Genre: Tactical Shooter
Developer: Slant Six
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Having sold multiple millions of copies, the SOCOMfranchise was the number-one online series on the PlayStation 2 console. With 2005's SOCOM 3 a distant memory and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault serving as little more than a demo of PSP connectivity, Sony faithful have been waiting patiently by their shiny new PS3s for some shooting action. They only have a few more months to wait for SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation, which will focus solely on online play and building a community around it. We recently attended a preview event to try out the multiplayer mayhem that awaits us this October, and here are our impressions.
Given all of the processing power beneath the PS3's "hood," the fantastic new graphics shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but veteran SOCOM players, who have been toughing it out on PS2s all this time, will appreciate the upgrade. There will be a lot less squinting to see if that black smudge on the screen is an enemy. The pumped-up graphics and 7.1 audio support will leave you shellshocked the first time you go through an intense firefight. We've all heard exploding cars and C4 blasts in other games before, but they've have never sounded this good before.
Graphics aren't the only thing that has been bumped up for the PS3. Confrontation will feature ballistics and penetration modeling, which means that if you're hiding behind a wooden box, you'd better find some better cover because the bullets will hit you. This also means that if you're in a corner, the bullets have a chance of penetrating the edges of the wall, depending on the thickness of the wall at the bullet's point of impact. You also won't be able to hug the wall and shoot, which was a standard move in prior SOCOM offerings. The developers have modeled the distance necessary to bring up your gun and shoot, so you'll have put some distance between you and the wall in order to pull the trigger; if that distance hasn't been reached, then you'll only be able to look. This will take some getting used to, but good players will be able to pick up the skill by automatically judging the necessary distance to pull the gun into a firing stance.
The controls are similar to previous SOCOM games, but Confrontation marks the first time in the series' history that you'll be able to customize your controls if the default button configuration doesn't suit you. You'll have the standard quick-switch button, which lets you revert to the last weapon you had, and all of the usual controls —crouch, jump and fire — are present and accounted for. You'll also be able to take advantage of the SixAxis controller to look around corners. You aim with the analog stick and strafe while looking around corners. It might taking some getting used to because you'll be tilting the controller to one side or the other, depending on which side you want to lean toward, and you'll still have the ability to aim your gun and strafe, so you have three separate controls for movement. One SixAxis feature that I'm sure will be invaluable to snipers is the ability to quickly jolt your controller down, which forces your character to duck and hide. This will be very useful when you're behind a wall and notice that your position has been compromised.
Confrontation will feature Crossroads, the most popular SOCOM map of all time (hell yeah!). There will be seven maps, with five that will scale for eight-, 16-, and 32-player games. Each map will also have a night and day version, which will let you squeeze the most out of every map.
After the game launches, a thriving online fan community can help it achieve longevity. Unsurprisingly, clans will be one of the most important assets to Confrontation, so the title features built-in clan support. Advanced clan features, such as assigning other members of your clan as officers who will have the power to schedule clan events, will ensure that your clan will not remain idle when you're on vacation. You will be able to match up with other clans based on your group's skill level rather than individual skill level. On a calendar view, there will be tournaments that clans can sign up for on a calendar view. The calendar will also display challenges from other clans that you can accept or reject. There will be stat tracking on the individual level and clan level. There are also plans to have all of this information and clan management available from the Web so you can check out your calendar and schedule matches without having to turn on your PS3.
The special forces included in the game are the United States Navy SEALs, Special Air Service (SAS, United Kingdom), Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK, Germany), Unidad de Operaciones Especiales (UOE, Spain), and 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (1er RPIMa, France). Your clan will be associated with one of them, and you'll be able to unlock a special weapon that's unique to the special forces unit that you selected.
Those who have played Warhawk and other PS3 games online with the Jabra Bluetooth headset know how it's less than ideal for gaming (to put it mildly). It looks like Sony has been listening, and they have designed a Bluetooth headset specifically for the PS3 and SOCOM. A distinguishing feature that it has compared to any other Bluetooth headset is a mute button, which is really important for those of you who want to keep private conversations from being broadcast all over the game. It will also come with a charging dock and have an overall look that better matches the PS3's styling. The headset will be included in select SOCOM bundles.
Overall, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation for the PS3 is shaping up to be a fun game. With a graphics boost and 7.1 audio support to usher the franchise into the next generation of consoles, dedicated multiplayer gameplay, and the intention of building a strong online community, Confrontation is ready to dominate the Sony shooter scene this autumn and beyond. There was mention of a possible public beta, similar to Warhawk, but you'll have to keep an eye out for more news as the release date approaches.