SOCOM: Tactical Strike Hands-on

Sony always mentions, at any chance they are given, that they are aiming to break the barriers and push forward in gaming for all their consoles. That is no more evident than what PSU has seen in SOCOM: Tactical Strike.

Unlike the console series’ shooter gameplay, Tactical Strike is a heavily focused strategy title. Instead of playing as one soldier and commanding the rest of your squad, you’ll be sending commands to all four members of your fire squad and will have to make the best use of your surroundings to get through each scenario and reach your objective.

The game’s basics are pretty straightforward, and can be explained by reading the simple 5 page manual. Today, we had a chance to play a new level and discover what sorts of changes Slant Six have implemented.

The mission was titled “El Mano,” apparently the nickname of some sort of drug dealer. You must form an attack on a city that he’s overrun and neutralize the danger in the situation. The level is scatted with cover everywhere. The area opens with a large walkway that displays a relatively busy street, perfect for moving your team furtively behind the enemy before popping out and finishing the enemy. Beyond this, you’ll find plenty of boxes, cars, walls and more by the use of your squad, though many walkways and ledges throughout the level detail that there aren’t too many safe spots. You need to create your own safety net by paying attention to a corner, and making sure you aren’t a sitting duck for the enemy.

One change to be noted is that while the circle button used to act as a move initiator, which simply pressing the button once would have sent your soldiers on the move, it is now first shows a "ghost" plot point of where your men will wind up and lets you plan your movements better. In a previous build, this wasn’t the movement type by default. If you want to quickly send your team without lining them up meticulously, you simply need to double-tap the circle and they’ll immediately move to that spot.

Something that still hasn’t been taken care of yet is the apparent and dismaying view change that can happen when you swap between your two fire squads. The camera looks like it automatically faces the direction the fire squad leader is facing, though his direction is uncontrollable and so you don’t really know where you’ll wind up. They should definitely make haste in fixing this issue, and PSU made sure to note it to them.

Another camera issue that we ran into, that has a moderately negative effect on gameplay, had to do with its position and corners. The camera is always located near your current fire squad, always away and above from them. You can’t move it about freely, which means that if they’re right behind a corner, your camera will sometimes be in a spot where you can’t see around that specific corner. In order to do so you’d need to move your men around—this is annoying sometimes. Hopefully, they’ll fix this before release.

Other than those two issues, the game works really well. Speaking of online, Tactical Strike will include a number of new multiplayer maps as well as an assortment of maps from previous games. Three new multiplayer modes will make their way in as well, along with the existing five types. There’s a control point mode where your team will gain points for each of the control spots you hold at any one time. Capture the Flag will be present, as will a mode called Target where one player will snag an object of some sort and gain points, while the other players attempt to kill him and take the object for themselves.

We haven’t played it for too long to tell how well the AI works and reacts to your actions, though right now it seems like their field of observation is limited, making things a bit unrealistic, though possibly in the favor of less frustrating gameplay because of the camera issues. Either way, the controls work really well and intuitively, and it looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, as it’s definitely a more innovative title than previous ones.