SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Review

SOCOM: US Navy SEALs is essentially two games in one.  On the one hand it is a realistic tactical shooter that places you in command of a squad of special forces operatives in a variety of anti-terrorist missions around the globe.  On the other, it is the flagship game of Sony's newly launched online service and offers multiplayer combat on a scale never before seen in a console game.  Sometimes trying to be two things at once can doom a game to mediocrity.  This is not the case with SOCOM, though, which does a pretty darn good job on both sides of the coin.

ScreenshotsThe single player component of the game provides twelve counterterrorism missions in a variety of locations and environments.  You'll travel to claustrophobic oil derricks, jungle rivers and temples in Thailand, and Turkmen mines, to name a few.  The missions also take place in a variety of elements: snow, night missions, thunderstorms, and even some sunny day missions too.

Before entering a mission, you are given access to a comprehensive set of mission briefings.  Each mission has an overview explaining the importance of the mission and a set of objectives to complete.  In addition, you can view a tactical map of the operational area to give you a feel for the location of structures, objectives, and possible infiltration routes.  You can also visit an armory to adjust your weapons load or that of your squad.  This last step is not required as the game will make sure that you have the weapons that you need to complete the mission, but it provides an extra degree of control over the mission should you wish to use it.

The mission objectives are broken down into major and minor ones.  The major objectives must be completed in order to successfully complete the mission, while completing the minor objectives will improve your overall mission rating.  Completing secondary objectives also often makes completing later objectives in the mission a bit easier.  It is also common to have additional objectives added as a mission unfolds.  The mission objectives are varied, and include hostage rescues, seek and destroy, document/intel retrieval, and terrorist elimination.

Pressing the Select button during play displays a map and objective list so that you can keep track of where you are and what you need to do.  A suggested path is also provided for you to follow to optimally complete your objectives.  This mapping and path system works well most of the time, but it can on occasion become a bit confused if you deviate from the suggested path or accomplish a task out of the expected order.  For example, if you clear all of the terrorists from a building on your way to one objective, you might have to return to the empty building later before the game considers it 'secured'.  Also, sometimes the suggested path is missing or the objective is not properly marked on the map, which can lead to momentary confusion as to what to do next.  These issues are not a constant problem in the game, but do crop up on occasion.

When in the game, you control the mission commander directly and can issue orders to your team of three other SEALs.  Your team is broken into two units; you and one squad mate form Able unit and the other two are Bravo unit.  You can issue orders to your team as a whole or to individual units which include movement, fire, and cover type of commands.  Issuing orders can be done in two ways, either entirely with the controller using a cascading menu system or by issuing voice commands through the game's included headset which plugs into one of the PS2's USB ports.  At first the headset seems like nothing more than a gimmick - it is easy enough to issue orders with the controller and since the action pauses while you issue orders, the whole thing comes across as a bit superfluous.  However, after a mission or two you'll be amazed at how it adds to the game's atmosphere and really sucks you into the gameplay.  During missions, you will receive transmissions from HQ and your teammates over the headset.  Being privy to the radio chatter of mission updates from HQ and tactical reports and enemy sightings from your team over the headset while simultaneously hearing all of the environmental sounds coming out of the main speakers is a very immersive experience.  This is made more so by the fact that the radio chatter is realistic, non-repetitive, and not overdone.  You'll also find yourself issuing orders via the voice control not because it is necessarily more convenient or easy, but because it is cool - and because the voice recognition is almost always dead-on with only the rare misinterpretation.