Developer: Slant Six Games
Release Date: October 2007
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike is only the newest of a very long line of SOCOM games, but Tactical Strike hardly resembles those that came before it. Whereas previous entries largely focused on squad-based combat, Tactical Strike paints itself as a real-time strategy game, though you'd be hard-pressed to find resource mining or a fixed overhead perspective.
As with World in Conflict for the PC, Tactical Strike represents another attempt by developers to broaden what is expected from the genre. But unlike that forthcoming release, Tactical Strike carries with it the heft of a multi-million selling PlayStation franchise. Not only does that help with the marketing campaign, but it also provides SCEA and Slant Six Games with a massive pool of potential recruits who may be lured by the brand into an altogether different experience.
When it comes to the single-player experience in Tactical Strike, nine is the magic number. Nine international Special Forces teams (of four soldiers each) can be used in the game: United States, France, Australia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. Though the core experience carries over between forces, each narrative will have slight differences, with completely different voice acting and some unique load-out items for each force.
Nine missions make up the single-player campaign, and while that may not sound like a whole lot, the immense size of each map, coupled with the slow-paced, strategic gameplay, results in missions that may take upwards of an hour each to complete. According to Dan McBride, director of development at Slant Six Games, most missions will end with a boss battle of sorts, which may pit the squad against a "highly mobile" opponent.
Creating a handheld RTS title that can appeal to the masses requires a control scheme that is both simplistic in nature but flexible enough to allow for complex commands. The limited button layout of the PSP certainly didn't do the team any favors, but their control concoction seems quite suitable for what the game is trying to accomplish. Each face button performs a number of tasks, differentiated by whether the player clicks or holds the button.
Tapping the movement button will initiate the last-used movement command, but holding it down will reveal a mini-menu with additional movement types. Such is also the case for the inventory and attack commands, while the shoulder buttons are used to select units, be it the entire squad, a two-man fire team, or an individual soldier.
As with the previous SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs titles for the PSP, Tactical Strike will feature both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure play, which allows up to four players to match up in a friendly (or not) game of SEALs vs. mercenaries. All of the single-player maps will be carried over to multiplayer, albeit with several snips to make them more palatable to the online gamer.
Between Tactical Strike and SOCOM: Confrontation for PlayStation 3, it's clear that SCEA and Slant Six Games are looking to expand what it means to be a SOCOM title. The small screen of the PSP may seem like an odd home for a strategy game, but SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike isn't your standard RTS. By matching the visual style and presentation of a third-person shooter with the command-based gameplay of a strategic brain-bender, Tactical Strike may help thrust the SOCOM franchise toward a Tom Clancy-level of breadth and brand awareness.
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