It was bound to happen. Finally a game developer has given up on finding a compelling story. They have not bothered with hours of single-player gameplay through highly detailed, spectacular and varied environments. At last they are fed up with all those lukewarm reviews and disgruntled posts saying that while the game was good it was too short, had no replayability and the online component was limited and disappointing.
Socom: Confrontation, developed by Slant Six Games, is the answer to those criticisms. It has no single-player, you can’t even open the menus without being online, and is solely and simply an online multi-player squad based tactical shooter.
There is nothing flashy in Socom: Confrontation’s presentation. Press start and you see the two soldiers that you will be controlling in battle, a Special Forces Commando and a mercenary. Alongside them are five simple menu options. Top of the menu is Quick Match. Press this and within seconds the game will find you a best-fit match. To begin all you have to do is make sure your headset is on right, and press start.
Playing the game is an immensely enjoyable experience. The environments look fantastic. Draw distance is impressive and there is very little distracting in the animations aside from the odd NPC getting hung up between rocks or crates. Although there are only a limited number of maps, and an insanely difficult night option, the different combat modes and the map intricacies make the fighting experience compelling, violent and, for the unlucky and inexperienced, very brief.
The only onscreen help available is a radar pointing out the direction of people and objectives, and pointers and names over the heads of your team-mates. So, enemy soldiers are difficult to pick out amongst the rubble, just as they should be. If there is one thing Socom: Confrontation teaches you, it is the importance of good urban camo.
However, once you face-off with your opponent, the end comes very swiftly. Socom games are famous (or is that notorious) for being unforgiving in this regard. One shot is usually enough to have you spend the next five minutes sitting and watching the end of the battle. The other quirk with the game is the controls. Aside from using the sticks for movement and the R1 trigger to fire, they have little in common with other games. This is compounded for those not familiar with the previous Socom games because of the lack of the single player mode, and getting the hang of them in the heat of combat is deadly.
The other thing deadly about Socom: Confrontation is the set-up time. Throughout its development, and its North American release last year, the game chalked up a long list of problems. In fact if you can name a possible issue with an online tactical shooter, the odds are Socom: Confrontation had it. From server issues, crashing out, lag and graphical glitches the list of problems seemed insurmountable, or at least in need of a World of Warcraft-sized patch.
The good news is they did manage to fix them. However, there is some bad news. The bad news being that the patch is indeed WOW-sized. If you’ve been looking for the time to head into town to catch Watchmen, you’d be there and back and still have time to wait. However, the pre-play problems don’t just start and end with downloading fixes; before you even start to download the patch there is what must be the largest amount of game data yet to load to your hard drive. With Socom: Confrontation the console experience, for better or worse (but mostly for worse), has moved that much closer to the world of PC gaming.
So, provided you’ve had plenty to keep you busy between lunchtime and Home and Away, your game should be loaded, initialised, patched and ready to play.
Once you have loaded Socom: Confrontation the customisation options that have made the franchise a past leader are as deep as ever. The set-up options for your characters are detailed and realistic. Heavy armour slows you down and weapons with high firing rates lack stopping power but are more likely to hit if you are strafing while running for cover. Snipers are deadly but getting into good position is a challenge, often you get there just to sit on a roof until the time runs out. Even in a 32-player battle everyone seems to have their own look, tactics and personality.
Although you can level up and all your stats are recorded and ranked, as with any squad based game, Socom: Confrontation is all about your team. Aside from the Quick Play option you can set up games for just your friends, clans, limit searches in terms of weapons, modes or rankings and set up, or jump into online challenges. While there isn’t one yet, the world is just screaming out for another Aus vs. NZ tournament.
So, whether it is hitting the winning runs or making that last ditch tackle on the goal line. Or in this case taking out the mercenary who has just killed four of your buddies (Australians or not), before blowing up his munitions dump and getting a cursory ‘nice job’ through your headset, there is nothing like winning a game for your team. It seriously beats any extended closing sequence or gold trophy for completing level twelve on insane. With Socom: Confrontation that ‘nice job’ is as rewarding as ever, and considering all the obstacles you have to overcome to get it, it feels all the better.