The SOCOM franchise has had quite the hardcore following over the years, gaining serious traction with its release on the PlayStation 2 that included online multiplayer. Since that time the game has seen many different versions on both the PS2, PSP and PS3. Now SOCOM 4: US Navy Seals is out on the system and with it comes a full package - single player, multiplayer and co-op. But the question remains - does the game remain true to its predecessors or have things gone a bit soft?
We’ll start with the single player campaign. You’ll follow Ops Commander Cullen Gray as he leads his team of soldiers in Southeast Asia. In traditional fashion - what starts out as a routine mission ends up as anything but. Soon you’re given control of two fireteams, accessible through the d-pad with simple go commands of go here or kill this enemy. Your AI partners are extremely efficient and even if they go down during a missions - usually another AI will revive them...despite not being able to revive you.
Each mission has you picking a load-out of two guns and some special gear. These items can be tweaked as you unlock upgrades for them by using them in missions. While some may be thrown off - there are no pistols in SOCOM 4 - instead you can basically carry any two guns that you want - one on your back and one in use.
The missions themselves vary in objective, some have you capturing intel while others simply have you killing everything that moves. Some missions are stealth missions which require you to not be seen while others have you calling in air strikes on targets. The problem I had with this, especially the stealth missions, is they break the flow of the game. One mission is balls to the walls action and the next you have to slow to a grinding halt. Still, there are moments of brilliance and tension that are really fun - I just wish the game allowed you to complete the missions the way you want.
The meat of SOCOM 4 is no doubt its online versus modes which support up to 32 players in a match. Here you’ll be able to rank up, join squads, complete objective or deathmatch style matches and show the world your skills on the virtual battlefield. The highlight gametype here is called Bomb Squad which puts one player in the full bomb suit (think Hurt Locker) and tasks him with disarming bombs while his team protects him. The other team must stop him. Its an intense game mode that requires lots of team work and when you spawn in the suit, disarming the bombs make you feel like a hero.