Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
Playstation’s biggest franchise - aside from God of War and Gran Turismo - saw its latest chapter hit the Playstation 3 last month. Since Playstation Network went down the day after we got our review copy, this article had to be put on hold in order to fully test its multiplayer functionalities. I mean, multiplayer has always been a big thing for the SOCOM franchise. However, since PSN has yet to make its return to the PS3, we have been forced to proceed without it. Luckily for us, SOCOM 4: US Navy SEALs features a single player campaign and other things that made it a more complete package, unlike Slant Six Games’ abysmal online-only effort, SOCOM Confrontation.
Now that Zipper Interactive took back control of the franchise, did the Redmond-based developer manage to put together the best game in the series since their last accomplishments on the mighty Playstation 2?
Every military-based video game starts with a story, and SOCOM 4 is no different. It isn’t the worst ever conceived mind you, but it isn’t anything spectacular either, which is a shame given the franchise’s notoriety. Cullen Gray leads a 5-man NATO (weren’t they Navy Seals?) squad sent to Southeast Asia to investigate the doings of a revolutionary group called Naga. As Gray and his team - which includes an obnoxious but deadly operative known as “Forty Five” - searches jungles and villages for Naga’s leader, they’ll realize that someone else is the true enemy. We’ve seen this kind of story before but as I pointed out earlier, I thought SOCOM 4 would bring something more poignant in terms of storytelling and character development. Gray and Forty-Five are the only two characters of the five-man group to actually have real interaction. Being the leader, Gray - who strangely sounds like Nathan Drake - gives orders and doesn’t lose an opportunity to remind everybody that he’s in charge, making him sound more like a fearless jock. Forty-Five is always pissed, doesn’t like to receive orders and whines. The three other NATO soldiers have some lines here and there but mostly they just watch all the banter. Right after the first two missions, despite having a background to work on, there’s a high chance you’ll find yourself skipping the cut-scenes and kissing goodbye to the story.
The 14 mission campaign (which takes around 8-10 hours to complete on anything but the hardest difficulty) is a mix of tactical shooter and stealth missions. When playing as Gray, players will assign squad orders via the directional pad. Engage enemies, move away from a compromised position, etc. The waypoint system works and becomes quite handy in almost every situation, especially in the heated moments. From time to time, the A.I will find itself in some weird and unwanted situation, but far from requiring painstaking strategies. Squad orders are simplistic and not as complete and precise as what Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon have made us accustomed to. Then again, when the enemy A.I. is as dumb as it is, often you will issue one offensive command as a supportive strategy and take care of the enemy nest all by yourself. When not telling your squad what to do in the field of battle, Forty-Five takes the lead. She may be a whiner, but she sure knows how to break a guy’s neck. Gray will tell her which objectives she needs to accomplish and you’ll have to satisfy those objectives without raising the enemy’s attention. Unlike Sam Fisher, Forty-Five won’t have heat/night vision goggles to move in the shadows with. Instead, she has a tiny cheap meter that indicates when movements are too noisy or within an enemy’s range of sight. With the ability to throw clips for distractions, no gadgets and no light bulb shooting strategies, these pace-changing missions would’ve been even more interesting if it wasn’t only about walking around weeds and bushes silently.
Once the story is done, its done. There’s no real incentive to replay it, unless there’s an interest in useless weapon attachments. Fortunately, SOCOM 4 has more to offer. There’s an offline/online custom campaign mode where four missions can be queued up, each with its own objective, difficulty and enemy density level. Last but not least, a 32-player competitive online realm for the most hardcore and dedicated SOCOM fans with four different game types and clan support. Obviously, this review would have went further into the online experience but with PSN being offline with no solid indication of when it will return...well...what can we do. Note that if you’ve been a SOCOM fan since the beginning, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate what Zipper has brought to SOCOM 4. The list of modes may have been reduced to only four - with fan favorites Escort and Extraction missing this time around - but if the lag and random disconnections experienced in the beta program were indeed fixed, playing and enjoying the game’s online component shouldn’t be an issue.
Also, SOCOM 4 supports Playstation Move controls and 3D viewing. I couldn’t test the game in its glorious three-dimensions, but I did give the motion controls a spin. Would it be a surprise if I told you that I’ve ditched everything motion-based in lieu of the traditional Dualshock controller? Not because they’re unresponsive, just mostly for the sake of convenience. Even worse, Zipper Interactive didn’t create a specific control scheme for the Sharpshooter gun peripheral, instead they set up players who went for the $150 combo pack (or bought it separately for $40) for an incredibly cumbersome and enraging experience. SOCOM 4 isn’t The Shoot...
SOCOM 4 doesn’t make the once-amazing franchise shine. Instead, it stands as just another shooter among others, whether they’re tactical or not. The game’s cooperative and custom mission options add something to the short and unimpressive campaign and as amazing as the multiplayer component could have been, this reviewer doubts it would have brought the game to Editor’s Choice land.
That being said, yours truly could honestly take a long break from SOCOM games. Hopefully Sony will do the same.
+ Solid soundtrack, voice-acting, sound effects
- Stealth missions are a joke
- Dumb enemy A.I
- No specific control scheme for the Sharpshooter peripheral?
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Release Date : 2011/04/19
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer : Zipper Interactive
Category : Shooter
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10