Sony Computer Entertainment SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation
SOCOM's PS3 debut emerges as a hardcore multiplayer shooter that seasoned SEALS will surely appreciate.
- Brimming with SEAL-personalising options and tactical multiplayer action that should keep fans yelling "Boo-Yah!" well into the new year
- Feels a bit last gen in light of the season's slate of highly produced and polished shooters, online functionality still not perfect
Offers tonnes of customisation and tactical modern-military action for the series most faithful fans, but doesn't pack enough punch to recommend new recruits to leave their Call of Duty comfort zone.
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With many of the early online hiccups behind it, SOCOM's PS3 debut emerges as a hardcore multiplayer shooter that seasoned SEALS will surely appreciate.
The Fix is In
Like many game critics out there, I've seen my SOCOM: Confrontation review plagued by false starts. The game's mid-October release was sullied by a number of significant online issues; everything from minor lag to major crashes made the NAVY SEAL series' PS3 arrival practically unplayable. Online updates have since brought the title a long way from its disastrous debut, and while Sony and developer Slant Six continue to iron out the kinks, I feel Confrontation has at least reached a level where it can be reviewed in a more reasonable light.
Of course, the fact that it wasn't good to go on day one is unforgivable to anyone who already slapped down sixty bucks for a few hours of frustration. However, if you're reading this, I'll assume you're one of the lucky ones who waited for the fixes, and is now considering suiting-up for the frontline. If you are among the wait-and-see SOCOM fans, you're in for a treat, as Confrontation should please anyone that's been looking to finish this fight since it began on the PS2 in 2002. In fact, previous PS2 military experience is almost required to get the most out of Confrontation. While most shooters are headed mainstream in an attempt to appease the Wii-mote-waving populace, SOCOM has done the opposite, going above and beyond to please its hardcore fan base.
Customize and Kill
There's no single-player campaign-not even a watered-down one-so you can forget about getting your feet wet in some length, hand-holding intro mode. This one's all multiplayer, all the time; so if this is your first foray into this tactical third-person shooter franchise, expect to take a few bullets to the brain before you feel comfortable. Now, seasoned SOCOM strategists won't have a problem with this and, I'm guessing, they'll appreciate the series stubbornly sticking to its roots and not catering to all those folks who only recently discovered the joy of fragging friends in Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4.
Long-time fans can expect the realistic action, complemented by intuitive controls, the series is known for: team strategy is rewarded-Rambo-wannabes need not apply-players cannot absorb bullets like a sponge, and trash-talking, punctuated by the occasional "Boo-Yah" or "FUBAR", is absolutely encouraged. The no-holds-barred approach is apparent from the get-go when gamepad jarheads choose their load-out. The options available are impressive-almost intimidating, even-but will make the franchise's faithful feel like kiddies in a candy store. That is, if the "kiddies" were US NAVY SEALs and the "candy" was an arsenal of high-tech hardware that'd make Jack Bauer blush. The expected guns, grenades, and gear are on offer, but it's the smaller accessorising toys that make outfitting your modern military bad ass such a blast. Scopes, suppressors and laser sights allow you to tweak your terrorist-thwarting arsenal to your heart's content. Plus, more personalised options, like hats, face-paint, and facial scars ensure you'll display an appropriately menacing look when you come face to face with an evil-doer.
Lock, Load, Put on Bluetooth
When all's said and done your fully customised SEAL will be carrying enough primary and secondary weapons, and gear-based (flash bangs, grenades, claymores) goodies to put Charlton Heston's estate to shame. Once you've checked every box on your gun-nut shopping list, you can jump into the expected maps and modes with up to 31 of your closest trigger-happy pals. What you might not expect, though, is the obvious visual upgrade the series has received for its next-gen debut; characters and weapons are intricately detailed, and environments have benefited from the horsepower-pushing PS3. Everything from the dirt under your feet to the foliage in the background looks better than ever.
That said, the improved presentation also makes the game's graphical shortcomings more obvious. In an era where branches break beneath bullet sprays, dirt kicks beneath boots, and fire spreads realistically in many AAA efforts, SOCOM sadly feels a bit last gen. It looks pretty, but its visual accomplishments don't quite mesh organically with the environment like they do so impressively in the recent Far Cry 2.
SOCOM isn't the genre-defining multiplayer experience it once was. And it likely won't pull new fans from the Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty: World at War frontlines, this holiday season. However, if you're a long-time fan of the franchise-and you've been holding out for the game to be properly patched-you'll discover tons of quality content in the series' robust PS3 debut. Oh, and it includes something Marcus Fenix doesn't have — a slick Bluetooth headset.
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