previews\ Feb 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm



Zipper Interactive has done a great job handling the SOCOM franchise ever since 2002. Unfortunately, with a near annual release every year between both console and PSP titles, it's easy for the franchise to lose some of its momentum. With SOCOM 4 releasing on April 19, the developer needs fresh features to make sure this game is worth a buy.

Like each previous SOCOM game, SOCOM 4 offers the 14-mission single player campaign and the 32-player multiplayer versus. Zipper Interactive included PlayStation Move support and even developed a 3D mode. The news is all grand and good, but Zipper Interactive is more excited about the new five-player co-op.

Zipper was eager to show off their new adaptive squad-based enemy AI. While the cooperative mode lacks loads of different levels, the way players will work through existing ones will continually change. For example, in one stage, our five players were exploring an industrial distillery when a group of enemy soldiers bombarded us from a small room we entered. We all died, and after restarting the level, those soldiers were nowhere to be found. Important objects, VIPs, restocking crates—all of these important objects change in different playthroughs.

This dynamic AI will go a long way in making this co-op mode replayable. Total, there are “twelve map/gametype combos.” Co-op campaigns are broken up into missions that last about ten minutes apiece and task players with locating objects or taking down enemy VIPs as a team. The first campaign required our squad to visit an area and take out enemy spy dishes, then backtrack through the previous levels to escape. Each mini-segment feels different from the one before, an important incentive in gameplay. While players can let the game automatically design the co-op campaign, players will be able to build their own, as well.

Two of the co-op game types were shown: “Takedown” requires players to sweep though an area and eliminate an enemy VIP before making it out alive. “Espionage” was a little more dynamic, requiring players to sneak through an area and secure enemy intelligence and then finish by sabotaging enemy locations, all before backtracking and escaping.

Both game modes offer plenty of opportunities to work as a team. Players can revive each other, highlight points of interest with "up" on the d-pad, and fulfill different roles. While my teammates took all the aggro, my character sneaked up a nearby embankment and shotgunned his way through enemies with rocket launchers. Satisfying indeed, as one of the launchers was awarded to me, proving helpful in the next area.

Co-op will be a great new addition to the SOCOM franchise. The game is perfect for those who find the multiplayer scene too aggressive, and cooperative play seems like happy ground between the single player campaign and multiplayer. As long as the dynamic AI and level design come as promised, SOCOM 4 could be one of the best in the franchise.

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