Socom US Navy Seals: Tactical Strike
With “Tactical Strike” the SOCOM franchise takes a totally new direction. Instead of a squad-based shooter like Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon you now get a more strategic tour of duty. Think Full Spectrum Warrior and you’re getting very close
A big change in gameplay is a daring move for a known and extremely popular franchise but Slant Six luckily gets away with it. Instead of taking on the role of squad leader and commanding the rest of your gang you now get a tactical overview of the battlefield that is called “Command Focus”. A small disadvantage that you’ll immediately notice is that the camera is limited to the perspective of the selected unit. This makes moving your guys a bit difficult as you’ll quickly have to resort back to the small tactical map on the top corner of the screen.
Still, the controls are good and after the tutorial you’ll quickly find your way. Next to the simple assignments like “stealth to position” or “attack target” you can also set up more complicated actions where both teams give each other cover or start their mission only when you give them the green light. I would also strongly suggest to do things that way as after each mission you get a summarized report on your accomplishments and your units get experience points with which you can upgrade them in things like condition, ability to cope with damage, or shooting skills.
For Tactical Strike the AI of your team members and hostiles are very important but sadly enough the game drops the ball there. Your team does react accurately on threats but at times they’ll make bizarre choices when it comes to their setup. Worse, however, are the escort missions. The person you need to accompany to a safe pickup point often has the urge to go scouting and be the first in line to go to the next waypoint. This causes a lot of problems, not only because he needs to stay alive but also because he’s often seen by the enemy which makes your whole stealth approach fall to pieces. Next to the standard orders “stay” and “follow”, a “stay at the rear and keep your fucking head down” would not have been a luxury in this game. Next to that the hostiles are sometimes blind as a mole or just plain dumb as they dare continue talking to their just shot down partner and storm right into your line of fire. SOCOM however isn’t the only strategy game that has that problem as even next-gen titles tend to suffer from this disease. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2! On the other hand they do dare to be quite vicious once you’ve been seen and if you’ve got bad luck all hell literally will break loose and you’ll have to wait frustratingly long to be able to reply the level as there’s an enormous amount of data that needs to get loaded before you can start over.
You do get something in return for the waiting as graphically Tactical Strike is a jewel. The environments are colourful, detailed and most of all very big. This gives you the chance to do some reconnaissance and try out another tactic that “guns blazing through the front door”. The disadvantage of this graphical beauty is that you’ll often get to see some slowdown, especially when you let your team run for quite some time or let them do some more complicated tasks. Luckily this doesn’t impact your achievements or planning but it does get boring to see your guys playing one, two, three pianoball.
Also the sound is pretty good and it’s especially fun to see how your French elite troops actually do speak French against each other instead of English with a toupet. For the rest everything is a bit like in other games. Your troops shout some military terms at each other and you while your enemies start swearing to you in Spanish. Very fun, but we’ve heard it all before. For some comedy and variation you can choose the Korean unit, but don’t forget to turn on the subtitles!
Next to a single player campaign with a very thin story, a mission replay option and an instant action mode, SOCOM also has a multiplayer part with gigantic amount of options to create your own game. Together with a larger choice of weapons and unlockables this makes Tactical Strike a game that will stay in the UMD-deck of your PSP for some time.
Despite some beauty errors Tactical Strike is a challenging title that will appeal to both the fans of the older titles as well as new gamers. You may get frustrated by the slowdown, the occasional AI – or lack of – but in the end nobody will be able to deny that they didn’t get what they paid for with this game.