SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo ReviewCain Dornan
Ripping the soldiers from battle on the bulky PlayStation 2 and deploying them into battle on the slim and shiny PlayStation Portable, developer Zipper Interactive has done a fine job at bringing the famed franchise into the portable gaming realm. While a number of minor changes have been made to ensure that the game runs smoothly on the PSP, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo delivers a solid, enjoyable and familiar tactical outing that fans of the series will likely appreciate. While it doesnt include any major innovative enhancements to make the experience entirely new for veterans of the series, it does manage to captivate the qualities that fans have long held close to their hearts. Essentially, this is an almost full-version console offering that has been placed on the PSP; a feat that the developer should be proud of.
One of the most immediately noticeable changes that have been made to the portable version over its PS2 brothers is the reducing of your team size, which has now been lowered to a two-soldier force. You directly control Sandman, the leader of your division, as well as giving direct orders to your buddy, Lonestar. Despite the reduce in your force, the game still plays and feels very much like a SOCOM game. You can still issue a range of different orders, including clearing an area, shooting an enemy, breaching a door or dismantling a bomb commands.
Generally, Lonestar will complete each of these commands without any problems, however, there are instances when he will either ignore you or get stuck behind a gate or wall. At other times, Lonestar proves his stupidity by giving the all-clear reply after being instructed to clear the room, only for you to soon enter and get nailed by an enemy who is standing in clear view on the other side of the room. Furthermore, there were also a few instances where our mission resulted in a failure after Lonestar decided to kill himself, by either running towards a bomb when it was about to explode or throwing a grenade at his own feet and then remaining there until it exploded. These occurrences can be frustrating, given that you are forced to restart the mission entirely when your teammate decides to pull a foolish stunt.
When controlling your own character, some slight changes have been made in accommodating the PSPs restrictive controls. While the console version of the series made full use of the dual analogue sticks to control your on-screen soldier, the presence of a single stick on the PSP has resulted in both the movement and look controls being mapped to the single stick. As a result, the camera remains stuck firmly behind your character as you run around. However, you are still able to control the view of your character manually in a full 360-degree turn without moving your character, which can be achieved by tapping the right arrow on the control pad and then moving the analogue stick in the desired direction. Another change that has been made is the inclusion of a lock-on control. As there isnt a second analogue stick to control aiming, the lock-on feature allows for the targeting of nearby hostiles by holding down the right shoulder button. From here, you can then fire at the enemy by pushing the X button.
However, targeting and ultimately hitting the enemy isnt as simple and straightforward as it sounds. There are a number of factors that determine the accuracy of your fire, which includes your distance from the enemy, the weapon that you are using and the stance that you are in. The closer to the target and lower to the ground you are, the more accurate your shots are. Furthermore, moving whilst firing also lowers the accuracy of your shots, which further encourages you to take on a more tactical gameplay style, rather than simply running and gunning through the entire level. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this features doesnt always seem to be as successful as one would ask, as quite often your soldier will clearly miss an easy shot despite the top conditions that he is taking the shot from.
Upon booting up the game, you are offered a number of different gameplay options. For those thirsty for some quick action, you can jump into the Instant Action mode, which allows you to jump into a game of your choosing. There are various different gameplay types available within this mode, including hostage extract, which sees you locating and extracting three hostages; stealth extract, which involves locating and extracting two hostages without being detected; sweep and clear, which is simply eliminating all hostiles within the given time limit; sabotage, which has you searching for and disabling three radio transmitters, and finally stealth sabotage, which is essentially a variation of sabotage, however, it focuses more so on stealth. The Instant Action mode is a perfect addition to the game, making it a great component for portable gaming when you have a few minutes to kill.
The game also offers both ad hoc offline and online multiplayer modes, which offers the same healthy serving of single player goodness that is presented in a multiplayer world. Both the online and offline multiplayer modes offer a pleasing selection of options, and generally run without any problems.
The main gameplay offering is the Campaign mode, which sees you fighting through fourteen different missions that are spread across four different regions: Chile, Morocco, South Asia and Poland. Each region has you chasing after a different terrorist organization, pitting you against a range of different missions which range from simple hostage rescues through to locating explosives, retrieving intelligence and even spying on suspects. Each of the missions offer a varying assortment of gameplay attributes, as well as being set in various different locations, which aid in providing a varied and interesting experience throughout.
Given the limitations of the PSPs graphical power, Fireteam Bravo looks quite handsome on Sonys handheld system. The character models, in particular the soldier that you control, offers solid clothing and accessory detail. Enemies arent quite as impressive looking, however, with the majority of their textures being quite blurry when compared to your soldiers. Nevertheless, the characters models are certainly far from disappointing, and offer a fair range of different animations. The environmental detail is also rather impressive, although occasionally bland and boring in some parts.
Expect the usual array of classic SOCOM music to accompany you throughout your epic campaign, with a number of familiar voices (namely command) being included. The enemies voice acting has all been appropriately represented in their respective languages, which adds further authenticity to the experience.
Offering solid gameplay, smooth controls and plenty of lifetime, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo on the PSP offers one of the best third person shooting action affairs currently available on the sleek portable unit. Zipper Interactive has successfully brought the series into the portable realm, delivering the same solid gameplay that we have come to expect from the series console editions. Despite the occasional problems associated with the intelligence of friendly AI, fans of the series who desire some tactical action on-the-go should definitely check this one out.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.