SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault - PS2 - Review
There have been games aplenty on the Xbox where the online multiplayer mode was like the icing on a sweet pastry while the PS2 was slightly left behind in that department. Then again, Sony and Zipper Interactive’s SOCOM series proved that the console is more than capable of giving shooting fans something to sink their teeth into and thoroughly enjoy. The franchise reached new heights with SOCOM 3, a game that brought us more of what we love about the series so you can only imagine our delight at the prospect of a fourth game in the series. SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault might not be a dramatically different game for the series but the few improvements and great multiplayer experience make this a SOCOM game you should not miss.
Combined Assault has a surprisingly inventive connection to the PSP’s SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 that goes beyond its neat Crosstalk feature (more on that a bit later). For starters, both games share the same locale during the single-player campaign mode and the stories for both games interconnect with each other. In several missions, you’ll find that Fireteam Bravo cleared an area for you or are waiting for you to tackle on a particularly well guarded area before they can attempt a rescue mission seen on the PSP. Combined Assault begins with a failed rescue mission in the fictional country of Adjikistan as a SEAL team is attempting to escape with a valuable CIA operative. Unfortunately, “the package” never makes it so you are tasked with heading into enemy territory to recover him as well as discovering the secrets he has discovered.
The single-player campaign mode doesn’t force you to take on the missions in a linear fashion but rather you have the freedom to pick the mission you would like to take on with your team. After the first introductory mission, you are given a choice of related missions. The best part is that these missions are actually lengthy but most important, they are also really fun. Part of the reason the campaign missions are so enjoyable is the fact that the mission objectives have you performing a number of fun tasks that have you doing everything from taking out watchtower guards to securing prisoners in an abandoned gulag. The environments are also large; giving gamers the feeling of total freedom to approach each objective anyway they wish. Why infiltrate an enemy camp through the road used most by the enemy when you can enter the camp through a hidden path to the south?
Vehicles are back and this time they’re classified by slow and heavily armored (Armor), light and agile (Recon) or just fast (Support). You’ll take command of Humvees as well as boats and once again the vehicle controls work perfectly. Speaking of controls, the shooting and strafing moves are solid and you can issue orders on the fly. There are also more weapons and you can even unlock a few more that just plain rock whether you’re using them in the single-player campaign or in the game’s multiplayer mode. This is the beauty of Crosstalk, a feature that comes from your PS2 interacting with your PSP via a copy of Fireteam Bravo 2. It’s good to see a feature that has a handheld interacting with the console in ways that has you downloading a good deal of extras.
While gamers will be deeply involved with the single-player campaign mode and the lengthy missions, it’s the multiplayer mode that once again will have you addicted to its great number of options and fun online multiplayer action. The game adds a 4-player co-op multiplayer mode that adds all the usual online features such as ladders, community support as well as ranking. This allows you to hone your skills with gamers you would like to join your clan for the 32-player mode. Once again, the game supports a USB headset for chat and the game runs smoothly online even with 32 gamers.
Unfortunately, the enemy AI isn’t as good as it should have been. For the most part, the enemies shoot accurately and many times they are great at outflanking you. Then again, the enemy takes cover in the most questionable areas like behind a chair or even behind an explosive barrel.
Combined Assault doesn’t enhance the visuals, however, and they look a bit dated now thanks to the next-generation of games already out there. This doesn’t mean the game is ugly or primitive, but we’ve seen better on the PS2. The character models, for instance, just don’t look very natural and death animations don’t offer a great variety of deaths. For a game that thrusts realism in our faces, it’s hard to believe real terrorists simply dissolve into nothing when they’re killed. At least the environments look good and thanks to the huge maps there is a lot to see in this game. The explosions and gunfire look good and make fights look actually impressive.
The sound fairs just a tad better thanks to the decent voice acting and Ok sound effects. I wish there was more to the sound effects than just explosions and bullets like environmental noise but at least the game does those sounds justice. Fortunately, the game’s soundtrack is phenomenal and wonderfully cinematic to the point that the tense moments in the game become even more dramatic.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault doesn’t change its original formula but it does add some juicy extras that make this a seriously addictive shooter. The single-player mode is lengthy and just plain fun and the Crosstalk feature is something I’d like to see more of on the PSP. Moreover, those who loved the online multiplayer before will find a lot to love with the online co-op mode complete with more playable maps and weapons to use. Go ahead and buy this one if you’re a fan or are new to this series.
Scoring Details for SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault
Very little has changed from SOCOM 3 and that’s not a bad thing at all since the game’s third outing marked tighter controls and great mission scenarios. The same can be said about Combined Assault, a game that does add bigger environments, a sweet variety of weapons and the Crosstalk feature. Even the missions are longer and really fun.
Visually very little has changed either. The graphics and character models look rather dated. The PS2 is capable of giving us some decent visuals for games similar to this (see Ghost Recon 2). Still, the environments look pretty good and the explosions are still impressive.
There’s no playful banter like in Fireteam Bravo 2 but you’ll hear from your team often and this adds to the realism factor. We’ve heard the sound effects before but when it comes to a great militaristic score nothing beats this game’s stellar soundtrack.
At times, the enemy can coordinate some decent attacks and a few of them can even attempt to outflank you successfully. Then you come across enemies that think hiding behind an explosive is a good idea or using a window as cover is smart terrorist tactics.
The Crosstalk function unlocks some juicy extras via the PSP’s Fireteam Bravo 2 and that includes some enemy weapons you can unlock and use in the console version. The three vehicle classes are a great idea and are implemented well throughout the game. The best part is that there’s online co-op now fit for four players and the 32-player online multiplayer (with voice chat) is still a dream come true.
Combined Assault excels in giving us a great single-player experience but let’s face it, when it comes to the online multiplayer action this is where the game really shines. The online co-op mode alone is amazing but the massive multiplayer mode with plenty of options and vehicles is a work of art. Believe me; you’ll be playing this one for a long while until SOCOM comes to the PS3.
Combined Assault isn’t a major leap forward for the series but this is still one of the most addictively fun military shooters available on the PS2. Yes, we’ve seen this all before but with more mission campaigns and a great multiplayer mode, fans of the series will kick themselves if they missed out on this one.