SOCOM 3 for the PS2 takes the series forward with several new features and more robust production values. As you'd expect, squad based tactical combat remains the focus, but now players have the ability to use vehicles during their missions. While previous SOCOM titles have emphasized the online aspects, SOE has buffeted the single player this time around with a more cohesive focused approach. The missions themselves are complicated and long, but the addition of checkpoints makes progression easier, making SOCOM 3 less frustrating. Its online play remains solidly entertaining, with excellent maps and modes that make for a robust experience. Read our review and find out how SOCOM 3's new features successfully build on the series' past success.
SOCOM 3: US NAVY Seals is more of an evolution for the series, offering a solid online mode with improved solo play. There are a few new twists and features to keep things fresh, which should please fans of the series. The game offers more than 20 unique single player missions, and takes place in a variety of foreign lands including a North African mission where you are trying to stop the rise of a brutal dictator. There are several sub-missions within each storyline, which helps to tie things together, allowing for a bigger more intense storyline to emerge. Before each mission begins, players get a quick briefing on the objectives for each mission, which are divided into primary and secondary goals. While you can move forward with the mission if you fail to complete a secondary objective, not executing a primary objective causes the mission to end immediately. While the missions can be quite long, one of the most welcome changes in SOCOM this time around is the implementation of checkpoints, where you can continue if you lose your soldier.This definitely makes things easier, but it doesn't make the game a cakewalk, either. The basic structure of SOCOM remain intact this time around, and players have a wide array of weapons they can use as well, with the usual selection of pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles, along with limited use weapons like missile launchers available at various points in the game. In all, there are more than 30 unique weapons in the game, each of which offers different accessory configurations, making more than 900 different variations possible during the game.
Taking control of an elite group of Navy SEALs, SOCOM 3 the ability to command and fight as they battle an array of foes through hostile terrain. Players can command their team to perform a variety of tasks, such as covering, fighting and securing areas. You can also split the team up and have them complete other objectives, and reconvene at a way point later on. Your controls are fairly intuitive this time around, with an easy to use menu system that makes your command easy to issue. Icons appear at the bottom of the screen, which allow you to perform specific acts such as carrying a dead enemy's body out of sight, collecting weapons or holding down your position. Your basic commands allow you to switch weapons, stance and viewpoints quickly and effectively. When you encounter enemies, you can choose to hide behind walls and other objects which offer some cover, and call in your men to do the fighting. There are also several areas in the game where you will find a body of water. Here, you can dive and take cover underwater, which allows you to move undetected and take out nearby guards from the sea undetected. This also means you can pilot water based vehicles as well, which comes in handy in a number of situations, such as when a bridge is out. Players can also perform assaults from the sea as well, adding a new dimension to the combat in SOCOM 3.
The game's interface is similar to the previous games, which should allow veterans to jump right in. Navigation is fairly straightforward and players can also view the onscreen map and objectives quickly if they lose their sense of direction or need a quick overview of the terrain. SOCOM 3's new feature this time are the vehicles, with two basic types: land and sea. When you take over a vehicle, you can switch soldiers in order to drive or fire a gun turret, the basic parameters are fairly simple, though the interface is a little awkward at first, especially climbing and disembarking vehicles, which can be cumbersome. However, once you get on the ground, you'll find the AI has changed somewhat from the previous games, with your fellow SEALs acting a bit smarter this time around. The follow your commands much more closely, though there are still some situations where they aren't as effective as you'd like them to be. For example, they seem to take too long to get onto vehicles and don't move as quickly as you'd like when you find yourself taking fire. Likewise, the enemies are smarter as well, and will call in reinforcements and take cover much quicker, making them much harder to kill. They also seem to be much more sophisticated, and will wait to ambush you instead of firing blindly as they did in the older games. This means you'll need to be much smarter with your tactics, anticipating enemy moves before they make them, while making sure to stay tuned to your surroundings. The addition of vehicles also changes SOCOM 3 significantly, while these offer faster movement and more protection, they are also much more visible, making it harder to conceal your presence.
As one of the pioneering PS2 online titles, the SOCOM games have always set the stage for the console's internet play. Not surprisingly, SOCOM 3 takes advantage of the PS2's connectivity with several different modes and games. These follow the standards of previous games with several mission types including Convoy, Breach, Demolition, Suppression, Escort, Extraction and Control modes. Each of these assigns one team a specific task, such as protecting a convoy, escorting hostages, breaking through enemy lines or taking control of a certain area. The online missions support up to 32 players at once, with several spectators, and can also be played one on one. SOCOM 3 supports broadband connections, which allows the gameplay to unfold just as smoothly and with the same intensity as the solo games. Setting up games is relatively simple thanks to the unintrusive menus, while the player matching does a decent job of connecting you with players of the same ability. Once connection, you'll find that the online maps are much larger this time around, giving you much more freedom of movement. As usual, the gameplay here is quite solid with the strategic combat intensity that has become the SOCOM standard over the past few years.
While SOCOM 3 doesn't stray too far from its established genre, what the game offers is a solid gameplay experience that effectively showcases the tactics and techniques used in real world missions and warfare. The attention to detail that the game offers makes for a more realistic approach than other combat fighters, with assistance from real-life seals offering more authenticity than other squad-based combat titles. From a players' standpoint, SOCOM 3 is an enjoyable exercise in warfare that offers plenty of variety in missions. While the controls are still a little bit awkward at points, the interface becomes easier to use as you become accustomed to it. The real meat of the gameplay lies in the online modes, with plenty of maps and mission styles to keep players occupied for hours. SOCOM 3 has also implemented many improvements in the single player mode as well, with more elaborate cinemas and a deeper storyline used to create a cohesive experience. Graphically, the game looks decent and has a more cinematic feel but, the engine is showing some signs of age with rough textures and surfaces evident. However, this shouldn't dissuade players from picking this up, since it's a solid adventure with plenty of challenge and depth.
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