Gears of Duty: Navy Seals

Sure, SOCOM 4 is still in third person, but Zipper takes a lot of cues from the competition this time around.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: April 18, 2011
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It might seem like it has been a long time since Zipper Interactive brought us a SOCOM game. Indeed, it has been, as the last title in the series they developed was SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 almost 5 years ago. Sure, they brought us MAG a little over a year ago, but they had been happy to let Slant Six games handle the SOCOM franchise for a while. Now they are back in the saddle with their latest offering, SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs. While they have eschewed the, ahem, massive battles MAG is known for, they've also brought back the single player campaign. Toss that in with the 32 player online multiplayer and an interesting online co-op system, and you've got a pretty hefty package. But did they spread themselves too thin trying to do so much?


Let's start by taking a close look at the single player section. If you've played a PS2 SOCOM game, then you know a big part of the games has always been having control over other squad members and getting them to do your dirty work. While there have been quite a few changes in this iteration, fear not, because you still have a squad to control. Two actually. Two squads of two people to mindlessly run into a brutal crossfire and soak up some bullets for you. Guess they shouldn't have slept with your sister, eh?

For ten of the fourteen campaign missions you'll control Commander Nathan Drake (ok, that's not his real name, but that's who he looks like, ok?) and his quartet of merry men (and a lady) as they slog through some rather brown environments over a six day trek that finds you fighting some insurgents who go by the name of "Naga" and have some sort of generic devious plan to do harm to the American way of life and the environment and levy a terrible tax on sugary beverages. There's even an evil PMC run by some heartless bureaucrats that won't hesitate to tax those beverages in the name of more money-grubbing.

All joking aside, the five- to six-hour story is reasonably well told even if it isn't the most memorable tale. SOCOM has traditionally been grounded in reality, and for the most part SOCOM 4 carries on that tradition. Sure, there is the ubiquitous battle against an evil chopper (has there ever been a good helicopter that didn't explode in the opening scene?) and later on in the game, you'll face wave after wave of enemies, but you won't find any armored Juggernauts or genetic abominations to fight, just regular dudes who sit around talking about their lives until you snuff them out and leave their kids to grow up angry because they no longer have a parent. Outside of the fact your 5-man team somehow takes out 500 soldiers, this story is fairly believable.

That's the meat of the game, but there are four other missions where you go solo as the femme fatale of the team, a cute South Korean commando who goes by the name Forty-Five. It's all about stealth when you play Forty-Five, and you'll spend that time sneaking up behind guys to slit their throats or bury a blade in their chests, or, if you just hate violence, avoid them all together. It's a rather stark contrast to the rest of the game, since now if anyone spots you you'll immediately go down in a hail of bullets. I'm not going to lie, these sections were far and away more interesting to me than the standards shooter parts, and I'd have been happy to spend more time with Forty-Five, who's also much more fleshed out in the games narrative. You do get to rain a lot of airstrikes down on armored and naval units, which explode in a very satisfying way though. I'm still immature enough that I can get behind a really good explosion.
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