various courses, there will be enemies positioned as snipers, so if a bullet happens to strike right next to you, or even manages to hit you, and you don't see anybody around your level, then chances are a sniper's hiding somewhere. The voice commands have remained the same for the most part, with the exception of a few new inclusions.
As far as the single-player goes, it remains about as thin as it was in the original game. Socom II offers 12 missions that will take you through various countries, including Albania, Brazil, and Russia. The missions themselves are rather easy. If you're a Socom vet, each mission should take no more than 15-20 minutes to complete; if you're rather new to the series, than it may take you about 25-35 minutes to complete each mission. Sometimes, you may run across a good challenge, but that seemed all too rare. I managed to breeze through the first half of the game in a little less than two hours, which kind of goes to show you how lacking the single-player portion of the game is. If you want to make things more interesting, you can follow orders precisely and go for all out stealth, which is nice because it shows that there's more than just one way to completing the missions. Having said that, let's talk about the biggest facet of the game: online...
Socom II's online gameplay is more refined in comparison with the original. You can now communicate with players at the lobby and during the game, as opposed to the first where you could only type in the lobby and talk in game. The new maps are insane, just flat out awesome; they're larger and meticulously designed. Certain maps may require you to set up demolitions at certain points in order to breach, meanwhile others are smaller and will require close range combat. The maps range in size tremendously; some maps are small, some are moderate, some are big, and some are just incredibly massive. All of the maps feature great places to snipe from, be it the top of a grassy hill or the top of a building - there's tons of potential for you campers out there. As many of you should know, Socom II also allows for air strikes to be called in and that is easily one of the coolest new features I've ever seen in a game. In addition to that, mounted guns have also been implemented to most of the maps in the game, including machine-guns, grenade launchers, and sniper units. I could go on forever about the new extras that were included in Socom II's online facet, so I'll just say this: if you were hoping for an overhauled online experience from Socom II...you got it.
Now, on to Socom II's faults. While team A.I is pretty good and very admirable, Zipper managed to leave the most annoying flaw in the game. I like to call it the "get the f**k out of my way, you stupid moron" flaw. I'm sure many of you who play the single-player mode call it the same. Often times, nay -- way too often times I find myself screaming at my TV, because I'm trying to exit a doorway and I have three people blocking me, meanwhile I just planted/threw an explosive that's about to blow in a few seconds...oops, mission failed. Then, on occasion, my teammates get lazy and decide that I can just run ahead, get shot up, and they'll catch up to me later - those bastards, I tell you. Many times, I find myself looking behind me, only to see my teammates all the way in the distance attempting to catch up to me, what's the deal, Zipper? These guys are US Navy Seals, SAS and Spetznaz men, why can't they keep up, damnit? There's just a bunch of annoying flaws in Socom II that really hurts the single-player experience and tarnishes a lot of the game's fun - and it's stuff that shouldn't even be there in the first place.
Moving on, Socom II's visuals are a bit disappointing. While the game's character models look pretty tight, and the texture work is pretty solid overall, Socom II's framerate can really, flat out, suck sometimes. It may not be the most professional way to say it, but it's the only way to say it: the framerate sucks. The framerate in the original was much better in comparison to the second's clunky, sub-par 30 frames. Normally, I don't mind a game that runs at 30 frames per second, just as long as it doesn't dip anywhere below that. But Socom II is guilty of hitting somewhere around the early 20s at times and it's unforgivable. Every time you do a quick turn, the framerate cracks and eventually it begins doing a number on your eyes. At one point, Socom II's framerate gave me a headache and got me feeling rather nauseous for a good hour. There is absolutely no excuse for that. In this generation, whenever the camera pans around, the game's framerate shouldn't be acting up, because it's incredibly distracting, not to mention unbelievably annoying. Framerate issue discussed, everything else in Socom II is pretty much fine. The game sounds almost identical to the original, with the exception of a few new sound samples added here and there for the new weapons and more cut-scenes, which means more voice acting.
My framerate gripe with this game, in addition my gripe with the half-good and half-hideously stupid team A.I cannot be overlooked. It really dragged the final score down, when the final score should've been higher than the original's. It's incredibly displeasing to see the game's framerate somehow manage to become so grossly annoying, instead of being perfected - it's a paradox if anything else. The single-player mode needs more bulk added to it, as it can be beaten way too quick. Though, when it comes down to it all, it's all about the game's unrivaled online experience. 16 players, new weapons, new maps, original maps from the first game, and a whole slew of other new features still make Socom II a very worthwhile experience. Just don't expect a lengthy single-player mode and a team of elitists behind you, because what you get is three occasional morons with pretty deadly aim. Weird, eh?
11/24/2003 Arnold Katayev