Hands-on Preview: SOCOM 4
By Joseph Christ on January 28th, 2011 (10 comments)
Hunkered down behind a taxi cab I can see a string of enemies taking pot-shots at me from a wrecked overpass on my left. My objective is straight ahead, and although members of my squad have begun the flanking maneuver which will distract the snipers and allow me to proceed, I fear that I won’t last long in my current position. I pop out and take a few shots. One down, but in the meantime I took some hits of my own and am pinned down again…this time low on health. I yell into my mic, trying to find out the ETA for my squads engagement of the enemy, and in that silent moment before I can get an answer I hear a familiar pinging sound. A grenade at my feet. The car explodes.
This is the type of frantic action that can be found in SOCOM 4, Zipper Interactive’s 7th installment in the SOCOM franchise. We went to Zipper Interactive this week to get some hands-on with the multiplayer and one yet-unseen mission from the game.
In what they are calling a “major evolution to the series,” Zipper is adding in a hearty dose of current gen tech to the single player which goes far to bring the series up to contemporary shooter standards. An interactive cover system mixed with destructible environments creates a good flow to combat. You won’t be able to just sit in one place and pop and shoot to your hearts content…and neither will your enemy. Because of this, using squad tactics is a must to get through some of the trickier areas. Luckily, all squad commands are contextual and fairly easy to give on the fly. Throughout the playthrough I consistently felt like I was directing a well trained team, not babysitting some babbling retards.
As a player it’s easy to spot enemies for your teammates and give flanking and attacking orders to two separate teams, all while you’re slowly creeping into your own position and taking down enemies. It’s a balance that Zipper Interactive have really gotten right, and it gives the gameplay a certain methodical feel which is often times lost in modern day run-and-gun shooters.
Most, if not all, of the methods you learn while playing the single player will also do you well to remember in the multiplayer as well. Normally, I’m not very good at 3rd person shooter games. I can find the camera position disorienting when the action really starts to flair up. The action in SOCOM 4, however, is based slower than most modern shooters and I found myself doing much better than I normally do. Even when facing off against some of the much more experienced QA testers they were using to fill out the teams. Quick kills, low health and objective based gameplay make a multiplayer experience that requires team tactics and a heavy use of cover. Anyone who runs out into the open to Rambo is killed quickly…that’s just not how you play this game.
There are 9 multiplayer maps in all, and they range in size from fairly huge to meat-grinder small. I found the larger maps to be the most fun personally, especially a new multiplayer mode Zipper Interactive revealed yesterday called Last Defense. The idea behind Last Defense is key control point acquisition. There are three neutral points on the map that each time is trying to aquire. This is done by simply walking to the point, graphically represented by a computer terminal, and hitting the O button until the meter fills up. When one team gets all three points, the central control points of the enemy team are activated on the map. The attacking team then as 2 minutes to place a homing beacon on those points to call in an airstrike and win the match. If the defending team is succesfull in defending those positions for the entire 2 minutes all the points reset and it all begins again.
I had the most fun with this mode. The acquisition of the points by each teams added an ebb-and-flow to battle that is not found in many other online shooters. This type of flow is also found in some of the larger battles of MAG, another Zipper Interactive game, and it’s great to see them taking some of the things they learned while making MAG and implementing them into the development of SOCOM 4.
Four team focused game modes are available in SOCOM 4, Supression, Uplink, Last Defense and one more which they have yet to announce. Supression is the classic SOCOM 4 deathmatch (one life per round) and Uplink was played while I was getting a drink at the bar so I really can’t tell you anything about that.
SOCOM 4 will also be 3D and PlayStation Move compatible for those who are better than the rest of us 2D loving, controller using types. SOCOM 4 does work fairly well with the PlayStation move but this is all going to be personal preference here as to how you play it. Personally I’ll stick with a controller, but maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy.
SOCOM 4 will be released on April 19th for the PS3.
Joseph Christ is the Reviews Editor and a Podcast Personality at 4Player. Specializing in reviews, editorials, drinking, and saying inappropriate things about gaming franchises that are beloved by millions, his satirical and sometimes edgy style offsets a more serious and penetrating substance lurking below the surface. He is also the host of the Cocktail Time Podcast. You'll follow his Twitter if you know what's good for you.
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