Category: 3rd Person: Action
2-32 Players (Online Only)
HDD Space Required: 3.1 GB
Supported HD Output: 720p/1080i/1080p
DualShock 3 Compatible
On a fateful day in November 2001 I made the conscious decision to support Microsoft and their fledgling new console, the Xbox. And from that day on, I sat there in my MS fanboy underwear chanting “go MS, go!!” When SOCOM (short for United States Special Operations Command) first premiered on the PS2 in August of 2002 it brought a new type of third person shooter to the scene. It was a tactical team based experience that was definitely not run and gun. It was also the first game on PS2 to utilize the internet adapter and allowed team speech thru a USB headset too. The SOCOM series found a home on the PS2 releasing up to three other versions on Sony's console. As I woefully watched Playstation owners playing SOCOM, I wondered how good it really would be to be to play that game.
Flash forward to the present, a time when I am no longer a one console fanboy. I truly have the means to enjoy all the consoles of this generation and all the available games. This is a feat that wasn’t available to your trusty reviewer back in 2001. So when I heard that SOCOM was finally coming to the PS3 and making its first next generation appearance, well I was giddier then a school girl on prom night. Not only was I now able to play SOCOM: Confrontation, Sony was throwing in an official PS3 headset. Now that’s a steal for $59.99 Canadian.
SOCOM: Confrontation’s graphics won’t blow you away. I am not saying that they are bad, but I know there are better looking games out there. However, that being said the environments that the gameplay takes place in are not vibrant or colorful places to begin with. The thing that I first noticed about the available levels were the size and how well thought out they were. Even the smaller maps would make some other game's large maps look miniscule. There are lots of places to go in each level and many will find that they will want to explore as much as they can.
As this is a third person shooter you view about three-quarters of your soldier, and I have to say that the character model looks amazing. Sure, there are some issues like that of his hand holding the shaft of the gun which appears to hold onto mid air, regardless the character looks pretty darn good. I even noticed how bullet trails from enemy shooters shows up excellently and even gives you an indication where the shots are coming from. I was a tad bit disappointed with the grenade explosions as they aren’t as impressive as other games like Call of Duty or Battlefield: Bad Company. I have yet to play a round where someone has used a smoke grenade on me, so I cannot comment on the smoke effects.
Technically speaking the game runs in 720p. I know the game case says up to 1080p, but for the life of my display said 720p. Maybe I was missing something, but it just said 720p. I am not sure why this is the case but even in 720p everything is crystal clear and solid. While playing I did notice some hiccups with the framerate, however I believe that this could be due to internet coding and not the graphics engine itself. Regardless there is no way of verifying this as SOCOM is an online only game. During my online battles I have not seen any clipping or screen tearing during my time with it, but in the thick of battle you won’t be looking for anything like this anyhow as you will be focused on killing the enemy.
I do know that I have heard of some complaints as I come across random public players in various lobbies. Such complaints as shadows from the 2nd floor showing up on the 1st floor of a building, or the laser sight of a gun showing thru building walls and rock walls are just a couple of them. Regardless of these player complaints, the graphics are solid, just not groundbreaking.
As this is an online game only, there is no soundtrack and there is no voice acting. That aside, the ambient sounds are amazing. The game is THX certified and the 5.1 surround sound is really first-rate. For example, you can hear exactly where the sound of gun fire is coming from. This is very important when playing a large map. When you are in the thick of battle, all you hear is bullets whizzing past you, the odd explosion going off, and of course enemies dying.
There is a proximity chat component to the game and this makes SOCOM very interesting as you can hear the opposing team sneak up on you if they are not communicating via the headset properly. To communicate properly you have to press the left trigger allowing only your team hear you. The sound thru the new PS3 Bluetooth headset is amazingly clear, and on those occasions when your teammate is requesting back up under fire, you can even hear the bullet sounds thru the headset.
As mentioned before this game is online, so with that in mind you will not have to deal with any annoying AI. The only annoying things you will face is a non-communicating team member. As this is a squad based game it works best when team members communicate. So unless you play regularly with a group of friends keep your fingers crossed that you will come into a room with people who want to communicate and not just go out on their own.
The gameplay is quite smooth although it does have the aforementioned occasional hiccup in the framerate. The basics of the gameplay are that Navy Seals are battling Mercenaries, so there is nothing complicated here. The game modes that are currently available are suppression, elimination, demolition, breach, escort, extraction, and control. All of these are pretty self explanatory, especially to those that are die-hard first or third person shooter fans out there.
The controls are pretty decent, and can be altered to suit your personal style. The standard FPS control scheme works very well in the game. For example, to zoom in you press up on the d-pad, and on your second or third up press your scope will show up. If you are lucky enough to get a close range kill simply walk over to your defeated opponent, press X and your character will do a victory dance (one of my favorite actions).
Now here comes the bad stuff. The menu system is somewhat flawed. When you manage to enter the “briefing room” where you start looking for a room to play in, you are presented with “area servers” (e.g. Canada East 1, Canada West 2, US Central 10, Clan Rooms, etc.). Each area server has 256 slots available for players and all the top servers are displayed at the very top of the page. It can take some time to find a server that has available space for you to enter, especially during peak times. Once you’ve decided on your server, you are presented with all the open games that are available. The menu doesn’t do a proper refresh though and sometimes you will find that getting into the game you want is an exercise in futility, as the “room is full” message pops up even though that room seems to have 10 slots available.
Friend invites are even more frustrating. If you get a friend invite you first have to go to your clan page. Once there you need to find the appropriate “read message” icon to press then you get to see who sent you the message. Once you read the message it invites you to press the “accept invite” button. The frustrating part here is that by accepting the invite it doesn’t automatically take you to your friend's game room. Instead you have to back up a few menus, go to the “briefing room”, press “join game” and then view all the area servers where you have to guess which one your friend is in. Luckily when I have played with friends we knew ahead of time which “area server” we would be playing in. These complaints about the menu interface can easily be corrected with a proper patch in due time.
For a FPS or Third Person Shooter veteran the learning curve is minimal, but for a newbie I think that it will be somewhat steep. And I have to say that during my time with the game I found that those newbies are very easy to spot and kill. SOCOM will take time to master, but in many ways this should be expected as games that require skill and teamwork have to be learned, especially by those not familiar with the style.
On a final note, when you first go to play the game you will find that you have to do an install onto your HDD. Once you install the game onto your HDD you will then have to download a game update. For some this may seem confusing, but for others this is a much needed solution to an early problem. When SOCOM: Confrontation launched on October 16th a substantial number of gamers experienced a lot of issues when attempting to log into the servers. Many complained that this was a broken game and that Sony and Slant Six Games should not have released it in this state. I have to admit that I was one of these people. But two days after the release Slant Six Games provided the aforementioned update for owners to upload, and they seemed to have done a lot of work on their end to ensure server stability. Since that time a lot of these issues have disappeared and the game is much more playable.
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