SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs - Preview
Preview by Greg Knoll
With the popularity of games like Call Of Duty and Gears Of War, shooters-both first and third-person-have been on the rise. As an avid fan, I'm all for the sudden surge. But with every good title produced, there seem to be twice as many bad to follow it. Ones who try to stray too far from the formula as an effort to set themselves apart-or worse-games that simply mirror every aspect without the outstanding quality. For a fan, it's tough to weed through the garbage to find a gem.
In truth, aside from Killzone, nothing has caught my interest in the slightest. I've tried and regretted a lot of choices: Homefront, Medal Of Honor and even Battlefield but they all suffer from the same issues: too much hype, not enough delivery. All of them claim to have a far superior multi-player than Modern Warfare yet it's never true. Why? Because they try too hard to emulate it, instead of redefining it.
I was getting desperate. I wouldn't see Resistance 3 until September and Killzone may not last me that long. I needed something to make that wait a little easier.
So I took I chance on Socom 4.
I loved the first one and the second, lost interest with the third and haven't seen a follow up in a long time. But my adoration was so strong for the first two I willingly threw myself into the demo, hoping to find a well-built multi-player that I could immerse and lose myself in.
I'll be honest; a big selling point for me is the mass chaos, kill-or-be-killed free for all. At first I was a little worried when I looked at it and discovered that everything was team based. But it's Socom, Baby! They defined the team-based. They do it better than anyone. Or, at least they did. The question I had and the question you may have: is that still true?
Without a doubt.
A big problem with anything team-based is the mentality of other players still wanting to play solo, leaving you to die. Within the first five minutes I could tell Socom would be different. I play online a lot, but I've never encountered such a huge community being so vocal with each other. With other games you're lucky to even find someone talking with a headset, and almost always they're simply trash-talking or gloating-even when they're your teammates. With Socom almost everyone was vocalizing, telling other players where to find enemies and discussing strategy. I thought maybe that was just the room I was in, until I encountered it over and over. I'm not quite sure what prompted such behavior. Maybe it's the fact they were all Socom fans and knew what was required to win, maybe it was the ability to vote out players who weren't performing well or killing their teammates. I'm not sure. What I can say is that Socom excels in and maybe even dominates the social aspect of multi-player.
That bleeds over and melds itself perfectly to the actual style of the game. I only got the opportunity to play the competitive side of things, but all of those required comradary and cohesiveness to walk away victorious. Scrum is your traditional Team Death Match found in other games-with a twist. Socom allows you to turn respawn off, making it a Last Man Standing match. If you're not careful you can lose in the first 10 seconds, leaving you to spend the rest of the time as a bored spectator. A lesson I learned the hard way while performing my usual antics of running away from my team and being a cowboy first round. The second didn't go much beter. The levels are huge, bigger than almost any I've seen in a shooter. Which means there are many, many places for talented gamers to hide and pick you off, sneak up behind you and stab you in the back. Success and even survival is a matter of bonding with your team and watching their backs so they will in turn-hopefully-watch yours. I wonder if Sony did that on purpose. I've played a lot of team free-for-alls and not once had that kind of experience.
In addition to familiar battles, Socom has new spins on old classics. My favorite: Last Stand. It seems almost like Capture The Flag or Core Capture by having you find or defend control points but the game doesn't end when you've found all three. It only reveals the enemy's headquarters, then gives you two minutes to infiltrate them and plant explosives. Fail and the control points go back to being neutral and you start all over.
Now it's possible that it really all depends on the players, but I again got the feeling that Socom was designed to inspire teamwork. The two-minute time limit adds some pressure, but rushing in to HQ solo is almost certain death no matter how good you are. All focus is centered on those two areas whether you're defending or attacking them and Socom's mass roster of often 30 or more players congregate in a tiny room. If you don't have a whole team backing you it's game over, as there's usually a whole team you'll need to take on.
I've never been one for co-op games, but I loved Socom 4 Beta from start to finish. It didn't try to re-define the genre, inadvertently adding ridiculous and useless elements in an effort to be unique. Nor did they attempt to mimic the current King Of The Mountain Call Of Duty. They simply took everything we know and love about shooters and spun them just enough so they were both relevant and original. Many claim to be better than Modern Warfare, I think this one actually is.