Welcome back to the firestorm – this is the third outing for the Socom franchise on the PSP. In all honesty I have never had a draw towards the Socom series – I played the PS3 outing but found it a little too command based and overly clinical for my tastes. That said, Socom Fireteam Bravo 3 has changed my thoughts around totally. Going from a series that was built on strategy and team-commanding it has moved up into a more action packed genre, which so happens to make the game a little more travel friendly too.
You take on the character of “Wraith” who is the leader of a newly formed crack Navy SEALs team who are about to be sent on a black ops mission in a Soviet type country called Koratvia. In this country the US has placed a mole who has never reported back and all the teams that have been sent in previously have turned up dead. So your team’s mission is to find this mole and ascertain his situation. But, of course, in true action movie style things do not go to plan.
As a departure from the last games, this mission being Black Ops you and your team are on your own, there are no extraction points and no radio back-up from HQ. Your chapter briefings are lead from around a wooden box or table instead of off a computer screen and use an increasingly worn map and black and white surveillance photographs. It’s taking the tactical shooter back to its basics and it feels good.
This change in style seems to have given SOCOM a change in influence too, instead of feeling like Operation Flashpoint the game feels more like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six games. This is largely due to the involvement of the command system being not only context sensitive but also less about micro-management and more about surface decisions, which gives the AI a chance to breathe and show us what it’s like. Throughout the game you will be presented with setups where you will need to direct your team in completing an action to enable you to move across the field easier or take out targets with minimal problems. You can direct the team to open doors and flash bang the room’s occupants or halt their movement for you to take a flanking position and hit a group of soldiers from two sides. It is up to you how you tackle the situations, there are no right or wrong answers here, but it is a great rush to get that well-oiled feel to a team put down.
This ease of use is amplified by the control system, you use the analogue nub to move around your character with target lock and strafe being controlled from the right and left shoulder buttons respectively. A tap of X fires your weapon and holding down left on the directional buttons brings up a weapon swap menu or a tap will change on the fly. Holding O will bring up a menu for your team, allowing you to issue orders and setup their behaviour on the battlefield; you can also split the team down to just your elite Bravo members or the whole team at once. O also works as your movement orders for your team. By default they will tail you wherever you go, but a simple tap on O and where your crosshairs are pointing the team will go. It is all very fluid and makes one genre that keeps on having control issues on the PSP feel more at home.
But it isn’t all bright lights and bushy tails, SOCOM has its problems. I’ve played the game through twice now once on medium and once on hard, I found almost no difference between the two. It is stupidly easy at points with even challenges like a helicopter battle feeling somewhat challenge-less. There is also the feeling that your involvement in the game isn’t to attack but to sit back and play Armchair General. In fire fights if you are killed then it is game over, but if your boys get killed a quick jog over to them and a button hold later they are back on their feet and killing more bad guys than you can shake your rifle butt at. It seems that the game wants you to sit there and point the others in the right direction and just wait, indeed there was a point where I forgot to give out orders and left the team to it, they moved on ahead of me and as they were set to fire at will cleared out two rooms of enemies before I got to them. There is the point of SEALs versus the ill trained rebels, but come on; this is just stupid.
One point that SOCOM does do well is the multiplayer, the game offers competitive and co-op modes with almost completely lag free play, which is a novelty on PSP. We are treated to the normal game sets like; Free for All (deathmatch), Suppression (which is a team deathmatch), Tug of War (Capture the Flag), Demolition (which has you blowing up enemy targets) and Leader (which wants you to keep one team member alive). All these modes are great to play and expand the playtime of the game excellently.
But by far the best part is that of the Custom Missions option on the main menu. Here you can create your own missions, you pick from any of the missions that you have already completed in the main game and redeploy in them but this time with your own objectives. You can choose everything, how hard the mission is going to be, how many enemies will be on the field and what type of objectives you’re going to complete.
- Solid PSP third person shooting
- Converts SOCOMs tactical play into a more action based game successfully
- Gripping multiplayer options
- Main campaign a little short
- Difficulty…. isn’t difficult at all.
- At times you don’t feel you’re needed.
SOCOM has finally opened out onto a new field of battle, with a more set piece designed gameplay which is just perfect for travelling. The only downside is that the game is short, clocking in at around 5 hours, you just start getting into it as the credits roll. But as an experiment, it works and feels so much better than previous titles in the franchise.