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August 24, 2003
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
17/7/2003SonyZipper Interactive1-16 OnlineMA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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If a gun is pointed at you like that...
If you haven't heard of this game then you've either got no interest at all in gaming, or were only just born. Not only is SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's one of the most intense action titles in recent years, but more importantly will be used to kick off online gaming in Australia - as it has done in America and Europe.

In the single player game SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's places you in the role of an elite SEAL commander whose team is asked to fight terrorists in 12 missions spread over 4 richly detailed international locations including Thailand, the Congo, Alaska, and Turkmenistan. The game includes more than 30 weapons (including handguns, assault and automatic rifles, hand grenades, explosives and more), although somewhat surprisingly there are no shotguns for close-up action. Ammunition is limited however, in keeping with realism, it's possible to pick up weapons from dead soldiers, friend or foe. The missions are varied and include tasks such as ambushes/eliminating enemies, hostage taking and rescues, demolitions, night fighting, reconnaissance and clearing buildings.

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Buildings hide damn snipers.
The only real niggle with the single player game is the AI of the opponents (although some human AI in multi-player can be pretty crazy at times too!). It's not uncommon to see the troops on your team refuse to take distance shots at the enemy rather try to take them out at close range. The enemies are equally stupid at times. It doesn't distract too much from the game, but this isn't AI in the level of the Rogue Spear titles on PC. My only other complaint is the use of the L3 button to change from single shot, burst or full machine gun fire. On to many occasions I accidentally changed fire modes while moving around causing a premature death.

As you would expect gameplay is fairly similar to most other action titles. Action takes place from a third person perspective although it is also possible to change to a first person perspective for those that prefer it. Either mode is effective. The single player game isn't a walkover, although seasoned gamers should get through it with a day or two's solid gaming. The controls are probably as good as can be expected on the Playstation 2 Dual Shock 2 controller. The only real disappointment is that your secondary weapon is always set to a handgun of some kind. A grenade would be so much more welcome while using an AK-47 (or any other gun) as your primary weapon.

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Got him!
One of the great features of SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's is the USB headset provided with the game to issue commands to teammates. In single player your team is split into two groups of two, Alpha and Bravo. You can issue commands to either one of the two groups, or the entire team. These commands include holding fire, fire at will, clear rooms, cover area, go to waypoint, go to crosshair among many others. What did astound me was the accuracy with which the game understood your commands. In the online gameplay it's possible to talk directly to other teammates to decide on strategies. Terrific.

Now for the clincher - online gameplay. I have been playing in the Australian trials for the last week pretty solid - well over 20 hours worth. Even at this early stage it's amazing how stable the game is. Almost everyone I have spoken to (through the headset while playing) has told me they are having a blast playing online - and I won't disagree. The initial setup was pretty easy with the only problem being the need for Telstra Broadband users to connect through a router or PC due to their heartbeat network setup. Other Internet Service Provider users won't have this issue. When online the game provides an easy to navigate lobby where you can setup clans, users, or games. Joining a game is as simple as a click of a button and then it's 8-on-8 gaming goodness. No hassles, no dropouts (well 2 in those 20 hours) and best of all no lag in the game which remains silky smooth. Broadband was definitely the right decision.

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In jungle camouflage.
My only real concern with the online gameplay is that Australians will resort to the same tactics (if you can call it that) as gamers in America by using a Gameshark to cheat in online gameplay by providing unlimited ammo, no recoil and even stealing opponents ammunition. In the beta stages to date there has been no reports of people using this device and gamers seem to have a lot of respect for each other. Another issue which I would like to see rectified with online gaming is the ranking which reward players not predominantly for their win percentage or percentage of kills to deaths but rather the overall number of kills meaning the longer you play the higher your ranking making it a quantity rather then quality ranking.

SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's can best be described as having a functional rather then state of the art graphics engine. There are definitely better graphics engines in other games, but this game is effective enough with enough variety to keep you interested. The player models are also detailed enough with some fairly good animation, particularly the death animations. The effects such as rain and snow are like everything else functional enough. The frame rate holds up fairly well although the turning circle could be a little better, as could the graphics while watching your teammates after you die - although that me be due to the network speed.

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Ahh those damn snipers!
Sound in the game certainly won't win any awards, but will provide enough atmosphere to keep you on the edge of your seat. The gunshots all sound realistic enough, and certainly get the heart racing when someone jumps out near you and starts blasting away. The voice chatter in the game is also excellent while I was surprised by the quality of sound being emitted from the headset. Finally, the music in the game changes pace with the action. It's not as smooth as other games but is effective nonetheless.

SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEAL's is a good game that kicks off online gaming with a bang. Indeed it is still one of the most popular titles in America a year after release, and gamers in the Australian trials are all having a great time. The problem is that this title is a year old now and it shows with SOCOM II only weeks away in America (although probably a year away here). Well worth a look for action fans, and those willing to try online gaming. Just remember the game only runs on broadband connections - not dialup. Oh and you'll need to buy the network adapter when released soon (it will be pretty cheap).

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSEverything is adequate but little really stands out other then variety.
SOUNDLimited music and good effects. Chatter through headset is clear.
GAMEPLAYThe game plays pretty well through controller, and the Internet.
VALUEDo you like online gameplay? If so, SOCOM will have you hooked.
OVERALLOverall, SOCOM is a great start to online gaming. With Australian online gaming to start within months now is a good time to pick up this title, practice in the single player and then hit the online servers when the broadband Network Adapter is released to the public.

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