SOCOM: US Navy SEALS Tactical Strike Review

SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALS has been a mainstay of the squad-based shooter for over five years, with each subsequent iteration possessing noticeable improvements in both gameplay and game mechanics. Shooting terrorists, disarming bombs, and preventing Armageddon had never been so exciting. However, with this latest instalment, SOCOM US Navy SEALS: Tactical Strike, long time developer Zipper Interactive has handed over the reigns to Slant Six Games to take Sony’s premier tactical shooter to a whole new level.

Tactical Strike takes a new look on Sony’s trusted IP by taking the shooter and making it into a "tactical simulation." Instead of controlling your two two-man fire teams directly, you give them orders that they carry out. But just because you’re not the one actually shooting things doesn’t mean you get watered down action. Watching your men defend positions, snipe enemies, and capture drug-lords is actually more intense, and provides for a much more cinematic experience. You can command either your whole squad, one fire-team of two men, or one man individually.

The story starts off in Panama City, where a renegade militaristic movement called Le Mano has captured several officials. As an elite counter-terrorist group, your team must infiltrate the city and rescue the hostages. From there the plot unfolds with intrigue as more bad guys come out of the woodwork to complicate things escalating the small battle to a full on crisis.

Campaign mode provides the bulk of the game, and has a great deal of options. You can choose your "SEAL" team from a variety of countries like Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Every country has it’s native language in the game for both text and dialog, so if you choose France the game will be in French. The main campaign provides a lot of action with large environments and variable paths so that no two missions ever play exactly the same.

There is also an instant action mode and a way to replay old campaign missions. Since most campaign missions allow 2 different insertion points, replaying them becomes a must. Instant Action takes campaign levels and provides a more arcade feel to it, like defending a warehouse for 5 minutes with nothing but killing. With complete stat tracking overall you can see how good of a tactician you are and brag to your buddies.

Prepping for missions is a lot of fun, allowing you to improve your men with experience from previous missions and outfitting them with different gear. With only a limited amount of weapons and equipment when you start, progressing through the game unlocks well over a dozen SMGs, assault rifles, snipers, and other things that cause bodily harm. Depending on how well you do, various amounts of experience are provided at a missions end allowing your brave soldiers a chance to get even more deadly.

With experience points come increased abilities. Between missions you can better your team’s accuracy, health, throwing ability, carrying capacity, and even affinities for weapon types like heavy weapons, medium weapons, etc. This upgrade system compels you to keep playing until your team is maxed out, making it ridiculously easy for you to subvert all adversity, but by no means any less enjoyable.

The controls for Tactical Strike are quite intuitive and do little to deter from your experience of playing the game. If you want to move your SEALS you hold circle and a transparent image appears for them. As you manoeuvre within about 30 meters of your current position you see the image move, representing how your men will react to the environment. Low boxes means they will duck behind them, whereas a wall will provide enough cover to hide behind for all your men but not a good view for shooting.

Pressing X attacks a selected target or performs objectives while holding X will allowing you more offensive options, such as limiting an area the selected SEAL(s) will fire upon, offering suppressing fire, and dealing with objectives. Square provides special command options such as allowing you to snipe an enemy, using a health pack, and others. Any option chosen from these menus allow you to set it "at my command," allowing you to set up a complete strategy that will only be executed from the X menu option "At my command." Watching 4 trained military men tear into insurgents has never been so fun.

Graphics in the game really show off what the PSP’s hardware can pull off. From the varied detailed environments, to the modeling textures on vehicles, a PSP game has yet to really look this good. Character modeling is especially detailed, and the gun models are also quite impressive. What really sets this game apart, however, is the sound. The music is adequate enough, but the voice acting is phenomenal. Depending on the "SEAL" team you choose, the language changes. Choose the French guys, the written AND spoken dialog will be in French. Even if you choose Australian, the accent changes accordingly, mate!

The Multiplayer for Tactical Strike is also executed remarkably well. With up 8 players either ad-hoc or infrastructure, each person takes control of a 4 man team. With the same customizable features as in single player, equipment load outs are near limitless. Most game types are SEAL vs. Mercenary types with only one free for all deathmatch. From protecting vehicles to extracting a VIP, the game types provided, along with the maps, provide the best fun the game has to offer. Not to mention the game provides a way to speak with your teammates by a push of the left d-pad, assuming you have a mic.

Despite this, the multiplayer offering does a few drawbacks, however. The game types end when all the "SEALs" have been killed, as there were no respawns. Some games can turn into somewhat of a rabbit hunt, lasting much longer than needed. Coupled with the fact that some maps have players starting in close proximity means that a few games can become downright aggravating. Even with these drawbacks, Tactical Strike offers one of the best multiplayer offerings the PSP thus far and is by far the best SOCOM multiplayer experience to date.

All in all, SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Tactical Strike is a great game. From an engrossing single-player experience to some great multiplayer, this game really has it all. So get locked and loaded team, and prepare yourself for the best strategy-shooter of the year.



The Final Word

SOCOM U.S. Navy SEAL's: Tactical Strike has got to be the best tactical shooter on the PSP. With a fun and lasting single player experience to a multiplayer system that allows for hours upon hours of saving VIPs and shooting terrorists, Tactical Strike makes for a thrilling addition to the SOCOM brand. Buy it - you won't be disappointed.