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Game Over Online ~ SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs

GameOver Game Reviews - SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs (c) Sony Computer Entertainment, Reviewed by - Jeff 'Linkphreak' Haynes

Game & Publisher SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs (c) Sony Computer Entertainment
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 85%
Date Published Tuesday, November 18th, 2003 at 09:23 PM

Divider Left By: Jeff 'Linkphreak' Haynes Divider Right

When Sony was looking to get into the online gaming arena, they needed an incredible title to make their network adapters fly off the shelves. Luckily, their goal was reached with Zipper Interactive’s SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals, an impressive covert ops title. In the single player mode, players were cast as the leader of a highly skilled cadre of four SEALs; you took on a number of missions around the world, clandestinely foiling the aspirations of groups threatening America’s national security. Much deeper and more engaging, however, was the online play across a number of maps. Unfortunately, thanks to the large number of people using cheat codes for multiplayer, much of the fun was sucked out of this game. Well, Zipper Interactive’s sequel: SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals, seeks to solve this and other problems while redefining the squad-based stealth genre.

Just like the first title, it’s much easier to examine SOCOM II in two different parts: the multiplayer component and the single player campaign. Like I said earlier, one of the greatest problems that the previous title had been a large number of cheaters logging on and exploiting the various loopholes and flaws in the code. Thankfully, Zipper has addressed most, if not all of the ones from the first game. No longer will you find invisible campers or soldiers that can phase in and out of walls. Now the game is as it was meant to be played across a grand total of 22 maps. That’s right, the original 10 maps have been included, but have gotten a facelift, with larger areas and additional nooks and crannies added. What’s more, players creating games have many more options to control each map, including a rank restriction that ensures that newbies will only be able to play with beginners and the elite will snipe with their own for a challenge. With the 12 new maps, there are two new modes of multiplayer play along with the older Suppression, Demolition and Extraction games.

Escort is a variant on the Extraction mission with a few differences. Instead of the SEAL side striking into the terrorist base and attempting to rescue hostages, Escort begins with the hostages (called VIPs) in the hands of the SEALs, with the terrorist side tasked with eliminating either all of the VIP or SEALs on a level. Similarly, Breach is akin to the Demolition mode, with one major exception. Instead of trying to plant one main explosive to destroy a base, the SEAL team has to break into or “breach” the terrorist fortress through a number of entry points while not getting eliminated. The infiltrators also have to be wary of the new gun turrets scattered throughout each level, which provides both an equalizer and new tactical opportunities for success in a mission.

The single player game has been revamped as well. Again, players will lead their SEALs through twelve missions scattered around the world. Broken up into four chapters of three missions each, your soldiers will see combat in Albania, Brazil, Algeria and Russia against a number of organizations threatening regional political instability, nuclear terrorism and other insidious plots. Commanders assume the role of Specter, one of the members of the original Bravo team in the first title. Along with your partner Jester, you are one half of the new Able team. Kahuna and Boomer from the first title have been retired in favor of newcomers Wardog and Vandal.

However, players won’t merely be restricted to SEAL team members. There will be a certain number of missions where you’ll have to leave half your team behind to take on international Special Forces agents. Fortunately, having this manpower swap also allows your characters access to a larger international armory. SOCOM II features many more weapons than before, including shotguns for close quarters battles and rocket launchers to take out turrets or other major threats. Just as before, players will have the option to change and control their character’s weapon loadout with relative ease before every mission, as well as control your squadmates with the impressive voice recognition feature.

Going out on maneuvers also is noticeably different, thanks to some new changes made to the A.I. and the gameplay. First of all, your squadmates are significantly smarter than they were in their predecessor. While Bravo team or your partner have no problem taking orders, they are smart enough to seek cover or to notice tangos that have entered their field of vision or their weapon’s range of fire. Plus, they’ll act independently to protect themselves and their team, capping an opponent before regrouping if they present a significant threat to the completion of their commands. This increased intelligence can be used to establish even more effective ambushes of guards or destroyed targets. Such freedom can also be used to maneuver Specter into a prime position to eavesdrop onto enemies, which can open up hidden objectives or new goals during a mission.

Unfortunately, while the tweaks made to the single player campaign are improvements to the gameplay, this mode still finds itself overshadowed by the multiplayer mode significantly. First of all, while every mission has a different objective based upon the region they’re in, they still boil down to: sneak to this point, shoot this guy, repeat. Players don’t have to undertake or worry about failing any hidden objectives because it really doesn’t affect the rewards at the end of a game. In fact, simply completing the game on a successive difficulty level unlocks the same rewards no matter how poorly you do throughout the game. Secondly, the stealth that your SEALs have can be overpowering at times, since an accurate player can inch forward slowly a few feet at a time, snipe an opponent, and repeat throughout an entire level. This doesn’t really add a significant sense of drama; in fact, it can make the mission rather tame. However, the last, and perhaps most damaging problem with SOCOM II is the fact that there are no checkpoints within a mission at all, meaning that if you make even the slightest mistake and fail a critical objective, you’ve got to start all over again. To sum it up quickly, this just blows.

Fortunately, the game has received a boost in its character models and its animation, making both the terrorists and SEALs appear much more realistic. For example, watching Specter move through the different movements, such as crouching, lying prone and diving for cover is incredibly lifelike. Much more attention has been paid to the environment as well, making items like cover and foliage much more important than ever before. As you more or crawl through the brush, the grass will actually move with you, making it more dynamic based upon the positioning of your soldier’s body. Even better, the amount of light effects are improved, making it entirely possible to descend upon an enemy out of the shadows or accidentally blind yourself with a flashbang.

Sound within the first SOCOM was well done, so it’s great to see that the effects have been augmented for the sequel. Now, if you pay enough attention to your weaponry, and you stumble into a gunfight, you’ll be able to detect what kind of firearm was fired at your team simply by its report. Similarly, the amount of noise that you make based on the surface your boots cross seems to be more realistic, so you’ll hear the difference between crunchy gravel and echoing stone. The cinematic soundtrack is nicely controlled, swelling only during dramatic moments or intense battles, allowing you to concentrate much more on the mission at hand.

Of special note are the voices and voice recognition present throughout the game. Enemies speak in their native tongues, which boosts the ambiance significantly. Your teammates are rather vocal as well, remarking on eliminated enemies or responding to your commands with a ”copy that.” The voice recognition system, which sometimes had difficulty understanding orders in the first SOCOM title, no longer has problems grasping a player’s accents or other vocal mannerisms. This can be further aided with one of the newer USB headsets. I’d recommend checking out Logitech’s latest USB headset, which seems to pick up sound better than Sony’s original mic and is much lighter as well. The headsets also broadcast background sounds or briefings cleanly, making you feel as though you’re truly commanding a squad of commandos. However, if you don’t have a headset or your one from the previous SOCOM broke, you’re going to find a substantial part of your experience impaired as you play this game.

Simply put, if you were a fan of the first SOCOM at all, you’ll probably want to pick up SOCOM II, simply because the features you probably fell in love with have been improved in the sequel. The multiplayer is easily the best facet of the game, and is much better than it ever was. However, some of the problems with the still-weak single player missions limit this game from truly being great.

Note: Our review was aided by BradyGames’ SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs strategy guide, which provides maps for all single and multiplayer levels, detailed walkthroughs for each of the 12 single-player missions, complete weapon and equipment lists, winning online strategies and much more!


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