A series known for its highly competitive and visceral multiplayer combat, the SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs lineup had a co-op campaign tucked away in obscurity. This week in co-op, we revisit a historic moment from the Playstation 2 era.
"SOCOM had co-op?"
Yeah, I know. The new Playstation 3 version, the PSP versions, and the first three Playstation 2 iterations were renowned for their competitive multiplayer and voice-command tactics, but despite having three AI team members per human player, co-op was nowhere to be found...except tucked away in SOCOM: Combined Assault.
Combined Assault was an expansion of sorts to SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs, and was the first title in the series to be completely developed on the previous title's engine. I personally had always felt that the original SOCOM (the third Playstation 2 game with online support, and the first with voice chat) had the best gameplay; however, four titles in, we were finally getting co-op. I had been clamoring on the Sony forums for a couple of years, along with the bulk of the community...in early 2006, Zipper Interactive answered.
Along with a select few new weapons and 10 new multiplayer maps came a brand-new single player campaign that was also playable in co-op. Four players could meet up in a lobby of choice, and were granted open-mic voice chat, something new to the series (SOCOM veterans will remember the habit-forming mic button). Each was given access to the same armory options as in multiplayer modes, and once weapons and equipment were confirmed, the team was deployed to a mission that the host chose.
For those of us who had played 2,000+ hours cumulatively of the previous three Navy SEAL shooter games -- but were tired of the standard multiplayer complications, the least of which was a nasty mixture of malicious children and friendly fire -- the co-op campaign was a boon. The missions were well-designed, the online access was free, the new stats website was live (and was grabbing stats from the campaign, also), and you could help your friends work through the pre-PS3 trophy system to unlock characters and weapons for the multiplayer modes.