SOCOM US Navy Seal's Fireteam Bravo - PSP Review
To say that SOCOM Fireteam Bravo (for short) is an important game on the PSP is an understatement. The system needs original content, but this game promises to deliver not only original content, but also a reason to play some online multiplayer. The series has earned a reputation on PS2 as one of the greatest third person shooters ever with extremely solid online gameplay. This PSP game deliveres a similar experience, with online gameplay, and compatibility with the upcoming SOCOM III on PS2 - which is due out on the same day as this PSP game.
|Sneaking up from behind.|
The storyline is pretty thin on the ground, and generally just your typical terrorists trying to take over the world scenario, so there's not much to report in this regard. In SOCOM Fireteam Bravo players assume the role of a SEAL commander assisted by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) teammate, as they battle enemies throughout the world in 14 missions across four international Areas of Operation (AO). The game plays and is structured just like the PS2 game, and even includes a headset with mic to issue commands to your troops.
One of my biggest issues with this game concerns the control system. Obviously the PSP doesn't have the dual analogue sticks of the PS2, so there have been some compromises. Primarily the analogue stick is used to move around (forwards, backwards, rotate left and rotate right). By pressing the L button you can strafe sideways. Where the problem lies is that in order to target enemies above or below your position you have to press right on the D-Pad to enter a free look mode, fire when on target, and then press right on the D-Pad again to continue moving your soldier around. It's quite awkward and unwieldy and even after hours of play was still quite annoying. One way Zipper Interactive have overcome this issue is the inclusion of the R button to lock on to enemies which makes targeting enemies much more user friendly.
|Graphics could have been better.|
One of the great inclusions in SOCOM Fireteam Bravo is crosstalk with SOCOM III on PS2. Essentially if you complete certain objectives in this game then, via a USB cable, you can transfer data and affect the way missions in the PS2 game are played, and vice-versa. It's certainly the best use of connectivity that we've seen between the PS2 and PSP to date and certainly makes purchasing both games a viable and/or worthwhile option.
Being a SOCOM title multi-player is one of the key aspects and indeed Zipper Interactive don't disappoint. The game includes both Ad Hoc and online Infrastructure modes for up to 16 players at a time. Unfortunately we don't have that many friends around with the system or copies of the game however we did test it with up to 4-players and the experience was quite superb with minimal lag.
|Using the sniper rifle.|
Besides the control scheme there's a couple of other issue which hold this game back. For one, the AI of enemies seems to be lacking behind those in the PS2 games. They're quite happy to stand out in the open while being shot at, and while occasionally dropping to their stomachs, they seldom look for real cover. The single player experience is a bit on the short side as well, it could certainly have done with a few more missions to extend the 8 hours or so of single player action - although finding and unlocking all the extras will take considerably longer. Finally the lock on feature is one which, while necessary, really dumbs down the game. Even if you can't see enemies in the distance you can 'lock-on' to them or, if out of the weapons range, will pop up a message saying you're out of range.
For such a key title I expected Zipper Interactive to set new benchmarks on the PSP in terms of graphics, but the end result isn't the experience we expected. Most of the objects in the game world are made of a minimal amount of polygons, and combined with average texturing the end result isn't too far removed from a good PSOne, or early PS2 title. In fact, the overall graphical appearance is inferior to the first SOCOM on PS2, let alone the super impressive third game (which we will be reviewing soon). Some of the visual effects such as explosions and gunfire do look pretty good although, once again, the interactivity with the game environment it limited. As we mentioned in the preview though, it's more important that a good frame rate is kept rather then the graphical frills, and that is the case. We must comment that the animation on the solders be it running, crawling, or dying, is pretty solid. The game does include a couple of pre-rendered cut-scenes to tell the story, which are pretty nice quality.
I was pretty impressed by the audio in this game. The music is atmospheric, and basically the same as heard in the PS2 games with familiar themes. Where this PSP version shines is the sound effects including some of the best gunfire and explosions yet heard on the PSP systems. Likewise the speech, and in particular the comments from your mission commanders is very impressive giving you detailed updates on the objectives.
|Targeting the enemy...|
SOCOM US Navy Seal's Fireteam Bravo is a very good action title, and multiplayer is especially entertaining, however it is certainly technically inferior to the PS2 games - perhaps it's time Sony unlocks the speed lock on the PSP's CPU to unleash its full potential. Still, the ability to crosstalk with the PS2 adds some great value and it's still a good game to add to your collection.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||The PSP struggles to add detail to the graphics, but a solid frame rate.||65%|
|SOUND||Good effects and plenty of speech backed up with atmospheric music.||82%|
|GAMEPLAY||It's SOCOM for sure, but AI and tactics are slightly dumbed down.||72%|
|VALUE||Single player could be longer, but multi-player is the shining light.||80%|
|OVERALL||SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo is a great game in the SOCOM universe, but the graphics have really been dumbed down which reduces the overall impact. Still, multi-player and crosstalk with PS2 rock and fans of the series will enjoy this game.||76%|