[Due to limited time spent with the multiplayer aspects of SOCOM: Special Forces, we are reviewing that mode separately later in the week. You can read our review of the single-player campaign mode here, but we will be waiting before we award the game a score.]
Whereas the SOCOM Special Forces single-player is a bit of a mixed bag, the game’s co-op modes are probably the highlight of the whole package. Whilst they don’t exactly offer anything radically new, they do an impressive job of taking the more tactical elements of the game and bringing those online.
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[drop]There are two co-op modes, Takedown and Espionage. The former sees your team working through the map, looking for high-ranking enemies that must be taken out, whereas the latter is more about intel-gathering. Before getting dropped into the game you’re able to customise a number of settings: you’ve got six maps to choose from, all based on elements from the single-player campaign – not tons, but certainly enough to keep regular co-op play varied – as well as an overall difficulty level, and number of enemies to face. That’s not to say that turning everything down to the lowest settings is going to be a breeze; when I played a couple of games with some other journos on those settings, we still got taken out pretty quickly before we realised that team play was key to getting anything done.
The co-op loses the ‘OpsCom and two teams’ setup from the main campaign, but there’s still very much a sense of teamwork. Run off on your own, and you will get surrounded and mercilessly gunned down – and then the enemy will tactically deploy between you and your fallen comrade to stop you healing them. Instead, it’s fundamental to work together, throwing smoke grenades to cover your teammates’ advances during a tough firefight, or pressing up on the directional pad with the crosshair over a hidden sniper to point him out to the rest of your squad.
[drop2]Like the single-player, you’ve got full 3D and Move support, but whether they help or hinder online play is something that’ll only become apparent over extended play. There are two nice touches though: firstly, co-op matches can be strung together to form a mini-campaign of their own – nice if you fancy a longer, more engaging session with your friends. As well as that, everything available in online co-op is also available in an offline ‘custom game’ option under the single-player heading. It’s a nice option, giving you a break from the campaign, or allowing you to hone your skills for the game itself (or even practising with Move) – it works exactly the same as the online mode, just with bots instead of real players.
[boxout]Sure, it would be nice to have the option of being a little stealthier – a little too often co-op matches just descend into large-scale firefights – but when you’ve got a group of friends, all armed with headsets, SOCOM co-op is a lot of fun, even more so than the campaign. Large scale multiplayer matches are fun, but co-op is where it’s likely you’ll spend most of your time with the game. However a few more maps, or an extra mode or two, wouldn’t go amiss.