previews\ Oct 2, 2003 at 8:00 pm

SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs - PS2 - Preview

When trouble rears its evil head, when the hydra of terror is unleashed and the world holds its breath, there are a chosen few ready to respond. Their job is simple - eliminate the threat, and they are the best in the world at doing it.

When Sony Computer Entertainment America unleashed SOCOM US Navy Seals, it knew it had a hot title. What it did not know was that the title was a monster hit. Naturally, a great game deserves a sequel, and here it comes, SOCOM II US Navy SEALS, a PlayStation 2 title set for release November 4, 2003. was invited to take the helo drop into adventure with one of the best fighting forces in the world. The preview of this title did contain some bugs, simply because it was an early alpha build. Those won’t be addressed. What will be touched on in this preview is what the single-player game offers, and that is - simply put - a terrific, taut shooter outing.

A lonely stretch of roadway, and two figures are crouched in the swirling dust, kicked up by a helicopter that appeared and vanished almost as quickly. A black car approaches and two enter and one leaves, miles ahead, four figures emerge onto the roadway. A SEAL team, operatives trained to confront any situation and deal with it in an extremely lethal manner.

Ahead lies the ruins of a church, and inside is an informant who will provide the information needed to wipe out a criminal element which is on the verge is posing a worldwide threat.

The Sesseri Syndicate is dealing in illegal arms and is based out of Albania. Intelligence indicates they may be in control of horrific weapons, which may find themselves into the wrong hands. The job is a simple one, infiltrate the Albanian countryside and eliminate the arms cache.

Of course, if anyone gets in the way ...

From the opening mission briefing it is readily apparent that this title exceeds the style of most shooters. It is a very intelligent game. While you control one member of the team, the orders you can issue are extensive and the AI does a remarkable job of keeping each member of the team within the parameters of the mission and character of the SEAL team. Even though you might issue the order to eliminate any hostile targets on the team member’s own initiative, this is not a carte blanche order to barrel into the midst of the enemy with guns blazing.

Stealth is the key, even when the 15 or so hostiles have superior numbers. As you will soon find out, a heavy machine gun bunkered away, a sniper in a church tower, and a farm full of gun-toting terrorists stand little chance against a force with superior training, intelligence and tactics.

The latter is vital. Avoiding patrols is sometimes essential. Searching for, and using weaponry stashed about the environment can prove a boon to the missions success. That sniper in the bell tower may pose a problem, unless you get to the sniper rifle tucked away beneath rags in an old bunker and pop the sniper into oblivion.

Move too quickly, make too much noise and you may call down half the countryside on you.

The control elements of this game are relatively simple to understand and use. Consider a 10-minute learning curve after which you should be able to control your team effectively. Of course that is not to say this game is a breeze. As intelligent as the AI is in regard to your SEAL team, that same intelligence has been applied to your targets. An organization such as Sesseri did not get where it is at through total stupidity and carelessness.

The game sparkles with realistic sound, from the mission briefings to the team instructions and weapon effects. And visually, this is a very good outing. The environments are terrific and the animation is excellent.

Perhaps what was most surprising about this game is the relative simplicity in which you can immerse yourself in the action. With all the prep work in terms of commanding your team, gathering intel or more along your mission route, one would thing this would be a painstaking operation but it isn’t. This game is for players who want to get on with the action. There are many cutscenes to further the mission plots, but they really help set the tone for the game.

When finally released, this title will feature new missions that not only cover the demolition, suppression and extraction aspects familiar to fans of the original title, but will also have escort and breach missions. Players will be able to become ranked in online play, and join with up to 15 others in compatible skill-level operations online.

SOCOM II US Navy SEALS is a stellar title awaiting launch. This is a game that really has the majority of the elements that define quality shooter titles. If you want a great single-player shooter game, one that has intelligence, and a game that will move flawlessly to the online arena, this is it

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