posted 11/25/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
I was one of those people who were less than impressed with the first SOCOM. At the time I faulted the game for its weak single-player aspects but lauded it for its addictive multiplayer elements, coming up with a score that equated to about 70 percent. Now I’ve had a chance to play the follow-up to one of the PlayStation 2’s most popular titles and while it still suffers from a few faults of its predecessors I must say that I’m impressed enough with all of the updates and upgrades to recommend it to most nearly anyone.

The SEALs are an elite group who partake in missions all around the world in an attempt to diffuse situations before they can grow into worldwide catastrophes. Like the British SAS, they’re highly trained and often operate under covert conditions and circumstances. Forget about going in alone, it’s all about teamwork and co-operation for one man can’t win the battle alone. You’ll always have someone watching your back, and with good cause, because he could very well be the difference between whether you’re sent home in a body bag or whether you’ll make it back to base for some late night MREs.

This is the premise that makes SOCOM II: U.S Navy SEALs so exciting, the fact that your next move may be your last. It’s a huge trend that has been taking the gaming world by storm for the better part of the last decade. Forget about the generic run and gun shooters that were all the rage in the mid 90s, today’s shooter emphasizes realism and the fragility of life as opposed to over the top action. And when it comes to console shooters there may not be a better game out there that fully realizes this than Sony’s line of tactical shooters.

You probably know the deal by now, a rogue terrorist group is causing a ruckus around the world, disrupting its delicate balance. Opting for a secretive and covert solution (read: not Operation Iraqi Freedom) the United States Navy has volunteered the services of its elite SEALs unite to help stifle the situation and restore order to the world. This is where you fit into the picture, leading a team of highly-trained individuals who are saddled with the duty of maintaining the world’s equilibrium. Sounds like a tough job but when your diplomatic tools consist of hot lead and fragmentation grenades you can be sure that you’re in for one hellacious ride.

With the exception of the campaign there aren’t too many differences between this game and its predecessor. Essentially you’re paying $50 for more of the same but if you’re a huge fan of SOCOM, or shooters in general for that matter, then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Showing that the companies are fully dedicated to their customers, Zipper Interactive and Sony took the time to address a few nagging issues that players had with the first title. Yes, at times it feels more like an incremental upgrade (such as annual sports titles) but there’s enough here to allow the game to succeed on its own merits.

If you’re looking for a videogame to satiate your newfound Rambo cravings then you’ve come to the wrong place. Stealth is an asset and precision is the key to success here. Meticulous planning and patience are required if you want to complete the mission, hotshots with a hair trigger need not apply. And while the game lacks a dedicated planning mode (a la the PC versions of the Tom Clancy shooters) it still emphasizes strategy and tactics over all-out brawn and machismo. Players are encouraged to move stealthily and use the available coverage so that the missions go over as smoothly as possible. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to be a hero in your favorite action movie this is your chance. With the exception of some massively nagging AI issues, the single-player campaign is as intense and riveting as they come.

This is because the AI is still as brain dead as ever. I’ve heard some people in the online realm speak about how the AI has been vastly improved but I’ve yet to see any of this in action. What really disturbs me is just how lame brained some of my own squad mates can be. There have been times when I’ve ordered one of them to clear out a room with a frag only to have them toss it at the door frame and back at me, effectively wiping out my whole team. Like last year’s game I’ve often found enemies and allies running full on into crates, walls and other obstacles. Some major improvements have been made to ensure that the team acts as realistically as possible but many of the issues still remain. When everything does pan out like its supposed to the game is one hellacious ride, it’s just a shame that this doesn’t happen quite that often. It’s OK though because the online aspect really salvages this package and turns a decent outing into an excellent one.
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