The Navy Seals are hitting the PS2 once again, and there isn't one Navy Seal who would deny the reality of this game. This third instalment to the SOCOM series is unlike any other of its kind, including the first two games in the franchise which were built to a key on their own. It is beyond any shadow of doubt that SOCOM 3 is recruiting more people to pick up a Network Adapter and join the online madness that this game ensues. To gamers of all sorts, SOCOM should be a household name. Zipper Interactive and Sony Computer Entertainment have honed in on the console shooter fans, offering 32-player online play, a decent array of vehicles, large maps, and a single-player campaign. What more could one ask for?
SOCOM 3 sticks to the same set-up as its predecessors, placing you as "Specter", squad leader of a four man fire team. Setting up the teams gear to your liking during briefing and controlling their movement during combat. As the game continues, having your full team is crucial, and controlling them the right way eases the difficulty of the game immensely. The single-player campaign takes you across a range of large maps, locating you in Morocco, Poland, and South Asia. The missions never get tiresome or repetitive, giving you essential primary, and non-essential secondary objectives. The primary objectives range from search and destroy, infiltrate and capture, search and rescue, and ally support. Overall the game has its difficult points, but nothing will come as a shock if you listen to prior briefing and follow protocol on the field. Although stealth is of most importance to staying alive, close combat is not un-common. The game has tunnels, channels, and buildings that will keep you vigilant.
It's smart to know both your and your fire-teams inventory at all times, as a mission could call for anything. Painting tanks (laser targeting) for air strikes, firing rocket launchers at anti-air guns, placing satchel charges on bridges, and throwing grenades at groups of enemies is not for the un-prepared. SOCOM 3 calls for "e", all of the above. Getting from those tanks to the anti-air guns can be quite a task in SOCOM 3, as the maps are massive. How does traversing from NAV point "Charlie" to NAV point "Delta" in sleek battle-hardened watercraft sound? It sounds just as good as it feels. The addition of buggies, trucks, humvees, and watercraft adds an impressive amount of reality, and simply pure fun, to the game.
With large maps comes long missions, and with long missions can come large amounts of frustration. To our delight, SOCOM 3 has long missions that have smart save checkpoints. Complete a primary objective, receive partial health and supply replenishment, and of course, a save-point. The NAV-points are smart as well, guiding you along the process. The tactical map can show your surroundings in more detail, making it easier to come up with a plan of attack to get you, and your team from objective to objective. Quantity doesn't always include quality, but SOCOM 3 has taken as much as possible from both, presenting all the eye-candy one could need.
SOCOM 3 has a certain level of difficulty when just starting out as the list of controls are somewhat overwhelming. The training seems a little crammed, and may have been more successful if introduced as the game progressed. The game does have a nice feel to it once you take the time to learn all of the controls in different situations (re: different guns, vehicles, controlling your fire team). SOCOM 3 has brought swimming into the mix in this instalment. A very useful stealth tool, especially as you can hold your breath and submerge, making yourself invisible to a bogie for a limited time. The reality of SOCOM 3 continues with the pure physics in the control of the game. While running and shooting, you lose accuracy fast and kneeling or going prone increases your steadiness. When you get hit, you'll really feel it, and when you hit someone, they'll feel it (especially with grenades).
Artificial intelligence for the fire team can be a little frustrating at times, as they can get confused. For an example, I ordered my team to hold their position as I painted a tank for an air-strike. I then took two steps forward and then heard "Heading back to your location, sir". So I ordered them to hold position again, and they got back to the ground. As I took two more steps, I heard the same thing again. They all ran out and... blamo. Tank 4, Navy Seals 0. Also, don't get caught with getting your fire-team to throw grenades with any form of obstacles around you. Let's just say they throw to wherever your cross-hairs are pointing on point of command, and if at that point you're accidentally pointing to a rock right in front of your face, the grenade will hit the rock, bounce into your face, thus exploding the aforementioned face, and killing you. In my case, this usually leads to a broken controller, a lost voice, and a dog that has not heard cursing that bad since he was a puppy.
Visually, SOCOM 3 is quite stunning. The map layout is a little bland in the beginning, primarily due to the African setting selected. The maps are visually appealing after, when more trees and water are in place of rocks and sand. SOCOM 3's Firepower is impressive and leaves a realistic hole on the misses. The kills on the other hand are nice and bloody, but not overly gory, just enough to make you feel good for shooting your enemy down. The explosions are absolutely incredible. Air strikes on tanks and rocket launches on anything are quite possibly the most fun you can have in this game. The animation is done to a key and really boosts the overall realism. Running into an area with gun yielded and ready for action is quite possibly the most general stance, yet most overlooked, it is incredible. One overlooked feature to some games is the ability for widescreen play. Check the back of the box, it reads loud and clear, 'Widescreen Compatible (16:9)'. This feature is a must try, that's an order soldier.
Another must with SOCOM 3, would be for the other sense, audio. This game sounds absolutely incredible. The gunfire, the roar of engines, explosions, distant war cries and battle sounds all surround you, immersing you in the combat field. The land vehicles sound damn close to the real thing, changing sound from sand to gravel, gravel to dirt, dirt to asphalt. The bullet hits on different surfaces make realistically different impact sounds. Even commanding your team around with the headset can be immersive. Personally, even being the third instalment to the series, I still find great fun in being able to command my fire team audibly. Not enough games use this simple concept.
SOCOM 3 doesn't have much to it as far as storyline goes, but if you are into the more story side of things, the cut scenes are visually impressive for the PlayStation 2, and bring the missions along nicely. The briefing and inventory set-up has always been a bore for me, but I'm sure if you take the time to test out the selection of weapons and add-ons, you'd find what's right for you. The selection is actually quite large, including everything from semi-automatic pistols, fully automatic assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and even missile launchers. The extras include everything from scopes, lasers, silencers, thermal sights, bipods, grenade launchers, and more. The one thing apparent with customizing and loading your team up with firepower is the speed. You and your team slow significantly when carrying a lot of cargo. The add-ons do their part on enhancing certain aspects of your weapons, changing around its accuracy, power, and even range. Sticking with the default set-up is usually they way to go, as it's usually a good mix of essential fire power for the current objectives, with a balance between weight and speed.
As per the series, the main feature of SOCOM 3 is its online capabilities, offering 32 players in broadband play. The addition of vehicles, more weapons, and large maps can make the game a little slow at times, but overall it runs quite well. A 32 player game is pure fun, and that is about enough said. The best online play on the PS2 is by far experienced with SOCOM 3.
SOCOM 3 replenishes the series after a two year hiatus, and what a feeling it is. Offering stunning visuals, immersive audio, realistic animation, feel, and physics, a wide range of weapons, add-ons, and vehicles that include a sleek and wickedly powerful boat, SOCOM 3 has got it all. The single-player campaign is enjoyable in many ways, and apart from some minor artificial intelligences glitches due to large maps, the game is constructed well. The online play is far above anything else out for the PlayStation 2, with 32 players in a single game. In the end, SOCOM 3 is better than it's predecessors and anything else comparable, immersing you in the life of a Navy Seal on duty in the field, and will surely 'navy-fy' you from top to bottom.