A lot of you out there may not know that Socom stands for Special Operations Command, but then again a lot of you probably don’t even care. It’s just like how if you try to enjoy the storyline of SOCOM: Special Forces, you will crash and burn every time. It’s just hard to really care for the reason why you are gunning down hundreds of enemies, and blowing loads of huge vehicles to shit. All you care about is your itchy trigger finger; all you know is that you and your team have to slaughter the group of enemy sentries standing in your way. So let me just get the storyline summary out the way quickly so I can really get to business on what SOCOM is all about.
You primarily play as a lifeless bastard named Cullen Gray who has the personality of a hamster. You get transferred to somewhere in South East Asia, where there is some kind of war going in that you won’t care about. You must lead two units which consist of two bodies each as you carry out various missions, which are briefed via cut-scenes. Occasionally you get to play as other members of your units, most notably the female character who also happens to be the girl that Cullen Gray is most likely sending secret love letters to. So that’s pretty much the storyline in a nutshell, let’s get to the real nitty gritty.
SOCOM: Special Forces is the type of third person shooter you expect it to be. Its biggest appeal is that it is a very engaging tactical shooter. The game gives off a kind of Rainbow 6 Vegas vibe, in the sense that your team’s positions are very important when picking off multiple sentries. You have two units coming along for the ride, and you must utilize them to be successful. AI can sometimes be frustrating in the more closed areas, with team mates bursting lead into every object within vision besides the enemy. You can position them to take cover at two different locations, and then position yourself somewhere sensible. You can then mark enemies to be picked off by a specific unit, and then finish off the rest yourself. As long as you remember that this is SOCOM and not Uncharted, you won’t get yourself killed. Keeping in cover is a must when you have multiple enemies in your path, as running out in the open will present you with that gray death screen in a heartbeat.
Missions are simple enough as all you have to do is follow waypoints until you reach the main objectives of the mission. Banter between Cullen and your units will point you in the right direction if you somehow forget what you are supposed to do, or you can simply hit the pause button to have your objective yelled out to you once again. SOCOM is a very explosive experience, with many missions requiring you to call in air strikes. You can also set explosives on tanks, and of course shoot down those damned attack choppers that stalk you relentlessly with a good old rocket launcher. There are 14 missions overall, and four of them are stealth based. Whether this is a good or bad thing for you is anyone’s guess, but I thoroughly enjoyed these missions as they change the pace. There’s something about stealth in a tactical shooter that just fits, and SOCOM does it well.
As with many Sony exclusives hitting the shelves these days, SOCOM: Special Forces comes complete with Playstation Move functionality, controllers not included of course. If you happen to have a Move controller you might want to give it a try as it’s not half bad. Personally I would prefer to play a tactical based shooter with the Dualshock 3, but the Move did offer a significant level of accuracy. If you really want to get serious about your motion gaming then you could even give the Sharpshooter attachment a go. Just remember that you’ll need both the Move stick and the navigation controller for that.
I never owned the early SOCOM games, but I happen to know that they were well praised for their online portions. SOCOM brought exciting online gaming to the Playstation 2 at a time where the console was already at its limits. Thus Zipper Interactive is certain to take the online in Special Forces very seriously. Let me start off by saying that there are a few flaws, such as the recovery system. When going to give a partner some aid you are too exposed, which more often than not results in your death. Rinse and repeat this and many times you will come across a pile of team mates lying on the ground. This problem can be addressed with some excellent team work of course, but if you happen to be playing with a bunch of randoms’ it becomes an annoying issue.
With that being said, SOCOM online is pretty enjoyable. There are both co-operative and competitive modes, and it is fantastic to see that online co-op mode is not missing from a Sony exclusive shooter. We’re not just talking about two player co-op here either, you can have your full five man squad with real life players. This is perfect for groups of friends looking to take advantage of a tactical online co-operative experience. The competitive modes are an enjoyable playground for frag nuts, with many four modes on offer. Those who played the beta will be familiar with the modes which consist of Suppression, Last Defence, Uplink and Bomb Squad. These modes definitely give a game that would have been of lesser value some extra legs.
Graphically SOCOM: Special Forces looks surprisingly dated compared to other games out. To be blunt it looks like a Playstation 3 launch title. However if you focus on the games core appeal this is sort of forgivable. Animations are very fluid to make up for the dull visuals, and some of the jungle scenery is fairly nice to look at, just don’t expect to be blown away.
In closing SOCOM: Special Forces is a pleasant experience if you like your third-person tactical shooters. The single player story is nothing to be enthusiastic about, but the missions themselves have some exciting moments. Casual gamers may be put off SOCOM completely but if you are that gamer that wants to get into a decent tactical shooter with multiplayer then SOCOM: Special Forces is for you.