SOCOM Special Forces is a great game. Placing you in control of a growing squad of soldiers, you take control of Cullen Gray (Ops Commander), who – depending on the region you bought the game from – will adopt an American, English or Australian tongue. Accompanying you on your merry jaunt are two additional teams of two soldiers: Schweitzer and Wells, and two South Korean operatives: Forty-Five and Chung. Forty-Five is the only other playable character throughout the game, which takes place in the form of Sam Fisher-esque stealth insurgencies and recon ops.
Set in Malaysia, the guys and girls at Zipper Interactive have taken full advantage of what the PS3 has to offer this time around, and delivered a series of environments that progressively get more and more beautiful as the game goes on, reflecting the huge contrast of the country itself. From working docks at night to tropical forests and island bases at sunset, the environments themselves rival anything that Naughty Dog has managed to create thus far with the Unchartered series.
As cover based shooters go, the control mechanics for SOCOM are impressive given the options and attachments available, however trying to play with the Move controller on anything above normal is cripplingly painful.
Unfortunately, having not played the previous titles in the series, which do flow into this iteration, I was left slightly underwhelmed by the plot. However, the set pieces, tactical options and pacing was more than enough to look forward to in-between some of the most wooden acting in a cut-scene of this generation.
The special forces team are essentially pounding through wave after wave of Naga and Claw Hammer troops who have taken it upon themselves to flatten the NATO forces that have been sent to keep the peace.
With pretty much the entire airforce at your disposal and some awesome weapon/tactical combinations you and your team can wage your way through this war however you choose.
Unlike many of the modern shooters available SOCOM’s AI is very good, and your squad’s is also on par. So much so, that if you were inclined to, you could sail through many of the missions without killing any enemies yourself. This is a nice touch by Zipper but don’t be fooled, you will need to keep your wits about you, especially on any difficulty above normal. For hard and above it becomes essential that you use your team in order to complete nearly all the missions, as the enemy becomes relentless, and deadly accurate, cornering you at every opportunity if you decide to fly ahead on your own.
The campaign will take approximately 8-10 hours to complete, and there are some neat trophies that can give you reason to revisit, but where I have spent the most time has been with the online component of Special Forces. Sporting 8 game modes: Last Defence, Uplink, Suppression, Bomb Squad, SCRUM, Sniper Alley, Last Defence Run ‘N’ Gun & Community Day Classic; and 3 game types (Standard, Classic & Custom; there really is something here for everyone, and with 32 player support, some of these games become huge battles.
The usual suspects are here with ranking systems that provide unlocks for new attachments to each gun as you use them more and more, as well as new character skins that may be selected before battle.
As with the single player campaign, the multiplayer maps are extremely well presented and balanced, tight choke points are interspersed with open areas that only the stupid and the brave dash through. Taking a team of 16 to war over a demolished highway flanked by half standing office blocks, or storming an ancient ruin buried deep within a tropical rain forest makes never grows tired, and if you’re playing with a team then this gets even better.
One of the best modes available in Special Forces is the ability to create your own levels based on pre-existing maps, with targets and way-points that you set. Grab a few of your friends, or some AI controlled buddies and tear through to your heart’s content, tweaking elements here and there before sharing with the world. This helps greatly to extend the single player portion of the game, and works surprisingly well. But given the choice, the competitive multiplayer is truly where it’s at.
The only issues that I had with SOCOM were with my flawed use of the Move and Sharpshooter controllers (dualshock is so much easier!), insubstantial story and the kick system for online play. Too many times an over enthusiastic team-mate would rush a room shortly after the grenade had left your hand and kill himself, resulting in a school yard vote-to-kick system which is spammed to every player demanding a vote, usually resulting in your removal.
Would I recommend this to 3rd person action fans? Hell yes. It’s probably the closest you will get to Gears of War for the Playstation 3. Will I pick up and play the past titles in the series? Nope! But online: SOCOM is brilliant and will keep you happy for hours.