“Oh yeah, bro?! Well just wait until Zipper puts out their Socom! It’s gonna be soooo much better!”
Most Socom fanboys were shouting the above when third person shooter predecessor Socom: Confrontation made its debut. Their heavy criticism of the game was somewhat debatable, as Socom: Confrontation’s gameplay faciliated things like GameBattles very well. The good thing about Confrontation was that the gameplay had a much more ‘third person’ feel: The characters were smaller and more fluid in their movements, and when you dropped someone it felt like you were ‘getting job the done.’ Players got a much more broad view of the things around their characters and the weapon choices were more versatile.
But most noteworthy of Confrontation’s traits was its honesty. It knew what players wanted, and didn’t bother putting them through campaign modes that those of the game’s following didn’t care for. It skipped directly to the online, which left some disgruntled and some disadvantaged, but most of the Socom crowd was pleased. Socom 4 was a different story. As they had in the second and third installments, Zipper threw together a campaign story that the player wouldn’t feel too inclined to care about. There’s not much to it, and its simplicity and predictability becomes its downfall.
The player takes control of NATO Operations Commander Cullen Gray, a typical good-natured hero in a very typical war story. Throughout the game, the players conducts missions in Southeast Asia, combating the mercenary group known as ‘ClawHammer’ that has made appearances in the ‘Combined Assault’ and ‘Fireteam Bravo 2’ installments. As the player goes through the storyline, they rescue and bring along two South Korean operatives known as Chung and Forty Five who join the cast of main characters.
Personally, Forty Five is probably my favorite character because she’s the only character that seems to be dynamic. While she puts aside her tensions and learns more of those around her and war itself, Chung doesn’t show much personality, Gray remains the same clueless bad ass, Wells is just a storyteller with personal experiences, and Schweitzer is the funny, sometimes comically lazy guy who rarely ever deviates from his personality. Throughout the game, these players never reveal more of themselves or truly evolve as Forty Five does.
Gameplay is very blocky. The combination of floppy physics with the way the bulky looking characters move makes the gameplay slow and sometimes awkward. A cool thing is how professional it looks when they hold the gun and creep across to cover, but as you should know, presentation isn’t always material result. Sometimes the cover system in Socom can also be awkward and a tad glitchy, especially when you take cover in awkward places. It’s certainly realistic but at times it feels as though gameplay mechanics are holding you back. Often you’ll peek around a corner only to see your bullets unrealistically being deflected by a random chunk of wall space. One positive feature of Socom 4 is the ability to jump over things from cover, because it’s useful for getting around after shoot outs (and cool looking).
Socom’s hilarious ‘death dance’ is also hard to come by. Due to the glitchy nature of Socom, you’ll most likely find yourself flicking your analog stick until your charater is positioned in just the right spot over the enemy’s dead body, which is hard to do when everyone is constantly shooting at you. Although things like this are awkward, Socom does find ways to offer players fun. Some of the popular game modes like demolition make a return from the older installments of Socom, with new and updated game modes being implemented as well. This was smart in the sense that Socom catered to veterans and new players alike, holding on to their progress from older titles. However, online game modes are to be unlocked through online gameplay and the multiplayer has no lobby, which was a huge a mistake because the lack of player communication makes every game seem completely random. .
Socom needs to digress from realism within moderation though, as the lobby was one of Confrontation’s strongest features (despite constantly mashing X to get into a full room). Meshing quick play and lobby would’ve worked better. Socom does allow players to build their own missions but this is heavily dependent on the player. Personally, I don’t think missions are nearly as fun with you know what to expect, nor do I want to waste time dabbling with something random like that. But it, like many other Socom features, gives you a great opportunity to enjoy yourself.
In the simgle player modes, the ability to command the position of your teammates and move them up through cover is still there, and it becomes very necessary when the difficulty tightens up toward the ending missions. More notably, it gives the player an excellent feel of realism in the sense of having to fight for advantageous positioning. The highlight of Socom is Forty Five’s stealth missions, which are personally the most entertaining. However, like all 13 of Socom’s individual single-player operations AND the campaign story itself, these become very repetitive and droll after having been done over and over again.
Socom is more or less a great game if you’re a fan of Socom. New players will probably find themselves alienated from the awkward, blocky gameplay in single player and multiplayer missions. It’s a little bit of a hit and miss, people were probably expecting more from Zipper, but there’s always Socom 5.