SOCOM: Combined Assault
After a rather enjoyable part 3, the people at Zipper are giving it another go about one year later by creating SOCOM Combined Assault. The biggest advantage of the entire series is multiplayer gaming. It requires a such a level of teamplay it becomes a great experience for all those social minds out there, sitting behind their PS2… This sounds somewhat contradictory if we have to believe some psychologists, but what the hell, who cares?
Just as in the previous versions, SOCOM 4 contains very nice single- and multiplayer modes. The solo-game offers the choice between different modes: Training, Campaign, Replay Misshin and Instant Action.
Training sound obvious enough: learning controls and offensive strategies from miniature courses. Nothing special, but a major tool to use in the process of getting the hang of the game and becoming a real SEAL commando which can sneak up on the enemy, slice his troth and split him to pieces. After all that, it’s best to hide the body or the opposition will be alerted. Sounds… Messy!
Another important Single Player component is the campaign. Like every decent career-ish mode, SOCOM 4’s campaign contains a story, connecting every mission you have to play to a larger whole. This time, the biggest part of your battles are fought out in Adjikistan, a country in bloom where democracy has just driven communism from power. Unfortunately not all citizens are very keen on this new form of leadership and try everything to boycot the government or even overthrow it. The faith of this country lies in the hands of you and your teammates. Will you be able to avert open war or will the country succumb to the horrifying consequences of a civil war? The storyline isn’t that well connected, but that’s probably the cause of a new feature! Every time you finish a mission, you’ll get to choose which mission you’ll play next. This makes it quite hard to combine every task with another.
Every mission can also be replayed independently thanks to the Replay Mission mode. To bring another war scene to certain maps, you can use Instant Action. This mode lets your build your very own missions with objectives going from defusing bombs to saving hostages. You can set the amount of enemies and their intelligence. The maps on the other hand, are exactly those seen during campaign missions. The big idea is the fact that you’re able to make this as hard on yourself as you want. One of the better single player options in my opinion.
However, something that does cause problems is the AI. Following orders sometimes seems a very hard job to do. Let’s say order your men up a mountain. Don’t expect them to take the long way around, they’ll just do the “straight line over there” trick… Running up a steep hill, eventually making them run without actually moving. Fun Fun fun… This would have been an enormous improvement compared to every predecessor of this game.
Just as in SOCOM 3, extras are available and waiting to be unlocked, but the system has been improved a bit. This time around you’ll have to gather medals. These can be earned by completing certain objectives like scoring a certain amount of headshots, completing a mission within a given time span. Thanks to these medals you can ‘buy’ weapons and upgrades.
Next to that the cross platform interaction between PSP’s SOCOM: Fireteam Brave 2 en PS2’s Combined Assault has been greatly improved. Now you can’t only unlock weapons, but you can also have some impact on certain missions. For example, when you kill a bunch of terrorists in Fireteam Bravo and copy the information to your PS2, this bunch of enemies will have disappeared in Combined Assault. The same goes the other way around of course. This is some great stuff!
What made the SOCOM series famous, is the multiplayer mode. In SOCOM 3, this side of the game has had a major facelift: new game types, bigger maps, 32-player support, … All these things have returned in Combined Assault together with an all new coop-campaign. Finally taking out some AI terrorists with your buddies! It’s not all perfect though, the elimination-mode still has the same problem. When only 2 players are left on a big map, it can take forever for them to find each other. It’s the time where you grab something to eat, to drink and take a bathroom break.
There’s also a cool cooperation between SOCOM 3 and Combined Assault! Players who have either of these games can play against eachother (as long as the map isn’t Combined Assault exclusive). Next to that there’s also an expansion pack for SOCOM 3 with some new maps and stuff like that. All great stuff.
To get to the technical matter… Graphics and controls haven’t changed one bit. The game still looks rather ‘average’, the cars still ride like shit, but controls (as in button combinations) haven’t changed one bit which makes that the game earns some big points in this field as well.
SOCOM: Combined Assault is –although Zipper Interactive says this is more of an expansion than an entire game- quite a good game. It’s not very new in comparison to number three, but it’s still new enough to be interesting to guarantee quite a lot of playing time.