Sony’s third-person tactical shooter series has just released its latest installment in the shape of SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs. For all those SOCOM fans out there, you will be pleased to know that this version is much improved and should scratch that itch for tactical combat. As you would expect, you play a SEAL commander as you take control of a squad and fight your way across Southeast Asia on the heels of a terrorist group. The story is fairly standard for a modern military shooter, but that really isn’t why you want to play SOCOM.
You’ll find that you want to play this version of SOCOM because it is vastly improved over other games in the series. To start, the 3rd-person controls work well and have a decent speed to them. You’ll be able to move around quickly and easily so you don’t need to worry about that. The aiming reticule isn’t 100% accurate all the time, however, and it can be extremely frustrating to fire at an enemy only to end up shooting the wall and not where you aimed.
During the campaign you’ll be able to control up to four AI characters and direct them around the battlefield with the click of a button. The system works fairly well but it does have a few annoying elements. If you are not engaged in battle then the battle orders system works nicely, but once you are engaged it can be extremely difficult to issue orders while in cover, with your character often insisting on standing up to issue orders only to find themselves on the wrong end of a speeding bullet. I am sure orders could have been given over the radio rather than me having to flag everyone down. Unfortunately, you will find yourself using this squad mechanic a lot, especially when you get closer to the end of the game.
The enemy AI is fairly good throughout the game, though there are stark differences between stealth missions and combat missions. In combat missions the AI is great and you’ll see enemies and your computer-controlled allies using coverwell and attacking at will. The problems come in during the stealth missions. During these missions the enemies use an aggro-type system where they are not alerted unless you are within a certain distance from them. The system is a little buggy, especially when you and the enemies you are stalking are on different levels. To give an example, I was playing the first stealth mission and I was trying to sneak onto a frigate. I was positioned on the dock next to the frigate, on top of a few shipping containers. I was picking off guards standing on the boat but I alerted all the guards on the dock. Once I was finished killing the guards on the dock, all the guards crowded around my position. They just stood pointing their guns at me but once I shot at the guards on the dock that’s when the normal attack patterns kicked in and they engaged me. It isn’t terrible, it’s just a little touchy.
The game really shines in the co-op modes, where you will get to work as a team to complete missions. When you connect online you will be able to set up custom matches where you and your friends can take on any kind of mission you want. You’ll be able to set the parameters, including how hard the enemies are as well as how many of them stand in your way. You’ll also be able to control the mission objectives. The stand-alone missions are a lot of fun and they pose a strong challenge for even the most experienced SOCOM player. The downside is that there are only two mission objectives to choose from and a handful of maps to play on. I would have liked to see a greater variety of maps and objectives, but hopefully they will patch that up with DLC later on.
For those looking into how the game controls with the Playstation Move, they should know that it does a nice job. The sharpshooter attachment is not necessary but it does place the controllers in such a way that makes using them comfortable. When using the Move the controls are similar to a mouse and keyboard setup, so if you are more comfortable in front of a PC when playing shooters then the Move will be a good option for you. This isn’t a game that is going to make you run out and buy a Move controller but if you have it, it’s worth using.
All in all, SOCOM 4 is a good game and will provide you with plenty of challenge for your $60 dollars. There are a number of limitations that keep the score down but it’s definitely worth a rental just to see if this shooter is more your speed. You should know that this is vastly different than most shooters and it really relies on you being tactical in your approach. If you are a run-and-gunner then this game is not for you. If you are looking for a fun military shooter that is a lot different to and more customizable than your standard shooter, then this game is definitely for you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of SOCOM 4 developed by Zipper Interactive, published by Sony Computer Entertainment
- Good Enemy and Ally AI
- Great Co-op Mode
- No Love for the Run and Gunners
- Difficult to Issue Orders in Combat