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April 28, 2009
SOCOM: Confrontation - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
19/3/2009SonySonySlant SixNone
(online only)
2-32
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc2737MB720pDD5.1YesM

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SOCOM Confrontation looks pretty nice.
Once upon a time mid-2003, the SOCOM series came out of nowhere for the PS2 offering a very competent tactical third-person shooter, as well as being one of the first quality online titles for the console (with early copies coming bundled with a USB headset for voice-commands as well as multiplayer voice comms). Aside from the almost 'novelty' factor that this game had as a result, it was well received and was perhaps the better alternative to the renown Rainbow Six series and subsequent sequels – particularly for its online multiplayer.

Almost six years later, and who would've thought the series could still be going strong, with the latest incarnation, SOCOM Confrontation being an entirely online title. And as fate would have it too, this one also comes available bundled with a headset too! Is this game worthwhile on its own, without even considering the free hardware? Put the frag grenades aside, engage safety on your M14, and read on.

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One of the first screenshots released.
In a change of pace from previous SOCOM titles, SOCOM Confrontation is a purely online multiplayer game; so we'll let you in on a little spoiler about the story – there is none! Well, nothing aside from there being a team of commandos and a team of mercenaries, with an armoury of weapons being the only thing getting whichever team you choose through to victory.

SOCOM Confrontation follows the gameplay of the multiplayer modes of previous PS2 SOCOM titles; being a heavily team-based tactical shooter set in modern day warzones, with the players based upon commandos from real-life defence forces worldwide. You control your soldier (which you can customize to suit your play style, both visually and functionally) with an over-the-shoulder view (by default) through standard death-match, bomb-plant and domination type game modes. In a welcome departure from some other online shooters, respawn can be disabled depending upon the server, which can result in a far more conservative approach; a few early deaths soon makes the guns-blazing Rambo types reconsider their strategy.

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Aiming at the enemy above.
To make your character stand out from the crowd, the customisation options in SOCOM Confrontation are quite deep – you have a large range of choices for both primary and secondary weapons, as well as choosing headgear and the particular camouflage gear to suit whatever cover you're going to be hiding amongst. Weapons can further be customised with extra equipment including scopes and suppressors, and the armour that protects you in the field can be increased or decreased depending on your style of play. After all, there's no way you can run around like a rabbit on heat when you're stacked up with the armour of a small tank – just like in real life, the more things you carry, the slower you'll move in battle.

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Is that an enemy ahead in SOCOM?
Now I'll probably get shot down by SOCOM fanboys for this, but being an online-only game, it seems as though not having any offline component whatsoever is perfectly acceptable (similar to Warhawk); personally I have a bit of a gripe to this. Yes, it's understandable that you're going to have to work together as a team with a bunch of other guys n gals in order to be successful at the game, but it'd be nice to learn the controls and become accustomed with the maps without being cannon fodder for the opposition (which in turn burns your stats, and those of your teammates also). With seven maps each having differing sizes and day/night modes, it'd really be nice to just have a free play yourself or with a mate, because even the pros at the game had to have started off somewhere. And nobody likes being cannon fodder. And yes, I'm aware you can set up single-player maps for your lonesome if you're really desperate; but it's fiddly, and it would have made the game more appealing for newbies had they been catered for in that respect.

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Some enemies up ahead!
For a game which has online gameplay making up 100% of what you'll be playing, the coding behind SOCOM Confrontation as well as how any network problems are handled should really be tighter than this. Intermittent connectivity issues, including crashing to server list and in-game lag are problems which you'll read much about online from the US launch in late 08, yet still occur despite several patches attempting to resolve them (the version we reviewed was 1.42). Frustratingly though, the problems aren't always able to be recreated, so it's a bit hard to help the developers to fix it, and more importantly it's hard to prevent the same problem from repeating again in future. I didn't encounter issues as often as some others out there, but at their worst they were happening enough to make the game unenjoyable, particularly when missing an easy kill due to lag or ghost-jumping just means you've caught a bullet with your head and are now spending the remainder of the round on the sidelines.

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Surrounded by squad mates during a battle.
Similarly to previous SOCOM games, the visuals in SOCOM Confrontation are quite detailed, but not in a gee-wowy-super-bump-mapped-trilinear-filtering kind of way. Sadly you won't find jaw-dropping particle effects, explosions, and massive intricate architectural pieces, but instead the attention to detail for individual soldiers and their kit is very fine. Before you hit the battlefield you not only have the option to customise your weapons and kit, but also design your character from skin and camo colours to clothing and weapon accessories. And as mentioned before, in-game these details are carried through to your player model and his accessories flawlessly.

As seen in the screenshots, the seven levels of SOCOM Confrontation aren't ugly by any stretch of the imagination. The map 'crossroads' from SOCOM II on the PS2 is one of two which have been kept and revamped for the PS3 incarnation and it, like the rest of the maps, is well laid out as well as looking the part in both daytime and night time modes. In addition, there's some limited dynamic range lighting effects going on between moving into and out of dark shadowed areas or into sunlight; it's a nice touch, but unfortunately is the limit of the graphical extravagances here.

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Looking at the battle from inside a building.
As much detail has been kept with the graphics in game, the sound effects for SOCOM Confrontation are no different – moving at varying speeds over different terrains has a noticeable change in not only the noises you give off, but also those of other players. Veterans of the maps too will be able to pick where the nearby firefights are, purely by how muffled and echoed the gunshots are coming from around the corner. In-game music is obviously non-existent, as you're wanting every last advantage that you can get from your senses (i.e. without music drowning out the sounds of an enemy coming up), and the music and effects for the menu screens are pretty standard fare for a game such as this.

Several months ago, I participated in the SOCOM beta, and it's bizarre because some of the narky network bugs which reared their ugly heads then still seem to be apparent here. This really is a shame, particularly after the extended development that's gone into SOCOM's first venture onto the PS3. All isn't bad for SOCOM though – given the size of the community out there, Slant Six Games would be loopey not to rest until the bugs are fixed, so it's only a matter of time until a patch or two iron out all the problems. These problems aside, SOCOM Confrontation is a deeply-customisable tactical shooter, and with tournament, leaderboard and clan ladder support, there's plenty of incentive to become heavily involved in the strong SOCOM online community for bragging rights and more.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSSome nice little extra touches, but very solid overall.
80%
SOUNDLimited due to no in-game music, but great effects throughout.
79%
GAMEPLAYSOCOM is just short of defining multiplayer teamwork for the PS3.
72%
VALUELet down by network bugs, and 7 maps will soon have you wanting more.
65%
OVERALLA bit rough around the edges, particularly with the network code, but there’s still a great game hiding underneath. That said, for retailing at almost half the price of a full game, if you’re a fan of online shooters you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with SOCOM Confrontation.
70%

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