Released in conjunction with the PS2's network adaptor, Sony's SOCOM was one of the driving forces behind the devices quick adoption by gamers. Now, a sequel has arrived, and while there are some new features, it's no surprise that the new game stays true to the successful formula. With new weapons, devices and larger, more varied environments, the single-player missions are challenging, but the intense online play is the game's real appeal. It's been improved in many ways, with better communication between players, more commands, better AI and several new mission types. SOCOM II is a more challenging game that should please fans of the series. Join us as we examine how SOCOM II successfully builds on the original game and why its another must-buy for PS2 owners looking for intense military combat.
SOCOM II picks up where the original game left off and adds additional game modes, expanded mission types, tons of new weapons and much deeper online play. Veterans will be happy to learn that the sequel maintains a similar balance between tactical stealth and military combat that made the first title so successful. As in the first game, you command a squad of soldiers as they go into combat against a group of deadly terrorists. You are the commander of your NAVY SEALS team and you have to direct your squad to complete their missions. Players have a variety of commands at their disposal and can order their team to perform a variety of tasks. Some of these include demolition, intelligence gathering, enemy neutralization, and hostage recovery. What makes SOCOM so unique in the military combat genre is that you can issue commands either using the standard d-pad buttons or by talking into the USB headset. During the mission, the seals can meet up at different Navigation (NAV) points, and can get there using stealth so they won't be noticed, or can rush in with guns blazing. You can also command your team to place charges and explosives, clear out a room before you enter and more. Some missions require stealth in order to succeed. You can do this by crawling through the brush and other cover in forest areas or hiding behind cars or other vehicles in urban settings. However, leaving dead bodies lying around is a giveaway that alerts the enemy forces to your presence. In order to cover your tracks, you can carry and move bodies out of sight of enemy forces. Each single-player mission is divided into pieces where completing one task opens up the next objective. If you get lost, you can call up your tactical map (TACMAP) in order to see your position and the next NAV point. The design of each mission is excellent and makes for an engrossing experience. Some missions are more action-oriented, while others emphasize stealth and strategic combat elements more than gunplay.
Making things more realistic, you can command either your main or secondary teams. You can then issue commands to the Delta team, and they'll implement your orders independently without additional commands. The AI soildiers are definitely smarter this time around, and will also react to changing situations, such as being ambushed without having to be instructed to do so. However, the enemies are smarter in SOCOM II, making them much more unpredictable and thus harder to kill. The game uses the PS2's buttons well You use the Left analog-pad to move and the right one to Aim your weapons or look around. You fire using R1, and press Triangle to change your position from standing to crouching to laying on the ground. Players will also have an easy time cycling through the weapons. When the Action Icon appears at the bottom of the screen, you can perform special moves like moving up a ladder, moving bodies, and placing explosives. The controls are very intuitive and easy to use during combat, making for an intuitive gaming experience. The biggest change comes with SOCOM II's improved USB headset technology makes it easier to hear other players, which makes the system much more intuitive than the previous games. For those who don't have or don't want to use the USB headset, the command menus have also been streamlined noticeably, which makes issuing your directives more efficient.
SOCOM II's single player mode includes more than 15 different missions, ranging from jungle warfare to urban combat in a variety of international locales including Brazil, Russia, Albania and Algeria. Before each single-player mission, you'll get a quick mission briefing and can then decide on which tactics to use. The mission designs are open-ended, and allow the player to complete their mission objectives in their own way. Using the HUD, you can view your map, see the status of your team, and where the next mission Navpoint (objective) is. There are both primary and secondary objectives, and the team is ranked in several areas after each mission including shot accuracy, civilian kills, speed and objectives. These rankings can be helpful if you want to improve your tactics and skills. Most players will have to play through the missions a few times before they get the hang of things, but should be able to master the basics quickly. The single player missions always unfold in the same manner, so the best strategy is to anticipate your opponents' moves before they happen, which helps you later on since you're not taken by surprise as often.
In order to master the game, it helps to familiarize yourself with your arsenal. Players can use standard issue weapons such as rifles, guns, grenades and, pistols. These should be familiar from the previous games, but SOCOM II adds more than 15 weapons to its stock. One of the best additions are Flash Grenades that blind a small area temporarily when launched. This lets you neutralize hostiles without risking any nearby hostages or your own team. Other new weapons include AT-4, RPGs, handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, machine guns, grenades, laser designators. Players can also choose to use an array of upgraded explosives and anti-personnel mines in each mission as well. Another significant change is the addition of a new night vision mode, which lets you see an enemy's heat pattern. The range and depth of weapons in SOCOM II is definitely larger than the first game. SOCOM II's weapons handle and operate just as they would in the real world. A heavy gun slows you down, but offer more accurate shots. There are also new laser-sights on some weapons, enhancing your shooting accuracy. This realism adds to the intensity and makes for an immersive and believable experience. Each weapon in the game has unique characteristics and knowing which one to use will determine your mission's success or failure. They offer a range of power, control, recoil effects and accuracy and the power of each weapons fluctuates as the soldiers move about. The new heat and light-based weapons are excellent additions to the series, allowing for more options while adding a new dimension to each mission.
SOCOM II's single player missions are brilliantly designed and show more sophistication than the first title, but the real excitement is playing SOCOM II online using broadband or LAN connections. Players begin by creating their own custom soldiers complete with its own skin, facial features and, equip your favorite weapons. The online missions support up to 16 players simultaneously with up to 8 players per team. As an extra bonus, several maps from the first game are included in SOCOM II as well and have been upgraded with better graphics. There are several different types of multiplayer missions available including Breach, Demolition, Suppression and more. These are easily the most addictive part of SOCOM, and you can play for hours without a break. The online maps offer plenty of challenge for even veteran players. As an added bonus, the game includes all the multiplayer maps from the first game, but these are improved with better graphics to make the experience that much better. SOCOM II also includes interesting multiplayer escort and extraction missions where you have to rescue hostages. Competing with human opponents makes for a more dynamic game where your team is usually smarter and faster, but so are your adversaries. The game runs at a smooth frame rate throughout the online play and suffers from little lag. Finally, SOCOM II's intuitive Lobby interface allows you to communicate with friends, view your statistics, join other games and form custom matches easily and quickly, making for a seamless experience.
While the first SOCOM was hailed for its addictive gameplay, one area where it seemed a little less than state-of-the-art were the slightly rough graphics. The developers at Zipper Interactive seemed to have gotten the message and SOCOM II addresses these problems effectively. The game looks a lot smoother, with better character animations, larger maps, more varied terrain and increased use of special effects. Players will find new weather effects such as rain, snow and wind make for more realistic environments, while the addition of more urban areas lends SOCOM II more visual variety. There's an increased polish evident throughout the game, giving it a more solid, realistic feel. SOCOM II also uses voice-overs to better effect this time, with more phrases and better plotting that gives things a much more cinematic feel. Overall, the production values finally match the intensity of the gameplay, making this one of the best-looking FPS titles on the PS2 date.
While there have been many changes made, the essence of the SOCOM appeal remains very much intact. Players who loved the first game will appreciate the new weapons, larger maps and more intuitive gameplay interface. Playing SOCOM II feels much smoother than the first game, and the additional mission types are definitely a welcome addition to the series. From a technical standpoint, the Voice Headset works a lot better this time, and it seems to respond much better to your commands and the better sound quality makes other players' voices clearer. SOCOM II's menu's and overall interface feel very similar as well, but have been streamlined. This makes the weapons and commands much easier to use and helps the gameplay's flow improve. The improved graphics are impressive with better character animation, enhanced environmental effects, and a smoother appearance throughout. These changes are definitely While SOCOM II doesn't re-invent the wheel, it definitely refines it and for that reason, it's highly recommended and should be at the top of any PS2 owner's list this year.