SOCOM 4 Hands-on Preview: A Bloody Good Time
When I went hands-on with Zipper Interactive’s SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals earlier today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game works brilliantly with motion control. I played through two missions of the game armed with Sony’s ‘Sharpshooter’ peripheral for the PlayStation Move, which incorporates both the Move and sub-controller into a replication of a sub-machine gun.
Built by Sony with Killzone 3 and SOCOM 4 in mind, the Sharpshooter is light but sturdy. It acts as a ‘dock’ for the Move and sub-controller, re-mapping some of those peripherals’ buttons into various elements of the faux-gun. In SOCOM 4, you pump the front of the gun or slam the bottom of the magazine to reload. If you jab it forward, you’ll perform a melee attack. Twisting a switch on the side of the Sharpshooter controls your gun's rate of fire. Other actions are slightly more standard: clicking in sub-controller stick sprints (or changes from third to first-person while aiming), circle takes cover, the X button jumps and so on. You can use the sharpshooter while standing up, holding the gun like a real soldier, or while reclining on the couch. The latter is less tiring, but also less accurate.
There are a number of camera control options for SOCOM 4 motion control, but I found the most functional to be ‘modal’ control. In this setting, looking at the edge of the screen turns your character just like ‘focal’ control — another camera setting — but you’re also able to click L2 to perform more subtle turns while aiming closer to the center of the screen. Aiming with the Sharpshooter was a blast — I was easily able to pick off enemies way in the distance with the gun peripheral. I was surprised by how quickly I adjusted to the radically different control layout; within minutes, I transformed from complete and total noob to a half-decent squad commander. Not everyone will love the Sharpshooter, but it’s definitely not a watered down control scheme — all of the gameplay elements controlled on a regular DualShock work well with the peripheral. Zipper is so confident in this new control mechanism, in fact, that it's allowing motion control gamers to play in online matches with regular DualShockers.
But enough about Sharpshooter — how is SOCOM 4 itself? The answer is an easy one: it’s a blast. I started on ‘Rendezvous,’ which is the second mission of the game. After your carrier explodes in the first mission, you and your squadmates link up with a group of South Korean troops on a fictitious island near Southeast Asia. Since SOCOM 4 recognizes which region you’re playing in, North American gamers helm a group of U.S. Navy Seals, but gamers from other regions control other armed forces, complete with different characters and voice actors. British gamers, for example, play as S.A.S. fighters. It wasn’t clear if those settings are locked in, or are simply the default and can be changed. The U.S. Navy Seals squad commander is more or less a Nathan Drake replica, so I’d imagine that some gamers outside North America might want to use the Navy Seals for that reason.
The artificial intelligence in SOCOM 4 is top-notch; enemies are highly intelligent, as are your squadmates. Enemies advance on your position and attempt to flank you, but your teammates work just as hard to hold them back. As in past SOCOM games, you’re able to give ‘direct’ or ‘hold’ orders to your two squads, gold squad and blue squad, by using the D-pad. Direct orders are immediate, whereas hold order can be stacked on top of each other then executed all at once. Your squadmates typically obey your orders, firing at targets, holding back, or following you as you see fit, but occasionally they’ll disobey. This isn’t an issue with the game; in fact, it’s a ... (continued on next page)
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