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Review: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs

Regardless of some minor problems I mentioned above, the single-player provides an entertaining experience. There are a number of large shootouts throughout the 14 missions; something that might trouble previous SOCOM fans who wanted a stealth-shooter. I tend to look at the glass as half-full, though, and that is why the single-player can be enjoyed if you take it for what it offers: large-scale shootouts that take place in sometimes tight, and sometimes open, spaces.

Adding to the enjoyment, players are given the option to create custom missions. Although customization of missions is limited, players are able to choose between five different maps, the style of gameplay (shoot-em up bang bang or espionage) and the number of enemies on the level. After I finished the single-player portion of the game, I genuinely wanted to go through and play more of the custom missions. These missions add an amazing amount of replay value, and to top it off, co-op is available, so playing through custom missions with up to four other friends is not out of the question.

The 14 missions within the single-player last about the standard length for any shooter, clocking in at around six-and-a-half hours. My initial playthrough, if we want to be precise, took me six hours and 42 minutes on normal settings. The result of that was the death of 609 Nagan (the army you are fighting) soldiers, and 223 of those died as the result of a headshot. The story, while I do call it generic, provides enough entertainment during the actual gameplay to warrant a second and third playthrough. Going through it and seeing just how tactical you can be in each mission is a good enough proposition to keep players interested.

While SOCOM has its moments, it’s graphics are clearly not pushing the PS3 to its limits. Still, the game’s jungle landscapes are bright, and overall Zipper did a nice job recreating the jungle.  Cities are important to SOCOM as well, and buildings also look good. The building designs reminded me of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2, not to say that the quality isn’t vastly improved over a game that came out four years ago. The game’s downfall comes in the textures of objects within the environment like chairs and tables, which are bland. Vehicle explosions tend to look a little corny, but the game makes up for it with its well done grenade explosions and smoke effects.

When the developer described the destructible environments, many imagined something similar to what DICE did with Battlefield. Zipper went another way though, making only the spots where players would seek cover destructible. Though not as destructible of an environment as Battlefield, it is pretty nice to see that you cannot simply camp in one location and pick off enemies. The most appropriate word to describe Zipper’s design decision with regards to destructible cover is “satisfying.”

One constant throughout the game is the sound. The voice acting is nothing short of superb, and no character, or their voice, seems out of place. Add that to the excellent sounds used as players move through the jungle, hear explosions, dodge bullets, and return fire, and the overall sound definitely gives gamers a feeling like they are in a war zone.

What concerns most people when considering a game such as this is the online multiplayer aspect, and again SOCOM proves to be of some value. While gamers have already had a taste of the action in the beta, Port Authority and Assault and Battery (the maps featured in the beta) are the worst maps available. The other maps are well done and gamers will have a blast completing objectives in the likes of “Cesspool” and “Rush Hour.” The maps as a whole show a decent amount of variety that gamers will appreciate.

Zipper is doing its part to give gamers what they want, offering a number of different game modes and then some. Although Zipper is appealing to new fans of the series with a “Standard” game type (respawns and healing), they have also chosen to include “Classic” gameplay modes.  While many applaud this effort, Zipper’s exclusion of a gameplay mode like the beloved “Demolition” mode in either standard or classic gametypes has many older fans upset. Since I was always more of a fan of the single-player levels, the lack of demolition did not bother me, though it does puzzle me that Zipper would completely leave out a popular mode when they are trying to show just how customizable SOCOM‘s multiplayer is.

Every since playing it at PAX East and again during the beta, I have loved the game’s “Bomb Squad” mode. If you have ever seen The Hurt Locker, you will enjoy the bomb suit a little more. Teams are given ten minutes to either protect the bombs or defuse them.  If you happen to be lucky enough to be the defuser, you will spawn in the suit and will be given a shotgun. The level of damage you can absorb in the suit is pretty remarkable, but when you die, someone else on your team is given the chance to be the defuser.  “Bomb Squad” is easily one of the best game modes available in any shooter.

While I did enjoy the Classic gameplay modes, the standard version will be the most played.  Zipper’s decision to include respawns and air strikes increases the gameplay pace to fever-pitch and allows for a much less tactical approach to the online portion of the game. In regards to the air strikes, unlike Call of Duty, an air strike can be lost by dying. On top of that, the airstrikes do not pack nearly the punch they do in Call of Duty titles or even the latest Medal of Honor. The best news regarding the multiplayer portion is that victory dances still have their place in this franchise. Both new and old players will find this to be good news.

The multiplayer elements such as ranking and clan systems are all pretty standard. As players progress, they unlock new weapons, and like the single-player, using each weapon unlocks items like scopes and silencers. The statistics board is one of the better ones though, tracking tons of different information including how many chickens you have managed to kill, whether it be on purpose or if those chickens were caught in the cross-fire.

Overall, Zipper has tried to stay true to classic fans while also trying to appeal to a new and younger audience. While SOCOM 4 has its problems, everything broken in the game is fixable.  While I was pondering selling SOCOM 4 initially, once I got into the meat and potatoes of the single-player, I realized I would keep coming back. This game is a success and worthy of the franchise it is a part of. Gamers could get 30 hours worth of single-player gameplay out of the title from the numerous playthroughs and custom missions. Add in a friend or four, and 30 hours is no trouble at all. Assuming Zipper releases new maps and other DLC, the online component of SOCOM 4 is the true bread and butter for the title. It has a lot to offer and could keep players busy for months.

Platform: PS3
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Release Date: 04/19/11
Developer: Zipper
Publisher: Sony
ESRB Rating: M17+
MSRP: $59.99


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