SOCOM Combined Assault Review

Reviewing the latest SOCOM game has become as much of a holiday tradition for me as decorating the tree. SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault is the fourth iteration of the SOCOM series in as many years and once again tops the list of Sonyís holiday releases for the PS2. So pass around the eggnog and letís have a look at whatís inside this yearís package.

The single Ėlayer campaign takes place within the fictional country of Adjikistan. A fledgling democracy is under assault by an insurgency with their hands in just about every dirty business you can think of from kidnapping to drug trafficking. The best way to deal with this type of insurgency is to put them out of business, permanently. Thatís where the Navy SEALs come in, and youíll lead your squad of four Special Forces operatives in a variety of missions throughout the diverse landscapes of Adjikistan. There are 18 missions in all, each of which has a set of primary goals that you must accomplish to succeed and secondary goals which give you additional mission points and unlock some new gear if completed. At certain points in the campaign the game will give you a choice as to your next mission, but you must still complete them all to complete the campaign. The mission choices donít really create a branching storyline, but youíll appreciate this feature if you get stuck in one mission and want a change of pace before tackling it again.

Before going into a mission youíll be able to select your weapon loadout from a variety of weapons and equipment. If youíd rather not go through the process of equipping your team, the game does a good job of picking a default loadout for you. Once in the missions youíre free to pursue your objectives as youíd see fit, but the maps are pretty much all designed to funnel your team from one objective to the next so the feeling of freedom is more of an illusion than anything else. The gameplay requires you to take a methodical approach towards taking out the enemy. Youíll need to try to see the enemy first and then work your way into a firing position that allows you to take out the enemy from a distance before they know what hit them. A run and gun approach is not advised as it only takes a couple of hits to kill you and it works out a lot better for you if the enemy never sees you in the first place. The gameplay is enjoyable enough, but it is pretty similar to that found in prior SOCOM games to a fault, mainly in that the enemy AI leaves a lot to be desired. You donít notice its deficiencies as much when youíre taking out enemies from a distance, but when the fighting gets a little more personal the problems become more than obvious. Enemies donít use cover well at all, often choosing to simply run right at you across open ground. There are also times when an enemy wonít even react to being shot, deciding to remain standing in the open in your line of sight. At other times you can kill an enemy while his buddy stands next to him oblivious to the danger his fallen comrade represents. The lack of good enemy AI makes the single player game a cakewalk for veteran shooter players. The biggest danger youíll face is from certain enemies the game places in some of the maps that seem to know exactly when you are coming and that are blessed with deadly accurate aim. When you encounter these enemies youíll feel more like you were set-up by the game then you were actually caught with your guard down.