SOCOM 3 US Navy Seals Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : 9.5
Overall : 8.9
Review by Andy Levine
The original SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs and its inevitable sequel, SOCOM 2, both made their impact as the top online shooting games available for the PS2—but that didn’t stop the developers over at Zipper Interactive from bringing us yet another installment in the SOCOM franchise. SOCOM 3is, at its core, just like its predecessors, but improvements in both the single-player and online modes make it stand out from the rest. With larger environments, the ability to control vehicles, and support for up to 32 players online, SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs certainly lives up to the expectations set by the previous releases.

While SOCOM 2 was considered by some to merely be an expansion pack to the original, SOCOM 3offers a whole slew of new features that distinguish it from the earlier releases. The single-player campaign, taking place throughout North Africa, Poland, and South Asia, has been polished to help make the game a little less frustrating. The most noticeable update is the new checkpoint system, which saves your progress at predetermined locations during the missions.

Each mission has around three or four main objectives, with each goal usually involving some type of shootout or firefight. Once one of these main objectives is completed, your progress will be saved so you won’t have to revisit troublesome areas repeatedly. The checkpoint system also comes in handy simply due to the fact that the environments are much larger than before. Luckily, instead of being forced to travel everywhere on foot, certain vehicles can now be piloted, including Humvees, gunboats, trucks, and buggies with mounted machine guns.

Unfortunately, you cannot fire and shoot at the same time, and to top things off your computer-controlled squad mates aren’t capable of steering on their own. As a result, you’ll be forced to stop completely if you need to hop out and take care of some enemies, which can really slow down the flow of battle. The customizable weapon load-out feature is a nice realistic wrinkle, allowing gamer to give their weapons a special touch. Weapons can be customized with accessories including laser sights, scopes, thermal sights, and bipods, although the modifications add to the overall weight of your baggage, which in turn actually affects how fast your character can move! The single-player campaign is held together nicely with brilliant cinematic sequences that connect the storyline, and although the whole campaign isn’t incredibly long, it’s definitely worthwhile.

In general, both the team and opposing A.I. forces have gotten a lot dumber since previous titles. Your teammates have a great amount of trouble understanding voice commands via the USB headset properly, so most of your orders will be done using the L2 interface menu. Even using this menu, it can take some of your fellow comrades several orders before they finally decide to hop on to the back of a truck or move up to the next command point. Your opponents can be foolish at times as well, so it’s not overly difficult to remain hidden even if you only use the most rudimentary stealth maneuvers. At times they will show a basic understanding of their surroundings, allowing them to take cover and attempt to flank you. To help balance things out a bit, your teammates aren’t always willing to engage in combat, especially when riding in vehicles, so you shouldn’t expect too much help from your allies either.

While the single player campaign offers a few thrills occasionally, the true heart of this game is online. With support for twice as many players as the previous SOCOM titles, the multiplayer chaos was destined to be better than ever. Veteran gamers will remember the returning online game modes, such as Breach, Demolition, Suppression, Escort, and Extraction. Two new modes, entitled Control and Convoy, are available as well. In Control, two teams will race to place beacons across the map at specific locations, and once a beacon is placed it can’t be taken away. The action here is fast-paced right from the start, so you won’t have much time to slack off and familiarize yourself with the area. In Convoy, the terrorists will attempt to smuggle goods through a series of SEAL blockades. If all of the trucks are destroyed or if all of the terrorists die then the SEALs win, but if even one truck makes it through then the terrorists are victorious. Like always, the multiplayer experience can be very rewarding, especially if you develop a strong bond between your teammates; a large part of why the SOCOM series is great online. Aside from the occasional laggy server and the dreaded whiny teammate who complains endlessly over the microphone (thank God for the mute feature), the SOCOM online community is going to be around for a long time.

Considering the advanced technical improvements implemented in SOCOM 3, the game doesn’t look that bad. To help support the vast environments, the view distance has been increased to allow snipers to clearly distinguish targets from miles away. The textures look a little towards the muddy side if you scrutinize every little object, but as a whole the levels are up to par by today’s standards. From the cramped battlefield of an inner city to deserts filled with gusts of sand, each map has its own distinct feel. As always, the character models resemble actual SEALs down to the very last splotch of camouflage, and the weapons are also highly detailed. Likewise, the sound effects ring true to their real life counterparts, ranging from the quick bursts of an M16 to the heavy explosions of an RPG. The soundtrack consists of dramatic instrumental songs, which is pretty much what you would expect from any game in this genre. The overall presentation of SOCOM 3is more than satisfactory considering how great the gameplay is, but there still is room for improvement here.

In conclusion, SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs is definitely worth a purchase for any shooter fan. Improving on this venerable franchise with bigger environments, controllable vehicles, and a revamped online mode, newcomers and veterans to the series will both be able to appreciate the new features. Aside from the computer A.I. being dimwitted at times and the occasional repetitive mission objective, SOCOM 3is a commendable game on both single-player and multiplayer levels.