SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation

The case of SOCOM: Confrontation is a curious one. As one of the flagship franchises for the PS2, SOCOM: Navy Seals enjoyed enormous commercial success by finding a gap in the market and filling it with style. Whilst Quake 3 encouraged us to fill our boots with all the frag we could possibly accommodate, those looking for a deeper, more cerebral combat experience were left twiddling their collective thumbs in idle frustration. SOCOM forced players to think before they opened fire, think before they moved, even (thanks to the introduction of voice recognition technology) think before they opened their mouths. The single player campaign gave you your own NPC squad to bark orders at, but as soon as you ventured online their vacant character models were possessed by the souls of eager gamers worldwide. It was trickier to pick-up and play than, say, Timesplitters, but it looked good, was enjoyably tense and hugely rewarding for those who put the hours in.

Confrontation hit stores and the PSN last month to a somewhat muted fanfare, and having invested a few hours into the game it’s easy to see why. Zipper Interactive, the developers responsible for the previous iterations of SOCOM, have dropped their core franchise to focus on a massive action game called… Massive Action Game (I sh*t you not). This means that the flack-armoured buck has been passed to relative newcomers Slant Six Games. The single player campaign has vanished, so anyone without an ethernet connection (or friends) will be left wanting. Confrontation is an online multi-player only affair, and the £19.99 price tag reflects this streamlining of content. I can respect a decision like this: the choice to zero in on one aspect of gameplay and execute it properly rather than half-heartedly tagging on an uninspired solo campaign and ratcheting the price up another £20 for the trouble.

All of which makes it even more tragic when I’m forced to say that the multiplayer isn’t quite right either. Once I had installed enough updates and patches to allow me to get to the character creation screen, I was presented with two avatars: a commando and a mercenary. The player may customise each of their soldiers as they see fit; a large range of weaponry, armour and camouflage options are available from the off. You can even choose which special forces unit you fight for: are you a SEAL or a member of Her Majesty’s SAS? Ok, silly question.

Having tooled up my pair of badasses the time had come to find a match. It was at this point I hit my first stumbling block. I used the Quick Match option to look for an unranked match with respawns; as there is no offline mode, there is no opportunity to practise anywhere else but in the matches themselves, so I figured infinite respawns were the way to go. Thirty seconds later the game came back to me saying that no matches meeting the criteria had been found. ‘Fair enough’, I thought, and opted for a ranked respawning match instead. Another half minute pause, followed by another failure message.

Wondering if I was the only person on the planet with a copy of the game I chose the last option available: a ranked match with no respawns. This final effort yielded results, and I found myself looking at a loading screen preparing to dive into battle. Unfortunately, ‘diving in’ took the best part of a minute, during which time the background music stuttered annoyingly like a nervous kid giving a book report during an earthquake. Still, these minor quibbles could be over-ruled by a kick-ass gaming experience, so all was forgotten by the time the screen faded up and the game began.

Did I say ‘began’? What I meant to say was: ‘caused a catastrophic system failure that forced me to hard-restart my console for the first time in its entire lifespan.’ Sorry, I always mix those two up…

When I finally found myself in a stable match I managed to have some fun, albeit slightly buggy fun. Matches cater for up to 32 players over a choice of seven maps. Familiar game modes like Suppression (team death match) and Escort are present and correct, while modes such as Breach require your team to plant bombs and take out walls to emerge victorious. Gameplay is ruthless and unforgiving; more than once I spawned in, managed three steps before being shot in the head and forced to sit out the remaining five minutes of match time wringing my joypad in frustration and self disgust. Graphics are functional; draw distance is excellent, but textures are rather drab and lifeless. The emphasis is very much on collaboration, discussing tactics with your teammates and playing your role in the grander scheme. Blind, ‘red-mist’ charges into enemy territory will mainly result in a condition I will refer to as ‘colander skull syndrome’, and your compadres will either berate you mercilessly for your behaviour or kick you out of the match altogether. They’re a serious bunch these SOCOM types, so if you’re a ‘charge in and see what happens’ kinda player then I would recommend looking elsewhere for your kicks.

Unfortunately, glitches persisted beyond the loading screens and into the matches. My first escort mission highlighted some AI issues, with one of the three hostages choosing to swim to safety six feet above ground level over dry land. More than once I took cover behind a wall only to watch my avatar twitch and spasm as the engine tried to reconcile my character with the world geometry. I also experienced another full system crash-out during matchplay. This is disappointing, particularly for a game which relies solely on its multiplayer credentials to lure players in. Patches have been released to iron out these issues, and reports suggest that problems have decreased as a result, but it is clear from my time with Confrontation that bugs still linger. A few multiplayer glitches are forgivable if you’ve just come out of an exhaustive and awesome single player campaign, but when online mode is all your game is offering, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth when it decides mid-match to flip you the bird and shut off your console.







One response to “SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation”

  1. m.h avatar

    i lol’d 3 times, props

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