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SummaryAn excellent first person shooter (semi-tactical) implementation on the PSP
The GoodI only came across this game recently, and while there are many good FPS offerings these days, when the PSP first came out I recall the dirth of decent shooters. I regret not having tried this sooner.
I'm calling it "semi-tactical" because while it definitely includes a little more realism than other shooters, it's still nowhere near the level of the original Rainbow 6 series or Ghost Recon. That mainly stems from the fact that you're only controlling a 2-man team, and the limitations of the hardware preventing a full-blown AI squad.
That said, SOCOM is a very solid military shooter. You actually feel more like a black-ops solider, and not Rambo. Stealth is important, and while you can sustain a few gunshots, a protracted firefight with multiple opponents will usually end in disaster.
The controls are well implemented and natural. Instead of attempting to replicate a mouselook or thumbstick view rotation in combination with the movement, the developers instead only allow movement in the default setting. This is coupled with an auto-lock on target that activates when pressing the right trigger.
Don't fret at the thought of auto-lock making the game too easy though. Your accuracy still is not guaranteed, as factors such as your movement, stance, range, and other factors are considered by the engine. In fact, it seems like auto-lock has a much shorter effective range for your weapons. Additionally, long range weapons that use scopes still require you to manual zoom.
Missions are varied, ranging assassinations to capturing an enemy to scouting or retrieving objects. The backstories also are somewhat plausible, and so the missions are enjoyable as they seem to serve a purpose.
Lastly, we can't finish this review without mentioning the weapons. There is a good (but not great) selection of long rifles from assault to sniper to even a light machinegun to choose from. You can also add on various scopes and silencers, or grenade launchers. In another nod to realism, your ammo is linked to the magazine, so you only change magazines and are not auto-magically refilling with bullets as other games seem to imply.
The BadNot all is perfect though -- I'll start with the weapons. Some stats are a bit strange. For example, the M16 has a shorter range than the M4 even tough the barrell is longer. This may be another conceit for realism, but you get access to all weapons at the beginning of the game, and some are quite useless so it's not very fulfilling to try out various weapons.
Damage modeling is also a bit disappointing. Just like you, enemies can take many hits before becoming incapacitated. In later missions, they seem to be equipped with (but no visibly) class IV armor -- you can hit them 4-5 times square in the chest with a high powered .30-06 sniper round before they collapse. Shotguns are almost impossible to use even at close range due to this.Thankfully a head shot still kills with one slug regardless of the enemy.
The AI is decent, but could use more work. It does a good job of dodging and taking cover, but seems to lack situational awareness when a compatriot falls dead right in front of them.
Some missions are also impossibly hard. This mainly stems from the poor AI when you have to escort a friendly or captured enemy, and the above mentioned damage type. Normally you can mitigate the issues by issuing hold/move commands, but sometimes they don't obey and get shot to pieces. Your partner's AI is also suspect sometimes, but overall is acceptable.
One final area of disappointment is the handling of bonus mission objectives. It seems they serve no purpose in the game itself except to link with the PS2 version and open extra content there.