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SOCOM US Navy Seals: Fire Team Bravo (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Sony and Zipper Interactive's SOCOM Fire Team Bravo for the PSP adds to the system's already solid lineup with a brilliant translation of the series. SOCOM's solo missions are superbly balanced, offering the same depth and challenge players have come to expect but it's the online multiplayer modes that really make Fire Team Bravo shine. Using the Wi-Fi adaptor, players can challenge local or internet opponents easily. The multiple modes of play offer the same level of detail and polish as its console cousin, and the game even offers interoperability between the PSP and PS2 editions of the game using a USB cable. SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo is another excellent handheld title that brings the atmosphere and action of the series in the plam of your hand with little compromise.

Taking players on a series of tactical military missions in several far-flung locations, SOCOM US NAVY SEALs: Fire Team Bravo on the PSP is an excellent handheld edition of the popular series. The gameplay is remarkably close to the original PS2 series, with 14 solo missions, several multiplayer maps while retaining much of the sophistication and nuance of the console editions. While its largely faithful to the original game, Fire Team Bravo has been tweaked to better fit the PSP system. Your strike team has been reduced from 4 down to 2 players, and the ability to commandeer and use vehicles has also been eliminated. The controls have also been changed and simplified, allowing you to issue commands at the press of a single button, which makes the streamlined interface easier to use on the run. Fire Team Bravo's weapons menu is also a little bit simpler, and lets you switch and equip weapons easier as well. What hasn't changed is the epic scale of the battles, each of which is based on a real-world scenario, with authentic military tactics used as well. During the missions, players must reach the various objectives and complete their tasks in order to complete. These range from taking out opposing forces, to collecting intelligence data and disabling the enemies' abilities to communicate. The missions are divided into primary and secondary objectives. Completing primary objectives is essential, but the secondary missions can make life easier for you. For example, collecting a list of safe-houses and weapons cache locations in one level may not immediately benefit you, but it can definitely aid in your progress in the next stage. The gameplay unfolds at a smooth pace, which each level offering multiple objectives to complete, allowing the storyline to unfold gradually.

If you're familiar with the previous games, you should encounter few problems with the PSP edition. The controls are intuitive and flexible, with a simple command and movement structure that's easy to understand. You can move around the maps fairly easily, change your soldier's posture, switch weapons, use stealth and pick up weapons and ammo from fallen foes. You can also perform a variety of tasks using your context sensitive button such as placing charges, climbing walls and breaching doors. This simplified approach works for the most part, but there are a few problems which detract from the experience. SOCOM Fire Team Bravo's biggest fault lies in its aiming system that is overly touchy, thanks to the analog nub. The cross hairs are difficult to line up, even when you're standing still, and this over-responsive approach can become frustrating. However, you can adjust the reticle's movement somewhat, and with trail and error, you should be able to get the hang of firing quickly. Shooting the enemies manually while standing isn't as accurate as you would like. This not only makes it hard to shoot at enemies, but leaves you vulnerable to attack. You should always try and smoke your opponents out and let your AI soldier take the risk and damage. Players can also throw grenades, but again, the aiming accuracy leaves something to be desired, especially in close quarters. The controls are a little bit clunky, but become much easier as you practice and learn the conventions. The good news is that Fire Team Bravo's stealth mode is much better. When you enter the sniper mode, the action switches to a periscope view which allows you to locate, focus and zoom in on enemies. This sniper mode allows you to perform quick one-shot kills from a safe distance, allowing you to eliminate soldiers quickly and quietly without alerting nearby guards. While the controls take some getting used to, the missions themselves are quite elaborate in this mode, and offer plenty of depth. While these solo missions make a strong component of the game, it's multiplayer modes are where SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo's strongest appeal lies.

SOCOM Fire Team Bravo's impressive multiplayer modes allow up to 16 players to battle it out online in a number of modes. Players can either choose to play a local opponent in Ad-Hoc mode, or play against anyone online with the Infrastructure mode. Setting up games is fairly simple thanks to the intuitive menus in the lobby area, which allow you to choose the mission type, number of players and skill levels on each mission. Finding and setting up matches works remarkably smoothly, making it easy to jump right into the action. Additionally, there are several different mission types available online including suppression, extraction, demolition, captive and, free-for all. Each mission offers a different objective, such as blowing up the enemy HQ, rescuing hostages, and standard deathmatch. These modes offer plenty of variety with different rules adding to the challenge. SOCOM's online game plays remarkably similar to the solo modes, and suffers little in the way of lag time. This is quite impressive for a handheld title, but SOCOM takes things further with its innovative data-sharing mode, which allows you to share missions with your team on the PS2's SOCOM 3. During each mission, you'll find what are called Crosstalk objectives. When you complete Crosstalk objectives, you can use the USB cable to upload the data your PS2 and use these on your missions. For example, if you find a map during a mission in the PSP game, you can upload this intelligence to your team on the PS2. Since many of the mission areas run parallel, using this feature allows you to complete missions much faster.

While the innovative online features are impressive, SOCOM Fire Team Bravo's visuals don't slouch either. Each level is quite large and features a remarkable level of detail in buildings and other items. Excellent character animations and movement adds to the fun, with a solid camera system that makes the action easy to see for the most part. The in-game HUD and menus are easily accessible and the onscreen map effectively points you in the right direction. A surprisingly. elaborate structure for these areas gives the player plenty of freedom to move around, change tactics and strategies to complete mission objectives in their own style. The game's production values are excellent, with a great score and convincing dialogue between you and your soldiers during missions that helps to immerse you fully into the action. While the texture mapping and level of detail aren't quite as good as the console versions, SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo looks sharp and definitely lives up to the standards PSP owners expect. Each environment feels authentic with excellent lighting and environmental effects giving each area an impressive realism that makes for an impressive appearance overall. From an aesthetic standpoint, the game effectively captures the essence of the PS2 games on the handheld, making it a remarkable achievement from a technical standpoint as well.

SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo's graphical polish and slick production values are very much console-quality, but the deep gameplay and multiple solo and online modes give it plenty of depth as well. Playing the game is somewhat simpler than the console edition, thanks to the streamlined controls which make commanding your forces much easier. The missions themselves can be just as long or involving as a console game but the game also offers shorter, arcade-style Instant Action missions that can be completed faster. SOCOM on the PSP definitely has the series' style, with a similar feel to the mission structure and conventions that makes it feel instantly familiar. The multipart objectives add depth and storyline to the action, giving the game more depth, and the game's superb multiplayer modes add even more replay value. Sadly, a lack of save-points makes the game harder to play than it should be, and the aiming and camera systems take some getting used to. However, these minor issues don't detract from what is an otherwise excellent title. It's not perfect, but SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo is a solid conversion that brings the series onto the PSP effectively without watering things down.

Grade: B

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