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April 8 2008
SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Tactical Strike - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
28/2/2008SonySonySlant Six Games
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating
576KBMedium1-4M

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Graphically this game is pretty good.
Anyone who reads my reviews will probably remember the one I did for SWAT on the PSP recently. A blight upon humanity, that game was up there with Lair, Hitler, and lime-flavoured Fanta as one of the worst man-made things to ever have an impact on the human spectrum of life. Due to this, it was with great hesitation that I loaded up another shooter, this time, SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Tactical Strike (or SOCOM:USNSEALTS for short?!) into my PSP. Thankfully, this game is entirely unlike that other steaming pile of... SWAT. Read on if you want know more... if not, well... why are you here?

While every gamer and his dog (I should probably say his/her but seriously, if there are gamer chicks out there I haven't met them, unless you count Wii players but that's another story) knows what SOCOM is, I am unfortunately forced to assume that your life has been spent under a rock, and thus explain it over for all of you. To put it into a nutshell you control a squad of elite troops with guns, grenades and other neat toys, and try to blast the hell out of some opposing force. Actually, forget the nut-shell... that IS the entire story. Sure, there are small additions to the overarching plot, and each level has its own level-specific objectives, but they add nothing to the lack of story. But c'mon, who the hell plays a SOCOM title for the story? This is one of those shooters that, along with Counterstrike, inspires a whole bunch of gamers to start foaming at the mouth at even the mention of its almighty name! Screw the story, we wanna blow shit up!!!

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Using the SFCR-HW weapon.
So just like all previous titles in the franchise, this game resumes the... Wait, scratch that. What I meant to say was that, unlike previous titles in the franchise, Tactical Strike actually changes up the gameplay and while this is sure to annoy a small portion of hard-core fans, it is a welcome change for the rest of us who never really got the whole point of locking ourselves in the room and bludgeoning ourselves until SOCOM became fun. Abandoning this makes the game, believe it or not, fun!

Controlling a squad of 4 troops, you will shoot your way through level upon levels of bad guys, using what is actually a surprisingly intuitive control scheme. You don't actually control any one character, but instead issue commands to either your entire squad of 4, or two smaller squads, made up of 2 troops each. Controlling the cursor using the analogue slider nub thingy (I'm sure there's a real name for it... it's that little circle you manipulate to move in most games), and then pressing an appropriate action button, or even in some cases, pressing, holding and then releasing the appropriate action button, will see your squad, be it of 2 or 4, shoot, take cover, throw a grenade, snipe, and so on. It's a great system that may overwhelm some players at first, but after investing a short time in the game, it becomes quite enjoyable. It's not great okay, but it's easy, and reasonably fun.

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Using the night vision goggles.
As with any SOCOM title, stealth comes into play quite a lot and while you could go in all guns blazing, screaming at the top of your lungs for whatever country in which you reside, hoping to hit all the bad guys before you fall to the ground, this usually results in you, and your cohorts, suffering a slight case of death. As such, it is usually preferable to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and take them out with as little noise as possible. And as this was the way in which the game was intended to be played, you will probably enjoy it all the more. Nonetheless, sometimes the enemy will have their super-senses turned on, and an all-out gun-fight will be unavoidable, and in these cases cover becomes important. On the whole, gameplay is fun, controls are intuitive and while the game does nothing amazing, or breaks any ground, its fun enough to keep even least rabid gamer entertained for a while.

Unfortunately the game is not without its flaws. As I already mentioned, the control scheme can be a little daunting at first. This isn't helped by the fact that the movement reticule is not always as responsive as it could have been, nor does the somewhat limiting camera help out either. There are plenty of times where you will yearn for just that little extra vision, and while it doesn't particularly hamper the gameplay that much, it is annoying and impacts on the overall experience.

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SOCOM remains a great series for Sony.
Also, while we were unable to test out the multiplayer much, there was obvious lag when playing online, and reportedly just as much offline (which we were unable to test at all). This in particular is disappointing as it could have been a great online title for PSP gamers to pick up. Finally, the AI seemed, at least to me, a little inconsistent. At times enemies would spot me when I was well out of their vision, but at others I could be in plain sight and they never flinched. Perhaps it was just our review code, but it wasn't a huge matter either way.

Inconsistency also seems to rear its ugly head when it comes to the visuals in this title as well. Far from average, Tactical Strike looks, at times, quite nice indeed. Character models are very nicely animated with appropriate levels of detail, effects are decent enough to hold their own, and levels look quite nice. However, there were points in levels where I felt I had been in the same place before, and there were others where it seemed the development team had just decided that clutter wasn't needed. Sure, there's something to be said for open levels, but there needs to be a certain amount of environmental clutter to be believable. On the whole, it's a nice looking game, but it won't make you sit back in awe.

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Even more action - Aztec is ahead.
While we are on the topic of sparse, this term can also be applied to the in-game music. I don't understand this recent trend with games adding a lot more silence when it comes to the soundtrack. Okay it was kind of cool back in the Halo *1* days (yes I said it) when you were running through an alien structure and all you could hear was the gunfire of your cohorts being slaughtered by the surely evil covenant, and there will always be a place for well-placed silence in horror titles as well, but am I the only one who actually likes developers to attempt to produce a full soundtrack? In this area SOCOM really disappoints, and the rest of the audio is not enough to make up for it. This aspect of the title really lets down what is otherwise a good game.

It's not another SOCOM game; it's a partial reinvention of the SOCOM wheel. For some this is going to bring doom, death and destruction to their twitching, foaming-mouth lifestyle, for those of us with some sort of standards, it is a welcome change to what was becoming, in my opinion, a stagnated series. While it certainly suffers its flaws, it's a nice change from what has been a reasonably slow time for the system. However, if the choice is this or God of War on the PSP, then give Kratos a run instead.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

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GRAPHICSIt looks decent enough but suffers from some inconsistency regarding level detail.
79%
SOUNDWhere's the music guys? Disappointing, even if other aspects are okay.
67%
GAMEPLAYIt's fun. It's not your typical SOCOM title, and controls are daunting at first, but get into it and you'll find something that is quite enjoyable.
81%
VALUEWith the multiplayer being quite borked, and little replay value, it's not a bad purchase, but you may be left wanting.
75%
OVERALLIt's a decent title and it's a welcome change from previous instalments in the series. But don't expect anything amazing.
76%

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