Review by: Matthew Dujnic
Published: October 17, 2002
There’s no turning back. The consoles have gone online, and couch-and-controller people now have to decide if this new experience is really for them. Sony has worked very hard to get a large sampling of online titles to market along with its Network Adapter. SOCOM: US Navy Seals is the first of many Internet-capable shooters to hit the market on PS2. SOCOM was built with a multiplayer model different from what consoles are used to. Whereas mixing guns with gamers usually means a free-for-all, this squad-based military shooter demands teamwork. Will console owners oblige?
You’re a highly skilled Navy Seal, specially trained in the art of counter-terrorism. With your four-man team, you’ll be infiltrating enemy locations to gather intelligence, disrupt communications and dispatch hostiles. In the 12-part single-player campaign, you’ll be taking down the worldwide terror network of the Iron Brotherhood, a generic video game terrorist group in the tradition of Command and Conquer‘s Brotherhood of NOD. The story is little more than an excuse to fly you around the globe for a variety of sorties in exotic locations, but it gets the job done.
At first pass, SOCOM looks like a standard shooter. You’ve got guns, you see the bad guys, so go at it, right? Wrong. Those used to the run and gun of other console shooters will feel growing pains with SOCOM because the missions must be accomplished with care, precision and patience. You’re the leader of a four-man team, and while they’re well trained, they still need your leadership. Twelve doesn’t sound like an awful lot of missions, but each one can go on for a very long time. You’ll be sneaking from tree to rock to building, maintaining stealth and coverage the whole way. You’ll also be following very precise orders from headquarters, which is in constant communication over your headset.
SOCOM ships with a real headset-microphone that plugs into a serial port on the front of the PS2. This nifty gadget can be used to order around your team via simple commands. Tapping the circle button activates the communications menu, and you’ll issue orders in subject-verb-object fashion. For example, if you want your backup team to lead you to checkpoint Foxtrot, you say, “Bravo, lead to foxtrot.” Over a dozen commands, along with some amusing Easter eggs, make the headset a handy tool in battle. In addition to sending orders, your team’s voices will crackle through in the earpiece instead of through your TV’s speakers. The headset does an admirable job, but it’s not required. Those who prefer the command menu can issue orders with the control pad.