Also known as SOCOM 4 if you are from those States which we call America. In this numerically defunct version here in the United Kingdom you play as appallingly voice-acted Cullen Gray who is the leader of a squad of NATO Special Forces deployed in Malaysia to bring stability to the region with your bullets of peace. Eventually though, naturally, conflict must occur and Cullen and Co. are forced to battle for their lives and escape the country before being hung, drawn and quartered for their terrible British accents.
DISCLAIMER: Due to the Playstation Network’s downtime on the week of this review, what follows shall be a single player only write-up. Ready Up, and I, would offer our sincerest of apologies… but it’s not our fault.
What I said about the voice acting before I meant in the most loving way, but the voice acting and lip-syncing for Cullen and his two-man British squad are just awfully put on. This was likely because the voices were re-recorded depending on their region and I got the Queen’s English version. I didn’t know this until after playing so during my play through I just found the dialogue laughable and ridiculously over the top. If you’re into that sort of thing, excellent, you’ll have a blast with SOCOM’s “Go on without me!” calibre vocal work, but for me it was quite hard to take any situation which involved them speaking seriously.
I believe it’s now time to talk about some of the gameplay. If you’ve played SOCOM before, in any capacity, then you know the basic drill of the game as far as gameplay goes. You are given a two-member British team at the beginning, which evolves into two two-member squads later when a pair of South Korean Special Forces join you, and they assist in firefights and follow some basic commands that you can issue. Usually an array of orders: waypoints (which can be stacked, which is a nice bonus), specify enemy targets, flank commands and various others of a similar nature. The controls were surprisingly tight and easy to use, and I admit to finding myself trying to keep to a deliberate strategy while playing rather than just having four random AI’s automatically follow me in a square formation. It’s a staple of the franchise to have good squad-based elements to the game, and it’s executed brilliantly in Special Forces.
My favourite sections of Special Forces were definitely the stealth missions where you go in with one of your South Korean squad members, Chung, and must remain undetected and complete various sabotage/execution objectives. They all had a good balance of sneaky-shadow tactics and timing elements in them, and even on missions which I kept failing I always had to go tiptoeing back in for more. I wasn’t expecting so many of them, and they were gently spread out through the story campaign to break up some of the more traditional squad-based bullet-fests that SOCOM is known for.
Therein lies the problem for me, however. SOCOM: Special Forces did nothing special for me. A lot of the missions felt so generic for the genre and, apart from the odd stealth mission and rare missions where they tried to spice it up with a helicopter or two, it just left me feeling really underwhelmed. They were competent, absolutely, and I never found myself screaming at the game in frustration but I didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before in other third person squad-based shooters. The only missions which I would heap praise on rather than stamping with a big, standard “It works” label would be the stealth missions. Even then, SOCOM has always prided itself on the sexy squad strategy so I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good sentence to be typing for a SOCOM review.
It’s a shame I wasn’t able to get my hands on the multiplayer because, if that had the same fluent control system and decent maps/modes, I reckon that could’ve helped pulled Special Forces’ score up from average to pretty good. As it stands, however, I must drop that horrid mark of “If you’re already a fan of the series” onto it, and suggest anyone else wait for a price-drop or just let this slip by.