SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike PSP
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Slant Six Games Inc.
Release Date: Out Now
It’s all too easy to take a look at the rather long title and assume this is another SOCOM: US Navy SEALs sequel that probably offers more of the same. In other words it’s quite easy to assume that it’s a game that fans of the series will enjoy and a game that those who haven’t enjoyed the previous games should probably ignore. The word ‘Tactical’ in the title isn’t just there for effect however and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike is quite unlike any other game in the series to date. In fact it’s a game that will probably appeal to those who are more interested in strategy games than in tactical third-person shooters.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike offers a single-player Campaign mode, an Instant Action mode, a Mission Redeploy mode and a Multiplayer mode that supports both ad hoc and infrastructure play. The Campaign mode offers a choice of three difficulty levels ranging from the forgiving Ensign to the challenging Commander. The default level is the Lieutenant difficulty level, which will probably suit most gamers for their first play through. Once you’ve chosen your difficulty level you’ll have to choose which Special Forces you want to take control of. You have a choice of the Australian Special Air Service, German Kommando Spezialkräfte, British Special Air Service, French Groupement D’Intervention De La Gendarmerie Nationale, Spanish Unidad De Operaciones Especiales, South Korean 707th Special Missions Battalion, Italian 9° Reggimento d’Assalto Paracadutisti, Dutch Korps Commandotroepen and of course, the US Navy SEALs.
The single-player campaign begins with an ambassador being taken hostage only moments after attempting to reassure another ambassador that the insurgents have been dealt with. The game’s storyline certainly isn’t its strong point. In fact the story as a whole is actually quite weak, although it certainly becomes more involving towards the end of the game. Thankfully, this doesn’t prevent the game from being really enjoyable. The tactical elements alone will keep you interested. When you’re done with the single-player campaign you can play a variety of multiplayer modes (both individual and team play are catered for) either locally or online. When played online (we weren’t able to test the ad hoc play owing to only having access to one copy of the game), the game does suffer somewhat from lag and this does harm the experience to some extent.
If you’ve played the Full Spectrum Warrior titles that appeared on the Xbox and PC you’ll have a pretty good idea of how Tactical Strike plays. You have a squad of four that can either be controlled as a whole group or as two teams of two (you can momentarily control individual members if you wish). You don’t have direct control over them but you do issue orders for them to carry out. The AI of your squad members is actually pretty impressive and as long as your orders are logical, you won’t come unstuck. The enemy AI isn’t quite as sharp but it certainly doesn’t do a bad job of reacting fairly well in most situations. The missions are actually quite long. Thankfully you do have checkpoints in a mission and when you reach these checkpoints you are given the opportunity to save your progress.
What I really like about Tactical Strike is its control system which is really easy to get to grips with. Movement orders are given with the circle button. Attack orders are given with the X button. You can use grenades and sniper rifles with the square button (you have full control of the grenades trajectory and sniper rifle zoom). The triangle button is used to cancel orders and to regroup the squad. Certain buttons offer more choices if you keep them pressed down. Holding down the X button for instance will offer choices such as Field of Fire, Suppression Fire, Free Will and Hold Fire. Pressing the R button allows you to switch between your two teams of two and by holding down the R button you’ll select all four members of your squad. When issuing move orders you’ll see a ghost image of your squad to help you place them exactly where you want to. There are various context sensitive actions too such as breaching and clearing doors and picking locks etc. I have no complaints at all with the game’s control system.
Graphically, Tactical Strike is actually quite impressive. The character models look great. The level designs are quite good and are actually pretty large and for the most part are nicely detailed. There are some pretty impressive lighting effects on display here, although the explosions in the game can best be described as decent. The camera certainly requires a lot of user adjustment and at times can feel rather cumbersome. Load times are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are perfectly acceptable but most are irritatingly long. We played the game on the original PSP and I daresay the load times are rather shorter on the newer, slimmer, PSP but even so, they would have to be dramatically shorter for them not to be irritating.
Tactical Strike does offer subtitles but they are disabled by default. The game’s cutscenes are subtitled with no character names or portraits placed alongside the text. Not all of the dialogue in the game’s cutscenes is subtitled but all of the important dialogue is. The mission briefings are shown in text. Communications you receive during a mission are shown in text too. These communications scroll across the top of the screen. Hearing gamers will notice that the verbal dialogue is in the language of the nation you’re playing as but, thankfully, the text is only in English. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled by pressing the Select button. Tutorial messages are shown in text. Your squad members’ dialogue (given mostly when carrying out an order) is subtitled and these comments appear at the bottom of the screen. You’re notified in text when a checkpoint has been reached and given the opportunity to save your progress. On the whole Tactical Strike is fairly deaf gamer friendly. The communications you receive during a mission scroll across the top of the screen rather quickly and it’s fairly easy to miss some of the message. There ought to have been an option to change the text speed.
I have to admit to being completely surprised by SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike. It’s always a gamble when an extremely popular series takes a change of direction and it’s fair to say that Tactical Strike is more like Full Spectrum Warrior rather than previous SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs titles. However, that’s certainly not a criticism of Tactical Strike. I, for one, have certainly enjoyed the game just as much as SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Fireteam Bravo 2 (the last SOCOM: US Navy SEALs game we reviewed on the PSP) and it’s certainly much more deaf gamer friendly. If you like a more tactical, strategic feel to your games (and you enjoyed the Full Spectrum Warrior games) then SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike is certainly going to appeal to you even if the previous SOCOM games haven’t been your thing.