SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3ESRB:
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Developer: Slant Six Games
Memory Stick Duo - 640 KB
PSP Headset Compatible
Wi-Fi Compatible (Ad-Hoc) (co-op 2-4 players, competitive 2-16 players)
Wi-Fi Compatible (Infrastructure) ( co-op 2-4 players, competitive 2-16 players)
I have to be honest and say that my PSP does not see nearly as much playtime as I envisioned when I bought my first one in March 2005 during launch day. Back then I was amazed by the technology and what it had to offer with the introduction of the new UMD format. Well since then a lot of games have been released for the system, including Sony’s venerable SOCOM series. Interestingly enough, we are now on the third chapter called SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3. Sony seems to have stepped it up with this latest release offering not only single player support, but also cooperative and competitive modes that can be played locally or online. So how does this latest game fare?
Visually Fireteam Bravo 3 is not a bad game. Level design is well implemented with each one being large and different from each other. You will explore narrow streets, numerous buildings, and some great Soviet themed areas. I was somewhat surprised by how diverse the visuals were for each level. Given that the PSP is comparable to a portable PS2 I had some expectations that this 'play-it-on-the-go' game would be technically solid in the graphics area and I wasn't disappointed. The framerate is pretty solid and there are some pretty good use of lighting, shadowing and special effects (e.g. blowing stuff up). Characters animate pretty well and look fairly solid in each level you traverse too. If I have any complaint it is that the game is not that bright and vibrant on the PSP's LCD screen as it could be, but I think that this was more of a creative decision and not a limitation of the game's graphic engine given that that the story does take place in the Soviet Union which is traditionally depicted as a drab and dark place. Overall people should be happy with the game's visuals.
The audio is another strong point for this title. Of course you are playing on a portable system, so one should keep expectations realistic. That being said, the sounds in Fireteam Bravo 3 do help make for a better game. Weapons sound good, the music adds to atmosphere, and the voiceovers found throughout are solid. As seems to be the way with any portable gaming system, this game should be listened to through a set of headphones to add a sense of depth to the sound. Don't get me wrong though, the game sounds ok through the PSP's small speakers, but you can never beat a set of headphones for playing any game on the go.
Anyone who has read any of my reviews knows that I am not one to ruin a story. For Fireteam Bravo 3 the most that I will tell you is that you are Wraith, a SEAL squad leader who takes three of his best trained men to the fictional city of Koratvia for a black-ops mission to investigate a terrorist threat and missing operative(s). The story is typical fare, and even though it starts off with one hell of a good looking cutscene, you'll most likely find that it doesn't grip you as much as it should. I found that as I played through the games eight campaign missions I was not 'attached' or invested to the goings on in the narrative. That being said, at least there is a semblance of a story to be had and there is something to help weave the tale that unfolds in front of you.
Fireteam Bravo 3's missions are relatively straightforward. You'll find that most of them require you to go from point 'A' to point 'B' killing terrorists that you come across. There are secondary objectives, separate of your main mission, that you can complete as well. These seem to take on a more recon feel
as you search all areas of the level, look for various pieces of intelligence, or take out specific targets. I found it nice that I had a bit more then the main missions to do , but they were not necessary to continue on with the game.
Controlling both your own actions, and the actions of your squad, is pretty intuitive. The analog nub moves your character around while pressing on the right trigger locks on and pressing on your left trigger lets you strafe. Of course the all important X button is to shoot. As for controlling your squad, you only need to hold the Circle button to bring up a menu, and you then offer up your orders. You can also tap the Circle button as you point your reticule and your AI squad will go in that direction. All of this is pretty easy to learn, but along with the good does come some bad. I found that as I played it took a bit more time than I thought to become proficient at killing enemies given that it is tough to shoot on the run. It was something I could adjust too, but in some ways I think some people may get frustrated by this. All in all the latter is not a deal breaker, just something I think that should be noted.
What makes this game somewhat enjoyable is that it does not lock you into a run-and-gun role where you just mindlessly shoot up the bad guys. You control your squad and try to make some tactical decisions along your way to effectively kill off the enemy and comple your mission objective. You can have your squad run in like a mad bull and just go crazy with weapons blazing, or you can take the more stealthy approach and pick off each guard one at a time as you advance throughout the level. It is really your choice on how you tackle each mission, and that can be fun.
If there is one major complaint for me in the single player campaign it is that the default setting can seem a tad too easy. This is due to two major reasons. The first is that if you play like a normal gamer, and be cautious in your approach (e.g. ducking behind cover and avoid enemy fire) then you will find you can get through the game quite easily. That being the case, what I found the biggest factor here, and is the second reason for the game being a bit on the easy side, is the ability for your the other members of your squad to do a lot of the dirty work for you. They seem to be almost indestructible as they enter and clear various rooms and areas in the game. Don't get me wrong, they can be mortally wounded, but still they manage to take an incredible amount of damage and can easily be the 'grunts' for your adventure. The more I think about it, the more strange it seems that they do appear to be superhuman. You can order them to hold position though, so if they seem to be too good at what they do, keep them from the fray. You can also turn up the difficulty level to make it a little more challenging too.
Another neat aspect of the game, and something that actually gives it more legs, is the ability to earn points that you can put towards multiplayer costume parts as well as a bevy of weapons and weapon add-ons. The latter can come in the form of new scopes, grips, and new sub-weapons (e.g. under-barrel shotgun). You earn these points by completing the campaign missions, as well as the secondary missions/objectives. You can also set up custom missions to earn points. Here you set up various rules for missions that you have already completed (e.g. higher difficulty, more enemies, different weapons for enemy) and the harder you make it, the more you are rewarded. So along with just finishing the game's campaign as is, you can go back and play more in order to get more points to purchase more in-game stuff.
So what else is there for Fireteam Bravo 3? Well, there is a fully fleshed out multiplayer mode, both cooperative (2-4 players) and adversarial (2-16) that can be played either locally (Ad Hoc) or online (Infrastructure). I have to admit that I didn't play any local games given as I did not know anyone else with the game. I did have a chance to go online a few times though, so most of my experiences were over the world wide web. Cooperative play is pretty cool as you and up three other players can attack each of the game's eight campaign missions. I have always been a big fan of cooperative online on home consoles, so this mode is definitely welcome on a PSP game and plays pretty well. Of course Fireteam Bravo 3 also offers up a 16 player cooperative adversarial mode. The adversarial modes available are recognizable to anyone with knowledge of other first or third person shooters. There is Free for All (deathmatch), Suppression (team deathmatch), Tug of War (capture and hold flag), Demolition (destroy enemy items or areas), and Leader (keep a team member alive). Each mode is engaging and pretty enjoyable to play. What was pretty amazing to me was how well the adversarial modes played online. I found very little to no lag, even when I was using the PSP headset to chat. Being able to coordinate attacks against opposing teams with my fellow online players was pretty neat and somewhat comparable to playing online on a home console. Of course there is clan support and a ranking system for online play too.
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