GSY REVIEW | PS3 Friday, April 22, 2011 | 1:05 AM

GSY Review: SOCOM Special Forces

GSY Review: SOCOM Special Forces

It's April already and little by little the trees see the return of their leaves and nature is getting all dressed up to be ready for the summer. What better occasion then to put on our camouflage outfit for the full review of SOCOM : Special Forces, the new episode of Sony's tactical franchise. Armed with our faithful Dualshock 3 and the Playstation Move, we went through the single player campaign and brought you back our detailed impressions of the game.
Update: The review is back to celebrate the game's release this week.





No heroics, it's all about the team

When the first SOCOM was released on Playstation 2 back in 2002, it featured a whole tactical dimension that was quite unusual for a "mere" console game. On the menu at the time: killing terrorists, rescuing hostages, retrieving intelligence, or destroying terrorist bases. The recipe has not changed much since then, except for the fact that the game has been designed for a wider audience today. The reason I say that is, now it is not compulsory to use your squad to complete the single player campaign. Don't get me wrong, it is of course still possible to give orders and assign different tasks but the list of commands is not that big actually. You can tell your men to reach a designated location, to fire at will or at your command and that's about it. In normal mode, you won't even need to order them around to succeed, even though their nice shooting skills can help you make your life easier on the battlefield.

Thankfully, the AI will not drive you crazy if you let them do as they like. True, sometimes they will stand in your way when shooting at a target, but overall, you won't have to yell at them and order them to retreat because of their kamikaze behavior. Should one of your squad members fall, you still have the possibility to revive him so he is back in business in no time. What is really missing though, is a real cinematographic treatment of the personality of your allies so you feel more connected to them. Park, the only woman in your team, is probably the sole exception. Indeed, aside from OpsCom the hero, she will unfortunately be the only character worth remembering. It may be due to her lovely face (I don't know why but she reminds me a lot of Grace Park that you should know from Battlestar Galactica or Hawai Five O), but it is still a shame the other squad members have not been treated on an equal footing.



45 aka Samantha Fisher

Now look at that, my last comment in the previous paragraph is the perfect transition to talk about some very specific missions involving the only female character of the game (well, minus the voice of the liaison officer that is). Park (codename 45) is indeed very gifted when it comes to infiltrating enemy territory and a few levels are dedicated to stealth gameplay only. You will be in control of the young Korean woman while OpsCom will guide you through the mission step by step. These sequences offer a nice break from the shooting gameplay as it is really complicated to stay under the radar in the other levels. The stealth missions are of course very straightforward as you are always told what to do and where to go, but after all it makes sense. One can't expect a real Special Forces soldier to operate like Snake or Sam Fisher and just do what they want.

Silent kills are obviously part of the core gameplay mechanics here and they are quite sadistic at times I must say. You can also throw shell casings to create diversion and give yourself time to slip through unnoticed. If you have no other choice, your sniper rifle may also be useful but beware of the guards as they will be on the lookout for any suspicious situation (I even suspect some of them to have some sorts of psychic powers). A stealth meter indicates whether or not you can be seen and if you have to move back to the shadows quickly for the sake of the mission. Overall, I really enjoyed playing such levels, not because they are really challenging (because they are not), but because it reminded me a bit of the old days, back when Sam Fisher showed us what it meant to be invisible.



SOCOM Advanced Warfighter

But SOCOM Special Forces is not stingy in the action department either, and I can guarantee you that by the end of the single player campaign, you will have shot at a whole lot of enemies. There are times when you have to face impressive waves of soldiers, making you feel that you are in the heart of war and chaos. Whether you have to lay siege, cover one of your men while he's trying to recover intelligence or get to the extract point before the end of a fatal countdown, you must use the cover system if you want to stay alive long enough to see the end of the game. Lead exposition can indeed be quite lethal to Ops Com and he will not take a lot of bullets before dying, even in normal mode.

Thankfully, the arsenal you are given is both effective and exhaustive. After each briefing, you are asked to choose your equipment, but you can of course switch weapons during missions if you find one that suits your purpose on the battlefield. After all, you never know when you might encounter a pissed off helicopter... Each weapon can be upgraded thanks to the experience you gain by using them. By reaching the next level, you can add new mods like a silencer or a more efficient scope.



Move, move move!

The first SOCOM game included a very special feature at the time as you could use vocal command to control your squad. No such things here but that does not mean Special Forces does not come with a nifty gadgety support since it features Playstation Move controls. It allowed us to try Sony's motion controller in a game not aimed at casual players. Even though I am not used to playing that way, I was surprised to see how precise aiming was. The navigation controller is used for character movement whereas the PS Move is dedicated to aiming, reloading, changing stance, etc.

Once you've gotten a hang of it, it becomes pretty easy to shoot and move around. To see it in action, watch the following video of the first 10 minutes of the game. It was my very first try with the PS Move and as you see, though there is definite room for improvement, I think I'm doing ok. The only downside may be button mapping as they could have done a better job to make it more comfortable. Now it all depends on your personal tastes in terms of playability.



So common?

No need to beat about the bush, the first eye-contact you get with SOCOM Special Forces is not that flattering for a PS3 exclusive, especially when you consider titles like Killzone 3 or Uncharted 2 to name but a few. Not that the game is that bad from a technical standpoint, but there are clearly some aliasing issues, poor textures at times as well as washed-out colors and unimpressive lighting effects. That being said, the game still manages to convey a good atmosphere and to offer a bit of variety in terms of locations. Now you should not expect drastically different landscapes as the story is actually set in Southeast Asia, which obviously implies geographical coherence. Some will probably find the environments to lack a bit of originality (city, jungle, bases, ancients ruins, etc), but in the end you're not there for tourism so... Character models look good, especially their faces as you can see in the game's cutscenes.

As far as framerate is concerned, it is steady as a rock, no matter what happens on screen. Animations are also rather well-executed, so you'll see the characters dash, prone or climb over an obstacle quite naturally. We could have used a slide move to facilitate getting into cover after a long run though. The weapon sounds and explosions are pretty impressive, which gives a lot of intensity to combat and voice acting is also good. You will probably recognize Nolan North's voice in the cast but he does not sound like Drake so it works pretty well. The game's music helps give the game its general pace, with a little Asian touch at times to make it more exotic somehow.



Verdict


SOCOM Special Forces is a lot more generous than its predecessor in terms of content as we are getting both a single player and a multiplayer experience this time around. The single player campaign will not take you more than 7 hours to complete (it took me exactly 6 hours and 28 minutes in normal mode) but multiplayer (with online co-op and four more competitive modes among which team deathmatch or capture the flag) will certainly keep you busy for a while (we would tell you more if we had had a chance to try ourselves). If that's not enough, you can also create your own custom missions, where you can choose the objective type as well as the number of enemies. In some ways, SOCOM Special Forces reminds a bit of the GRAW series (more particularly its multiplayer mechanics), with the will to offer something more movie-like than the previous titles. Too bad the story is so basic and uninteresting as a whole, though it does not mean the game does not have very tense moments, because it does. If players dig multiplayer, then SOCOM will certainly be a lot of fun to play online, but for now, it is a bit too soon to tell.

Team Work
Stealth
Action
The First 10 Minutes (PS Move)
Environments

All comments

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Commented on 2011-04-13 21:22:57
played the multiplayer demo of this earlier today...terrible.

The visuals arent great..but i could live with those. The sounds a complete mess though..it sounds so compressed, theres no real excuse for it.

The game itself just didnt feel "right". The cover system seems abit broke. And maybe i lack the socom skills (this being the first one i've played) but its so hard to aim at players without battling your gun.

Not impressed at all. Oh, and though the demo weighs in at something like 700mb it then locks you into a 1.3gig patch once you try and start it (which you cant download in the background). Sillyness.
Commented on 2011-04-13 21:23:45
7 hour campaign? Rental for me
Commented on 2011-04-13 21:26:45
I played the beta, really enjoyed it, but then again I love 3rd person shooters.
It does have that MAG feeling but in 3rd person and I have no problem with that.

But considering this is a modern military game, I am hesitating it will appeal to me very long, ah well.
Might get it, might not.
Commented on 2011-04-13 21:33:25 In reply to bleachedsmiles
Posted by bleachedsmiles
And maybe i lack the socom skills (this being the first one i've played) but its so hard to aim at players without battling your gun.
no auto aim and actual recoil in socom 4, you shoot what you aim for, if you can't aim straight, you can't get kills. it's hard to get used to, but once you do it's awesome, and massively rewarding. i've heard tons of people saying zipper have COD-ified socom with this game, but it's NOTHING like it, play this game like COD and you get raped. i should know, that's exactly how i tried to play the beta when i first started. play it slow, make your shots count and it's seriously enjoyable. not been into a multiplayer this much since COD4.

the single player sounds a bit disappointing tho, no so much it's length (few games are that long these days) but in terms of missions and story. not sure whether to buy it purely based on how much i enjoy the multiplayer, or whether to rent it now and then pick it up later (commuinity could be dead by then?)

i'm sure i'll decide before release.
Commented on 2011-04-13 21:58:48
This seems to be getting poor reviews across the board, seems Socom die hards have all but gave up on the series.
Commented on 2011-04-13 21:59:12
I agree with Korndog on this one, but knowing Zipper and what they did with MAG I am sure they will release alot of patches for MP to fix some certain stuff to the community service.

I for one want the to make the aiming smoother and faster, the aiming is what annoys the hell out of me, its stiff between moving and stopping the crosshair.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the beta, and its nothing like COD, it doesnt rely on killstreaks.
Hell, if you get a certain about a kills you get a one time airstrike and then its not easy like CoD were you can use it whenever and on map.
You have to use it before you die or else it will be gone forever and you have to start killing again. And when using it, you have to aim on the level and not on some map (i hate this part).

This is the music for the game http://www.gametrailers.com/video/the-music-socom-... I love the main theme in the beta and the Spec Ops side match when the round begins (reminds me of Green Zone OST).

I for one look forward to the campaign, short or not, looks nice.
Commented on 2011-04-13 22:57:12
Did they change the voice on the main character? First he was american, now he is british.
Commented on 2011-04-13 23:01:06 In reply to Logion
Posted by Logion
...now he is british.
LMAO. if you say so...hahaha

EDIT : socom games tend to offer small changes between region. play in the UK, you get the SAS as your support squad, play in the US you get the navy seals. maybe they have regional differences with the voice acting too?
Commented on 2011-04-14 01:17:44
I liked the Demo but thought the guy's figure got in the way of what i was approaching most of the time. Basically my depth of field was limited.
Commented on 2011-04-14 02:27:34
so dull
Commented on 2011-04-14 07:51:23
Posted by newbielives
Going to buy this because I LOVE GHOST RECON ADVANCE WAR FIGHTER
Been itching to play something like GRAW again after beating it on hard mode without headsup display
Commented on 2011-04-14 08:50:54 In reply to aphex187
Posted by aphex187
I liked the Demo but thought the guy's figure got in the way of what i was approaching most of the time. Basically my depth of field was limited.
They patched it!
The default camera is further away now from your character, but when you sprint it goes close which they should fix.

I agree with Newbielives, I loved GRAW and I have been wanting a 3rd person modern military (GRAW was a bit high tech which i like) since then!
The first thing that came to mind was Ghost Recon 2 and GRAW when I played Socom 4 beta, great stuff IMO.
Commented on 2011-04-14 10:48:49
I really enjoyed the multiplayer beta. Was hoping this would be an amazing game but the reviews seem to poo poo over some of it. But then again, these reviews are only opinions.
Commented on 2011-04-14 17:23:55
I would buy this if it were a PSN title, I hate switching discs for these mutliplayer games on PS3...Uncharted 2 multi: change disc, KZ2 multi: change disc again and again bleh

Steam < 3
Commented on 2011-04-14 23:34:35
I am getting this game but not right now. Don't know why people hate it.
Commented on 2011-04-15 00:02:52
man, i thought the aussie voice in this footage was bad, check out the british voice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v3Kz5I4y4A&feature=player_embedded#at=156

that better not be how the guy sounds? i'll be pissed off, he sounds ridiculous.
Commented on 2011-04-15 01:16:03
Its decent to bad sometimes, mixed.
But I dont get it, if english is english why not have the original american? why bother going british when its the same language.

The EU copy better be american.
Commented on 2011-04-15 01:31:10 In reply to Sath
Posted by Sath
Its decent to bad sometimes, mixed.
But I dont get it, if english is english why not have the original american? why bother going british when its the same language.

The EU copy better be american.
well we've heard Aussie, yank, and British.

anyone able to tell us which version was played for the footage recorded here (first 10 minutes with MOVE)

i pray to god i don't have to listen to that English idiot just because I'm based in the UK. he sounds like a stereotypical old pilot..chocks away, tally ho old chap...pip pip.
Commented on 2011-04-15 01:39:36
I hope the swedish copy is american, original VA ftw.
Commented on 2011-04-15 01:50:51 In reply to JDmilli91
Posted by JDmilli91
7 hour campaign? Rental for me
Wow what an intelligent remark, you are aware this is the first SOCOM with a focused Single Player Campaign that is not recycled MP maps right?

Somehow I sense that if Bungie or Activision had made the exact same game pixel per pixel but called it Halo or CoD it would get greatest game evar.
Posted by Doom_Bringer
I would buy this if it were a PSN title, I hate switching discs for these mutliplayer games on PS3...Uncharted 2 multi: change disc, KZ2 multi: change disc again and again bleh

Steam < 3
You have and endless supply of SPACE in your HDD? thats why the Disc medium is still very practical and relevant and why Blu Ray makes so much sense and why HD-DVD would have been ideal if Microsoft had bothered to base their console around it.
Commented on 2011-04-22 01:47:25
I don't like the way that the others characters moves , it seems that they're floating instead of walking , like if they were weightless! A lot of new games has this issues too , like Operation Flashpoint:Red River. Is it so hard to fix that?! I was looking for this game, now i think i'll pass it!
Commented on 2011-04-22 02:41:30 In reply to bleachedsmiles
Posted by bleachedsmiles
played the multiplayer demo of this earlier today...terrible.

The visuals arent great..but i could live with those. The sounds a complete mess though..it sounds so compressed, theres no real excuse for it.

The game itself just didnt feel "right". The cover system seems abit broke. And maybe i lack the socom skills (this being the first one i've played) but its so hard to aim at players without battling your gun.

Not impressed at all. Oh, and though the demo weighs in at something like 700mb it then locks you into a 1.3gig patch once you try and start it (which you cant download in the background). Sillyness.
So in other words you are just telling us how you could not perform all of your godly Call of Duty skills huh?
Commented on 2011-04-22 10:16:02 In reply to Akumajo
@Akumajo

so just because of focused single player maps my comment is unintelligent? i dont see the point in paying full price for a game im gonna beat in 2 days and im not really interested in multiplayer so no point at all for me to buy it, like i said before 7 hours campaign? Rental for me
Commented on 2011-04-22 22:03:15
rental for you, good for you, no soup for jooo. really I hope I can back track to all of the Call of Duty releases since modern warfare and I hope I can find you complaining about the barely 5 hour single player campaign.
Socom has ALWAYS been an online multiplayer game ever since the first one on PlayStation 2, that means NO single player ever, UNTIL now. to translate again it means that the meat of the game is in online mode so the single player is a bonus this time for this series and as gamers who know this we cannot really hope to expect much specially these days when game reviewers have been crapping on any game dev that makes offline single player games and in effect scaring people away from buying such games.
So for you to cry about it being 7 hours average on normal mode is a bit much when this has been the average in this current gen, it also makes you sound very missinformed or lacking in intel as hardcore gamers will be playing in the hardest modes to get the intended enjoyment, normal is for wimps and cowards.
The main selling point of Socom 4 is that the $150 bundle gets you the game, the sharp shooter, PS move and PS EYE. so that makes this game a must buy as there are other games that can use those options if you feel like using them.

Also as to why I mention Call of Duty, that series has been the ridiculous seller that other game devs avoid releasing their games next to, as a matter of fact last months NPD stats showed that CoDBlops outsold the most overhyped Crysis 2 launch in March and thats crazy because CoDblops is last years game and despite major flaws Crysis 2 tries to push the tech and single player length while CoD devs despite making so many uncountable millions don't seem to bother making longer SP modes yet again customer sales keep increasing.
Commented on 2011-04-23 01:08:31 In reply to Doom_Bringer
Posted by Doom_Bringer
I would buy this if it were a PSN title, I hate switching discs for these mutliplayer games on PS3...Uncharted 2 multi: change disc, KZ2 multi: change disc again and again bleh

Steam < 3
Guess you don't really have a PS3? I have played both games and they fit on a single disc each. Its called Blu Ray - you may have heard of it!
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About the game


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