SOCOM: Special Forces PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Zipper Interactive – Genre – Action – Players – 1-32 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

SOCOM has always been a series for the more strategic minded people, the kind that enjoy meticulous planning to accompany their virtual killing, but it’s easy to see that Call of Duty has had a bearing on some of the design decisions of the latest game and, as a result, SOCOM: Special Forces sheds some of its identity to find favour with the gargantuan and hard to ignore Call of Duty crowd, though thankfully doesn’t entirely forget its roots.

The 14 missions of the campaign can on normal be carved through, with little need for tactics. The addition of a cover system, regenerating health and focus on spectacle is likely to alienate many series devotees, whilst the story is hardly likely to leave a lasting impression on almost anyone.

It’s passable, but typical military fare about a team of soldiers tasked with taking down a revolutionary. The lead character is Cullen Gray, a stern leader archetype. There’s a secondary lead, with the Korean, female soldier Forty-Five and unsurprisingly it’s this pair that gets the lion’s share of character development, though that didn’t have to mean that the other three had to be as bland as what they are, contributing little to the game other than some additional guns and clichéd wisecracks.

On the normal difficulty, the campaign can quite easily be played as a typical action game, with little need for tactical manoveoures beyond hiding behind something and shooting enemy soldiers in their noggins, of which going by their dimness appear to be lacking brains, though they do occasionally impress, with sneaky and deadly flanking that can on occasion catch you out.

There’s still scope for strategy that can make for easier progression, allowing you to place your two squads in positions to gain an advantage over enemies, opening up the chance for you to flank them and such. There’s more complex commands too, of which allow you to direct individuals, as well as delay orders and trigger them whenever the situation calls for it. On the normal difficulty setting it’s never really essential though.

The squad AI is fairly inconsistent, sometimes being helpful, though in the larger scale fire fights, they do tend to go down far too often, and occasionally when you order them to head in a certain direction, they’ll head to the general area, though will choose dodgy areas as cover points, whilst bringing them back into the fight is far trickier than need be.

Mission objectives for the most part have you blowing things up, protecting someone or taking down enemies, though four of the missions, see you taking charge of Forty-Five and having to take the stealthy route, of which in terms of quality, hardly matches up with the best stealth efforts, but is nonetheless a welcome change of pace for the campaign.

In a somewhat unique touch, guns will level up through use and in the process they’ll acquire mods, of which will improve their performance, rewarding you for sticking with weapons.

As is always the case, SOCOM: Special Forces has an emphasis on online multiplayer. It features the regenerating health and cover ability of the campaign, though in a welcome touch, these can be turned off for a classical SOCOM experience.

As far as competitive options go, the game has four modes, all of which are pretty standard for the genre. Suppression is essentially Team Deathmatch, Last Defence is a mode where you’re tasked with capturing areas of a map, Uplink on the other hand functions much like Capture the Flag, Bomb Squad is a new team based mode, which sees two teams alternating between protecting a bomb technician as he attempts to defuse three bombs, whilst the opposing team must protect the bombs.

There’s also a co-op option, of which sees up to five players teaming up to take on the enemy AI. There are six maps and two modes, one of which, Takedown tasks you with killing an enemy commander, the other of which is Espionage, which sees you attempting to get enemy Intel. It’s all enjoyable enough, though there’s little invention present and you really could be playing any number of multiplayer shooters.

As has become common with first party games on the PS3, SOCOM: Special Forces supports both Move and 3D. Sadly I was unable to test out the 3D portion, the Move controls however are excellent and really enhance the experience, especially when it comes to the all important aiming.

SOCOM: Special Force’s campaign is unlikely to live in the memory for long, but this will hardly matter to most of the series devotees. It’s the multiplayer that is the strongest element and it’s executed to an unsurprisingly efficient level. It’s just a bit disappointing that there isn’t much to set it apart from a lot of other multiplayer components, and it’s this lack of invention that is undoubtedly the most glaring flaw as a whole.