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SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation

Platform(s): PlayStation 3
Genre: Action
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Slant Six
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2008 (US), March 13, 2009 (EU)


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PS3 Review - 'SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation'

by Mark Melnychuk on Nov. 16, 2008 @ 12:54 a.m. PST

SOCOM Confrontation focuses on online play and the global community and clans with support for Tournaments, Clan Ladders, Leader Boards, as well as the ability to modify their appearance through facial and physical customization. SOCOM Confrontation deploys with five new North African themed maps, including a 32-player version of "Crossroads."

Important Note: Upon its release, SOCOM: Confrontation suffered a great deal of connection issues, making it difficult to get a solid impression of its overall gameplay. In order to give you, the reader, the most informative content possible, WorthPlaying decided to delay the review until some of these major problems had been alleviated. Presently, the game has received two patches that fix a number of issues, most importantly being the unstable connection problems, and its online play has improved.

Over the years, the SOCOM series has supplied PlayStation owners with fantastic single- and multiplayer experiences, making it the go-to game for anyone who owned a PS2 and was looking for some tactical action. Although the single-player campaigns in the series have always been commendable, we all know that the vast amount of addiction-filled hours is spent online. Due to this fact, creating a multiplayer-only SOCOM title doesn't seem like all that crazy of an idea. Unfortunately, this concept, embodied in SOCOM: Confrontation, fizzles out not because the idea was bad, but that the game fails to supply the right amount of content and polish that we would expect from the first online outing of such an esteemed franchise, and the $40 price point is no excuse.

Before heading out for a tour of duty, players will first have to create two separate characters, one for when they happen to be playing on the commando team, and the other for the mercenary team. Having the ability to customize my own personal soldier before going into battle is something I always wished for in Call of Duty 4, but I found myself a little disappointed in the array of options present for building my SOCOM warrior. There are eight different head types, which can be accommodated by facial hair and scars, but there isn't much opportunity to make your recruit look truly unique. There is thankfully a little more variety in the 20 camouflage patterns available, but the sad part is that no matter what you pick, the graphical shortcomings of Confrontation become apparent, as the textures on character models is seriously lacking.

After playing dress up, it's time to get your soldier's kit organized by selecting primary and secondary weapons, as well as filling up an extra gear slot that can be used for grenades, claymores, or a rocket launcher. Rolling with one of those might sound tempting, but remember that the slightest adjustments made to a player's kit greatly affects his field of movement and speed. Both the commandos and mercenaries have their own balanced offering of assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns and sniper rifles that can be outfitted with attachments like scopes and laser sights. Sadly, Confrontation also falters a bit here by supplying a nice starting selection of weaponry, but offers no chance to unlock any more gear through earning the game's many performance awards. For an online-only game the character customization of Confrontation is pretty weak, given all the time that's going to be spent with the characters made here.

Upon entering the fray, SOCOM veterans should feel pretty comfortable behind the controls, with the d-pad adjusting zoom and night vision, the Triangle button changing stance, and the Circle button to change weapon firing options, as well as bringing up a radial weapon selection screen when held down. The game sports a new over-the-shoulder camera perspective that's more akin to the latest Ghost Recon games, but old-school players can still switch to the classic perspective. However, I found that the new view is beneficial for getting a good view around corners. Speaking of leaning around corners, let's address what is probably the most important control change, the use of the SixAxis function to tip the controller either left, right or up to peek over cover. It's certainly nice to not to have to fiddle with buttons in order to lean around a corner and take a few shots at the enemy, but it does feel a bit awkward for the first few minutes.

Confrontation's gameplay once again makes it clear that the series is all about tactics, and with no respawns in any ranked games, communication between teammates is the most important factor when it comes to winning a match. Six different modes are present, from the usual team deathmatch variants to objective-based games like Breach, where commandos must destroy a series of barriers to reach a target while the mercs defend, and Extraction, which tasks commandos with rescuing a number of hostages from the clutches of the mercenary team. All of these modes require constant communication and strategy from any team, and when you are able to pull off a decisive victory, the feeling is very rewarding.

So yes, the core gameplay of SOCOM is here, but once again, so is a disturbing shortage of content, as only a mere seven maps are available. The ones provided are of good quality, with Urban Wasteland placing combatants in a bombed-out city with high buildings perfect for sniping, and my own favorite, Crossroads, featuring a central courtyard surrounded by a system of deadly alleyways perfect for close-quarters combat. Some maps, like Crossroads, expand to accommodate the game's 32-player limit, but that doesn't make up for a severely low number of environments for an online-only game. SOCOM 3 shipped with 12 maps, so what's the deal? More maps could have also meant a little variety in the settings, with a bit of the old rural swamp locales that all SOCOM vets know and love, rather than simply giving us a completely urban set of arenas.

While it falls flat in the map department, Confrontation does step up to the task of creating a harmonious online community, especially when it comes to clan organization. It's quite easy to keep in touch with clan members by allowing players to send messages to multiple recipients, and in order to ensure that everyone is always on the same page, a calendar is available, which displays the upcoming two weeks of any matches or tournaments planned. It's probably possible to manage an entire clan through Confrontation itself without having to revert to any other form of communication.

Now I did mention before the review that the terrible connection issues rampant on the service have been lessened, but sadly, this doesn't mean that Confrontation is anywhere near problem-free. Lag was still a pretty frequent issue in most of the matches I played, so some extra tightening in that department could still be used. What surprised me even more was the slowdown occurring while in the menus themselves, sometimes stalling the game for a few seconds when I was only trying to look at the gameplay settings for a match in which I was playing. With load times taking a while too, it's obvious that Confrontation still needs some fine tuning, and thankfully, the developers are hard at work on bringing more updates to the game,

Graphically, Confrontation is fairly underwhelming for a game this far along in the PS3's life cycle, and a first-party title no less. The game possesses great lighting that falls well onto the detailed environments made to feel more alive with falling rubble, but a noticeable amount of pop-in was occurring at times. For a flagship Sony title, Confrontation should have definitely looked better. The audio holds up well, and all of the weapon and explosion effects help to give the game the sense of realism that the graphics fail to provide.

While we're on the subject of audio, this would also be a good time for a mini-review of the Sony Bluetooth headset that comes with the special retail edition of the game. This device is the first official Sony headset for the PS3, selling for $49.99 on its own or $59.99 with the game bundle, and it's easily worth the green. Linking the headset to the system is a snap; all that's required is to connect it to the PS3 via USB cable and watch the little green light do its thing.

The headset comes with a mute button and volume adjustments, with an earpiece that can be removed and switched around so that users can wear it on whichever ear they prefer. Ergonomically, it feels quite comfortable, as it's light enough to avoid tugging at the ear, and the voice quality comes in crisp even from across the room. If that all weren't enough, the headset can even be used with any Bluetooth-compatible phone. Anyone who's picking up Confrontation and still needs to buy their first mic for the PS3 can do no wrong here, and in order to get the most out of the game, having one is key.

Although we waited for a few patches to arrive and fix up Confrontation's tattered connection problems, it's still no remedy for the game's lack of substance. With an absence of polish, customization, and maps, Confrontation just doesn't deliver a full-fledged online experience worthy of the SOCOM name. Rather than being the series' first online-focused game built distinctly for competitive play, the game feels more like a weak multiplayer component that was included as an afterthought alongside a single-player campaign. Hardcore fans will be happy to see the classic gameplay and wealth of community options to support clans, but frankly, those fans deserve better.

Score: 7.0/10

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