I was a proper fan of SOCOM 1 and 2 back in the day. I was blown away with technology available where i could tell my squad members where to go and for the most part, it worked pretty damn well. And no amount of mocking from my partner at the time would stop me. Sure I looked like a dick, but it was great fun. Now I’ll admit I never got into Socom Confrontational. Being online only and with few of my good PSN friends playing it wasn’t really a option for me. But now Socom is back and sporting a proper single player campaign I couldn’t resist. “Bravo… stealth too… Charlie…”
For those unfamiliar with the game SOCOM titles are third person tactical shooters. Typically one too four team members at any given time trying to accomplish a given task in the middle of some fabricated military conflict. Special Forces is a little less tactical than the previous titles and as much as I hate to say it, it’s far too linear. But I’ll touch on that more shortly. There’s a more pressing issue at hand.
I’m genuinely disappointed. A MASSIVE omission from the game. NO voice control, that’s right. No more verbally directing and abusing your comrades. Sure it’s little daft and l guess ‘old technology’ but it worked so well. Personally I feel the team commands has been dumbed down a little too much. The options are very limited. Simply its go here, shoot here. Granted it does work very well but it’s just not as deep as I was hoping. You still typically control two halves of the squad. Each squad has it’s own unique skills (i.e stealth, sniper or demolition) and used correctly it’s does make life a lot easier. But if you’re not the bossy type you can still progress through the game nicely without dishing out orders. You’re troops can handle themselves nicely.
The game plays very well, as in the controls work very well. It’s a little quicker than SOCOM of old so many players with more of a FPS background will adapt to it quickly. SOCOM Special Forces is also another ‘feature’ title to utilize the PlayStation Move peripherals. Including the Move Sharp Shooter. I touched briefly on this in the Buttonmasher Forums. The Sharp shooter is quite a cool accessory. I believe it’s not a ‘must own’ item but it does work well with SOCOM. Not ‘great’, but well. I think it’s the nature of a third person shooter over a first person. Having the player taking up a large portion of the screen is a little distracting and I also found moving around quickly a little too clumsy with the Sharp shooter in SOCOM. This may be more of a issue with my lack of co-ordination as oppose to the controller not working well. As fun as the Sharp shooter is with SOCOM, it’s no substitute for the Dual Shock controller. No doubt there will plenty of ‘guns’ out there that can prove me wrong.
Now back to the gameplay. The stage levels are varied between mainly objective based squad levels and a few stealth based levels. The objective based offensive levels are the games strong point. The battle sequences are fast and exciting, often tactics doesn’t come into it much but there’s nothing wrong with a good run and gun. But as fun as it is it also highlights the games biggest floor. It shows just how linear it is. You’re directed through each stage by a series of checkpoints highlighted on you HUD. More often that not you’re directed trough either thin valleys, between building and narrow corridors. There really is only one way to progress through many of the stages. This ‘hand holdingness’ (it’s a word) really does detract from the ‘tactical’ part of ‘tactical shooter’. The Stealth stages are quite fun but again it does highlight a few annoying nuances with the AI.
Graphically the game looks fantastic, clear crisp and well detailed character models and beautifully detailed a varied environments. Small things like the un-interactive scenery (trees, shrub’s etc) detracts from the emersion a fair bit but the stunning vistas, impressive lighting and gorgeous explosion effects more than makes up for it. The story line is a little vague, it’s no best selling novel but it’s more than adequate.
In closing Socom Special Forces is a pretty solid and ultimately enjoyable game. Sure it has some dopey AI, linear gameplay, NO voice controls (ok I’ll let it go) and a main protagonist with a Aussie accent, but if you’re looking for a fun tactical’ish’ shooter than this is the game for you. Plus guess what. I haven’t even touched on the multiplayer yet. Look back in the coming weeks for my SOCOM Special Forces Multiplayer review. “Team… Assault too… crosshair… over”