SOCOM: Special Forces

I’ve finally had the chance to play through the main campaign for SOCOM: Special Forces. After my pretty incoherent introduction to the game (hinted at in last week’s preview), I was keen to get stuck into a bit of story, which I hoped would provide a counterpoint to SOCOM’s big action sequences. I can’t say that playing SOCOM: Special Forces completely exceeded my expectations, but there were definitely some interesting surprises along the way that made for an enjoyable playing experience.

As mentioned in the preview, the story campaign allows you to take on the role of Cullen Gray, Ops Commander for a NATO special forces squad that is trying to help stop the actions of a local insurgent group, known as the Naga. In a nice touch, both Cullen and two of his team (Schweitzer and Wells) are ‘localised’ for the gamer, albeit with decidedly dodgy Australian accents (though Wikipedia says these are British, I’m not convinced). The other two members are South Korean operatives: the personality-free Chan, and the very cool Forty-Five.

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The blue team, consisting of Schweitzer and Wells, have an advantage in heavy arms and direct conflict, while the gold team (Chan and Forty-Five) specialise in stealth and sniper activity. As Commander, you can direct your crew via plotted waypoints. While the game’s website claims you can have “high precision control over shooting, melee fighting and commanding your squad”, my press edition game came with a very pretty fold-out of all the different weapons available to me in the game, but no manual or other information on how to effectively control my squad. Viewing the control mapping menu displayed only a handful of presets that could be selected, but little on specific detail. No matter - I’m sure other players will enjoy discovering the extent of this high precision control for themselves.

In any case, the gameplay was still fast-paced and intense, which is what really matters. The AI for the squad is pretty good as well: team members will take cover if they are able, though they do have the habit of running off a bit - however the down directional button will regroup the team, so it’s easy enough to keep them under control.

What I found to be a rather addictive element to the game was with weapon collection and mod upgrades. Any weapons collected in the field are able to be used in later missions, and weapons used in combat earn their own set of experience points, which eventually buy you new mods and upgrades for the weapons. As you’d expect from a shooter, there’s a massive array of weapons to choose from, with designs for the NATO crew, as well as the Naga.

The gameplay’s not just hand-to-hand-bang-bang either; from time to time you’ll have the option to call in devastating air strikes on strategic targets, reprogram missiles to shoot at the enemy, and there are even several game stages that take place with a stealth focus instead of the traditional bull in a china shop approach. And as the approach is not always the same, the missions also have a good range of activity that players will find interesting: you may find yourself gathering intelligence, setting ambushes for enemy convoys, taking down gunships with rocket launchers, protecting teammates, and disabling enemy warships.

I don’t know if it’s the done thing to call a shooter pretty, but SOCOM: Special Forces is a very good-looking game. In the same way that Apocalypse Now’s opening sequence showed the slowed-down beauty of a massive explosion, there are some quite beautiful moments in the game (assuming, of course, that you like that sort of thing). I was particularly impressed with a sequence in which a small boat in a tranquil bay was blown to smithereens, as Gray was thrown to the ground by a massive airstrike, and in another mission, when a container struck by a ship’s guns spilled open, emptying its cargo out onto the docks right in front of the Commander.

There were a few things I hoped SOCOM: Special Forces would have more of. I was hoping for a greater feeling of camaraderie from the squad, despite some intense scenes between Gray and Forty-Five; while she was an interesting character, the others in the squad didn’t tend to come out with anything more meaningful than the odd jibe. Granted, some of these made me laugh out loud (“save it for the psych profile”), but it would have been good to have a bit ‘more’.

And though SOCOM: Special Forces is, at heart, a tactical shooter (and I suppose many will buy this game more for the multiplayer aspect than the campaign itself), I couldn’t help thinking that if it had a bit more flexibility in terms of completing missions, there’d be a much greater replayability factor. OK, I’m not asking for the full-blown Fallout treatment, but considering the fact that ‘tactics’ are meant to be a key part of the genre, I found little tactical merit was had in following the trail marked out for my character to take, waypoint-by-waypoint. It just would have been nicer if it didn’t feel so on rails.

At the end of the day, SOCOM: Special Forces is a great-looking shooter, offering an interesting campaign (running to around 15 hours) to get players warmed up for the cutthroat world of the multiplayer realm. While the country played in is a fictional one, there’s still enough realism in the NATO setting to make the game feel current. If you’re a fan of tactical shooters, this one’s definitely recommended.

"Good looking and hard hitting."
- SOCOM: Special Forces
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (4)

Posted by souljah685
On Tuesday 19 Apr 2011 6:52 PM
sweet im definitely getting this, ummm now to think what games to trade
Posted by JiminyJickers
On Friday 22 Apr 2011 12:29 AM
Yeah, definitely Australian, check out the flags on their shoulders, Australian. The accents and change depending on which region of the world you are playing in, check out the link below which confirms it.
Posted by Digitaldude
On Monday 25 Apr 2011 12:15 AM
15hours? nice.
Hows the MP though? What about Co-op? I'm curious about them.
Posted by Wh1teDeAth88
On Monday 25 Apr 2011 5:57 PM
Not being picky, but i'd just like to pint out that Socom: Special Forces is not a First Person Shooter as described next to Genre at the top-right of the page. I believe the correct description would be Third Person Shooter.