The world is a troubled place and it's a sad fact of life that conflict seems inevitable. Fortunately there are people willing to lay their life on the line so people like you and me can rest easily at night.
Video games have given us insights into the world of the armed forces, whether it's based on real events or fictional, from World War II to the modern day or indeed near and far future, we have been given the chance to sample the life of those involved in these conflicts, and thankfully only in a virtual way.
The theatre of war in this game is the far east. Pirates have taken several ships over, and the ransoms being paid are used to finance an uprising in an Asian country. Enter the SOCOM, who are there to act as a security force and a deterrent.
The game starts with the squad having to escape a hotel where they have been encamped. A helicopter sent in to get them out gets (somewhat predictably) shot down so now our gallant heroes have to get out of there the hard way, on foot as conflict erupts around them.
A truck carrying enemy units suddenly crash through the front gates and the fight is on! From the relative safety offered by wreckage used as cover, you are soon engaged in your first gun fight and from there on in, it's case of getting too the next checkpoint, dealing with all that gets in the way.
That pretty much sums up the plot. Fight, survive, get out to the next checkpoint and engage the enemy. But there are curve balls thrown your way too, your job, like every good soldier, is to adapt and overcome.
To be honest, if you have played the likes of Gears of War, Call of Duty or Medal of Honour series there's nothing new or surprising here. Move the character with the left analogue stick, look around the battlefield with the right. Aim with the left stick, shoot with a press of the right trigger.
For grenades, select the type needed with a quick press of the D-pad, aim your reticule at the target and launch the grenade with the right bumper. Other options become open to you and these are directed through the D-pad. For instance you can select a target with the left stick and when the circumstances permit, call an air strike by pressing up on the D-pad. Once the surrounding icon turns red it means that the air force can deliver the payload. Just make sure you are well out of harm's way when doing so and make sure the enemy artillery hasn't got a bead on your location, and you should be fine.
A tap of the triangle button means you can crouch and if needs be (and a welcome change) or drop into a prone position. You can also send your teams ahead of you, and you have two squads for the job. Blue squad are more adept at swift, and silent attacks whilst the Gold team offer a more direct assault. Whilst these units do their job, it's up to you to work your way through and provide covering fire if needs be or plant an explosive charge whatever the task at hand may be. But it's not all squad based. Remember I mentioned curve balls, well the first one comes in pretty darned quickly in campaign mode.
Your unit meets a young chinese woman codenamed White Tiger who claims she's very good at getting into a place and doing what needs to be done on her own. Well suddenly she gets the chance to prove it (with you guiding her) as she has to infiltrate a ship yard.
The controls for this stay relatively unchanged, but now you can deliver stealth kills with a press of the R3 button and the task of concealing bodies becomes an issue. Walk towards the body, and standing up, press the O button to hoist the body onto your shoulders.
Like in the thief games, use shadows and undergrowth to conceal yourself, and do not let yourself be seen. However as in the case of the above scenario, our heroine is very vulnerable whilst carrying a body. It doesn't help that the camera angle suddenly shifts to an almost overhead view, making navigation a task in it's own right. And now that you are standing up, it's easier for the guards to spot you, so all that hard work sneaking in can be undone in a New York minute! To say this is frustrating is an understatement. However with the likes of the previously named games, if you have played them then the tutorial sections become somewhat null and void. It's very instinctive and should not cause too much hassle.
Cinematic cut scenes are very nice indeed although they lack some facial animation at times and lip synch is not too great but you can overlook that. In game the graphics are more than adequate, explosions are nice and meaty with decent flame and smoke effects. Textures for building are fine although there seems to be some detail absent in foliage but hey you are not there to admire the scenery are you?
Vehicles are nicely detailed and character movements are nice and smooth with no stiff legged jerky running, and realistic responses when it comes to going for cover, climbing over obstacles, etc.
More than adequate, nice indeed. Though not too the standards say of Halo: Reach they are more than decent and show no obvious cause for concern.
Nice and functional soundtrack music wise. Guns pack the necessary audio meat (so to speak) to make you think that you are dealing a hefty dose of devastation. No real complaints although your neighbours may complain if you feed it through a home cinema system!
Alas with Sony's recent problems with hackers, the online functions were disabled. However I can see that you can play the normal campaign with online help and the intriguing option of custom made campaigns. The usual death match, capture the flag modes are all there, just a shame I couldn't experience them for myself. (Hurry up Sony and get that online network back up and running!)
Well I could go over old ground here but there is no point. It's hardly ground breaking in ways of control, or in game scenario but that's no bad thing. The ease that you can get into the squad based sections is welcome and not a problem, the solo parts however...
A good (though not great) storyline and a very responsive set of controls help make this a challenging game indeed. Enemy a.i. is not to be sniffed at either so be warned. An experience point style tally is kept as you blast your way through and captured arms and ammo can be taken into the next arena of combat and like your own items, can be upgraded and improved. These XP points are I believe more important in the online game modes but alas you'll have to find out for yourself once Sony has got their servers back up and running. Not a sandbox game in the real meaning of the term but you can go almost anywhere on the battlefield providing the enemy are not there to spoil your fun.
The 'single player' stealth sections mean that one minute you are in third person Gears of War type territory and then wham!, the next you are playing in a Splinter Cell style of game. It would not be a problem if some of the situations you find yourself in were not such a pain in the nether regions. Take the above situation I mentioned with the body of a guard.
You spend some time sneaking in, and after a stealth kill on one perimeter guard, your next task is to shoot a guard, and then conceal the body. Fine except for a) he is stood under a light b) you cannot shoot the lights out c) as soon as you stand up to lift the body (for some reason you cannot just drag it) the guards eagle eyed companions spot you and the lead starts to fly. I have lost count the number of times that I got killed the moment I picked up the guards body! Why can't you shoot out the lights? OK it may raise some suspicion in the guards to some extent but it would have eased the stress of the mission to some considerable degree.
Now bear in mind that structures on the battlefield can seemingly be damaged in squad mode, then why oh why can't the background areas be damaged on these solo stealth sections? It jars to be honest in an annoying way, and if you could take out lights, etc, etc. that would be so much more realistic, as it is on the battlefield. The two modes are at odds with each other and that's a great pity indeed. I also cannot see how this mode of mission could be played online with coop? Someone correct me please if I am wrong about this.
This appears to be a solid and reasonably entertaining package that will keep the most trigger happy of gamers happy for a considerable time. Not too sure how many hours the campaign lasts to be honest, as I haven't got through too the very end as of yet but maybe I am a bad player but I have already clocked up a good 5 hours or so and still have some way to go. Niggling issues with the solo game do mar the experience but the online game looks as if this could make up for any shortcomings in those solo sections.
Challenging yes, with a learning curve in the stealth sections that could be a little too steep for the younger and more inexperienced players out there, but the battlefield sections are exciting and engrossing and we have a reasonably challenging game here. I like it and once that online capability is back we are as gamers, in for a bit of a treat.