After giving the online-only SOCOM: Confrontation duties to Slant 6 to develop and releasing the online, 256 player, first-person shooter, MAG, original SOCOM developer Zipper is returning to form with SOCOM 4. Not only will the game feature online multiplayer with 32-player matches and all-new game modes, but this time around Zipper is hard at work giving SOCOM 4 a lengthy, deep, and cinematic single-player campaign.
At Sony’s E310 booth, I was given some great hands-on gameplay of the first level in the campaign mode. This level throws your protagonist Cullen Gray, Operations Commander, and his support squad into a heated battle in a city somewhere in Southeast Asia. The environments are surprisingly detailed, filled with abandoned cars and other debris, which come quite in handy when using the game’s new structured cover system, a first for the series.
Previous SOCOM titles have avoided a real cover system, but instead let players find their own cover. This new cover system is much needed, as so many popular shooters have adapted with the new feature, Zipper was smart to include it in SOCOM 4. To cover, tap Circle when near an obstacle and your character ducks out of sight; press the stick up to peek out over the top, or sideways to look around a corner. But don’t stay in one place for too long because most cover is now destructible in SOCOM 4, meaning enemies can shoot right through with enough fire power. However, this isn’t as dangerous as it may seem, as the game now introduces a health-recharge, another first to SOCOM. Not sure if the health-recharge will be part of the online multiplayer, and if it is, I can see many longtime SOCOM fans getting pissed.
Another main addition to SOCOM 4 is a system for giving quick commands to your teammates. By tapping Left or Right on the d-pad, you can direct your squad to take appropriate action at the area you’re targeting, whether it be to attack an enemy or simply change position. Previous installments in the series have had command features, but they required going through a menu to execute the commands . This new feature allows for quick strategy, something that will come in handy as Zipper has really stepped up the intelligence of enemy AI, giving baddies more options like using cover diligently and using flanking maneuvers.
The other big new feature for SOCOM 4 on display at the E3 show was PlayStation Move support, which I didn’t get a chance to actually play. However, I did see a few other folks using Move with SOCOM 4, and it looked like it worked pretty well. The controls are identical to the Dual Shock method, except that aiming and turning is accomplished by using the Move controller. Just like with some of the shooters on the Wii, with Move you hold the controller as if you were actually holding an actual gun, and trust me, you don’t look like a complete idiot doing it. Hopefully the Move formula works out well with SOCOM 4, because I could really see myself using it to murk fools online with.
In short, SOCOM 4 seems like it’s really trying to get back to it’s glory days it had on the PS2, and you can tell Zipper is looking to refine and update that classic formula. As a huge fan of the series, I’m greatly looking forward to SOCOM 4, because Confrontation was somewhat of a let down, not only for me, but for SOCOM fans wanting a true SOCOM experience. Look out for SOCOM 4 for the PS3 this fall.