SOCOM: US Navy SEALs (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a third person shooter released for the Playstation 2 in 2002, and was a massive success for Sony’s initial foray into online gaming. Using the new network adapter, you could play online with or against friends and complete strangers – this was nothing new in the PC world, but for consoles this was uncharted territory. Unfortunately, the online services for this game were shut down in 2012, so I was unable to try that out. What’s left is the single player campaign – a realistic-ish third person shooter that’s simply middle of the road.
Gameplay revolves around completing objectives in a given mission, which in the first mission involve boarding a freighter and securing it (AKA kill all the guards without being detected), disable communications, gather intel, and finally scuttle the ship. Before each mission you can review the objectives, change your team’s load-out, and review maps of the mission. This reminds me of the planning phase of old Rainbow Six missions, but is not as deep. During the mission you are fairly fragile, and so are your enemies – take one or two hits and you’ll die and need to restart from the beginning. There is some pretty generous auto-aim and if you keep to the shadows you should have no issue eliminating threats before they see you. If you make a lot of noise or get spotted and allow an enemy to call out, you will have a harder time surviving – stealth is the name of the game. You can also move bodies to hide them from being discovered, which is a nice touch. You can give orders to your teammates and they seemed to follow them fairly well – even if they were a bit robotic. For instance, I accidentally ordered a squadmate to throw a frag grenade in a small room – which he did. Then he stood there motionless until it exploded about 2 feet in front of him. While it was pretty funny at the time, I imagine that in later missions you will rely on your squad for certain objectives, and the brainless behavior could be frustrating.
Sound was good, but there was barely any music other than in menus – this is to help immerse the player in the world and also let’s you hear if enemies are coming. While there is a good reason for it, it is a bit disappointing considering that the composer is Jeremy Soule, who is better known for composing the Elder Scrolls series. I would have loved to hear more of his music since what little is there is excellent. That said, sound effects were good and directional audio was for the most part excellent.
Visuals are fairly good for a 2002 PS2 game, but there was some serious frame rate drops in certain spots. The level I played wasn’t very large, so I can’t speak to how big the environments get. Characters animated well, and the effects were more on the realistic side (grenades flashed and there was a cloud of smoke – no fireballs).
Verdict: Back on the shelf. While SOCOM isn’t a bad game in any way, the gameplay didn’t grab me and the lack of multiplayer servers sealed it’s fate. This was a revolutionary game when it released, but time has not been kind.
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb