SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault PlayStation 2
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Zipper Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
The PlayStation 2 may have been superseded but PlayStation 2 gamers are still being well catered for with the major series still receiving sequels on the platform. If you're one of the few that has spent a lot of time playing online with your PlayStation 2 over the last few years, it's a fair bet that you've probably been enjoying one of the previous SOCOM games. In truth not many PlayStation 2 games have been worth playing online but the SOCOM series is the big exception and has enjoyed a large and loyal following since the first game in the series was released. Here we look at the latest in the series, SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault.
SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault is set in the fictional state of Adjikistan. The game begins with a secret agent being rescued from captivity in Adjikistan, by US forces. The rescue is short lived however, when the military helicopter is shot down. The first mission sees you and three of your comrades going in to Adjikistan to investigate the failed rescue. The single-player campaign includes around 18 missions or so and it can also be played co-operatively either online or over a LAN. In addition to the campaign there is an Instant Action mode and a Redeploy mode where you can revisit the missions you've already completed. The series has always been regarded as the main online game for the PlayStation 2 and Combined Assault manages to maintain the status quo and even offers the ability to link up to SOCOM 3 multiplayer games.
If you've played the previous SOCOM games then Combined Assault will feel instantly familiar. Once again you're part of a team of four and you'll get to command the other three in your group. Orders can be issued either verbally or by pressing the circle buttons and choosing the appropriate order from the menus (the game pauses whilst you're selecting your order). The campaign offers three difficulty levels but regardless of the difficulty level you play at there is a real element of trial and error here. To those looking for a challenge (and those who have played previous games in the series) this won't be a problem but for those who are looking for a more forgiving experience it can be a little testing at times. You'll get to fight in a variety of situations from wide open snow covered landscapes to close-quarter skirmishes. If you haven't played any of the SOCOM games you'll be pleased to learn there are eight different tutorials, ranging from basic movement to team commands, to help ease you into the experience. Whether these tutorials prepare you for the potentially frustrating nature of the campaign is another matter entirely.
The problems that were in SOCOM 3 are still disappointingly present and correct. The biggest of all these problems is the AI which is, at times, maddeningly frustrating. It's still possible for an unsighted enemy to take shots at you with unerring accuracy, even when you are fairly well covered. You could put this down to the AI being exceptional but when the same AI doesn't react when a bullet whizzes past them or a nearby enemy is shot down it's very inconsistent and a little off-putting. The path-finding of your comrades also leaves a lot to be desired at times. It's also fair to say that the single-player campaign seems a little clichéd and just isn't as interesting as in SOCOM 3.
Graphically the game hasn't improved at all and there are some performance issues here. Frame rate dips are quite noticeable and it's particularly disappointing when you can see that the game hasn't improved at all in terms of graphical quality. The textures, particularly on the terrain, are low in detail and almost everything looks far too angular. The distance fogging is very disappointing and is very reminiscent of what you might have experienced on consoles such as the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. If you were happy with the look of previous SOCOM games then you'll probably be happy with Combined Assault but you can't help but feel that a little more visual quality could have been squeezed out of the PlayStation 2, particularly after seeing graphically excellent titles such as God of War II.
Combined Assault is a bit of dog's breakfast when it comes to its support for deaf gamers. When I first loaded up the game I scoured the options menu for the subtitles option but did not find one. I then decided to play through the tutorials. On entering a tutorial you're greeted by a few text messages and it begins to look like they are going to be deaf gamer friendly. However, once you're past these messages the rest of the information is given verbally and there are no subtitles at all. Should you press the start button a menu will appear and on this menu you'll see an option for subtitles and see that this option is enabled, which is rather strange. The tutorials appear to be hopeless for deaf gamers until you realise you can press the select button to recall your objectives and when you highlight an objective and hold down the X button you get a detailed description of that objective. This is a horrible way of doing things. In the campaign text information for the mission objectives, dossier and the mission details can be accessed prior to the start of a mission. A text summary of your objectives is also shown on the loading screens. As we said earlier, you can press the select button to recall objectives at any time during a mission. A lot of verbal information during the mission is not subtitled. Communications and acknowledgements from your comrades when you have issued them with orders are not subtitled. In short, the game is far more difficult for deaf gamers than it needs to be.
SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault doesn't really feel like a true sequel. It's more of a standalone expansion pack that caters for those who were happy with the previous games. If the previous SOCOM games weren't your thing then Combined Assault isn't going to do anything to change your mind unfortunately. The AI problems that have dogged the series are still here and it's still the case that the online mode is probably what most gamers are going to be interested in. The bottom line is that if you've enjoyed previous SOCOM games and want more of the same, Combined Assault is definitely going to please you.
Fans of the previous SOCOM games will enjoy Combined Assault but there's nothing drastically different here and the subtitling is a bit of a mess.