SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs

Better online, better offline, just plain better.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: November 18, 2005
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I've never been a huge fan of the SOCOM series, but it's not because of the games themselves. I just never really clicked with the single-player campaigns, and playing online was an exercise in anger management. The online community quite literally is the reason why Sony has an online presence, yet at the time same, it can be the biggest group of social retards ever seen. That, and they're really effing good.

So for me, it was lose/lose. I never glommed onto the single-player, and the multi-player is out of the question. With SOCOM 3, however, some noticeable improvements have been made, and both areas are now more newbie-friendly and, dare I say, a whole hell of a lot more fun.

Since most who pick the game up probably will, I'll start with the multiplayer. Aside from completely revamping the online setup to allow for better clan management and re-adjusting tiers to make things easier for first-time players, developer Zipper Interactive built in some modes where teamwork is more important than someone just running off and being a dick about things.

The standard modes added since the first two SOCOM games are more or less brought back intact (Escort, Breach, Suppression, Demolition, Extraction are all here), and they're certainly decent in their own right if you can find a nice group of guys to play with (usually this rules out most 12 year-olds with an overabundance of Internet Male Syndrome), since they looove to scream obscenities into the mic, but it's really the two new modes that I ended up spending the most time with.

Control lets both teams drop markers at certain points on a map, but actually setting them takes time, much like diffusing a bomb in Counter-Strike. Like CS, the game, then, becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse where you either lie in wait for the opposing team to come in or move on to the next point.

You can hold off on dropping your marker so they don't know you're there, or drop it and move on in the hopes that they may still think you're around. Of course, if you are around, it's even more fun, but not nearly as adrenaline pumping as when you're confronted with the same dilemma.

Also added is Convoy mode, which splits things into SEALs and terrorists, and has the latter trying to move a truckload of goods from a pickup point at one end of the map to a dropoff point somewhere else. Because there will almost always be an ambush somewhere along the way, it creates opportunities for bait-and-switch moves and of course repelling the ambush is a blast - as is actually conducting the attack on the terrststssss.

The use of vehicles wasn't just a simple add-on, though. Zipper boosted the map size to an absolutely ridiculous degree. It makes the 32-player online matches more fun, of course (or, uh, lonely if you don't have enough people, though the maps will scale Battlefield-style), but it adds a real sense that you're traversing some seriously massive locales, and it make the use of mobile transport an absolute necessity.

It's also an awesome opportunity to geek out on the ridiculous amount of firepower that the vehicles have, since they favor being able to lay down fire from just about any angle over a ton of armor or speed most of the time. There are armored vehicles, of course, but the more nimble ones are more fun to go screaming around in. Regardless of which one you pick, all of them control differently and require different methods of both using and combating them.

The increased map size and vehicles are also the biggest reason why the single-player game feels so much better. In addition to stuff like being able to swim or submerge yourself while guards come to scope out sounds, the offline game benefits most from a storyline that gives all these new additions a bit of context and purpose.

It must be said that the maps this time around are huge, yet the nav point system that's in place and indeed the overhead map that's always with you help guide you to where you need to go. You're not forced down a single path, either, but rather given a general nudge by the level designs and then a clear "go here, stupid" view should you need to pull up the map.

You'll be screaming "go here, stupid" more than a few times yourself, since the AI has inexplicably been stricken with some kind of intermittent retardation. At times, your squads will respond with the snap and competence that you would expect from SEALs, but more often than not, they'll produce a "duuuuuurrrr" response when you clearly enunciate an order, or will just plain stand there for no reason even if you give them an order via the controller.

This is doubly frustrating because Zipper tried to streamline things, ditching the old tiered menu system and replacing it with something far more context sensitive. If you need your men to attack an enemy or go to an area, you're supposed to just tap the L2 button while targeting it with your crosshairs. Same goes for getting into a vehicle or breaching a door. I'd say a good third of the time, though, they simply don't respond. Even drilling into the manual commands menu to get them to do something specific can meet with no response, and it's incredibly frustrating.

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