Cut and Run.
Bad news, dear gamers.
[image1]In order to rescue Princess Enjoying-this-Game, you’ll first need to pass through the Mighty Gates of the Lengthy Install, followed immediately by a grueling climb up the Cliffs of Lengthy Patch Download. Once you’ve traversed that barrier, you’ll then have to wade through the Sluggish Swamps of Server Lists trying desperately to find an open server. Once beyond that obstacle, you’ll have to muck your way through the Pits of Poorly Designed Controls. Past those lie the Pools of Graphical Despond, and just on the farther shore—barely visible through the Cloudy Mists of Perpetual Lag—you see the Glorious Fields of Mediocre Gameplay. And finally, after your long and perilous journey, as you enter the Castle Freeze-n-Crash, you frustratingly realize that the beautiful Princess Enjoying-this-Game is in another castle.
If it isn’t clear yet, far too many obstacles stand between you and playing SOCOM: Confrontation. And once you finally do get started, you’ll discover that it wasn’t worth the trouble.
On the PS2, the SOCOM series was the console’s most substantial foray into the world of online shooters. It was Sony’s answer to the Halo games, and for the most part the SOCOM series satisfied PS2 gamers with reasonably compelling single-player campaigns and engaging multiplayer experiences. By the end of its stint on the PS2, the series had found its bearings, made important gameplay tweaks, and found its own unique niche.
Now, almost exactly two years into the PS3’s lifecycle, the SOCOM series enters the current generation. Unfortunately, you would never know it. Not only does the game scarcely look better than its PS2 predecessors—which weren’t particularly well known for their graphical prowess—but remarkably little of the gameplay has changed in the meantime.
Gone completely is the single-player campaign, which is all to the better since that had always been the series’ weakest link. But the multiplayer mode hasn’t taken up the slack. It looks and plays like the cast-offs from the military shooter gene pool. More crudely said, playing SOCOM feels like digging through the waste of Call of Duty 4, Metal Gear Online, and Gears of War. Every once in a while you find some undigested piece of something recognizable in SOCOM: Confrontation that may once have been fun, but mostly its just crap.
[image2]Similar to Call of Duty 4, you can customize your default weapons, add-ons, armor, and appearance. However, in stark contrast to CoD4’s smooth and easy-to-use set-up, the menus in SOCOM: Confrontation are extremely clunky and non-intuitive, and they’re plagued by frequent pauses for texture and object loading as you browse through the many weapons and accessories.The stats for your weapons and armor aren’t easy to read, and some stats will only change after you’ve equipped a particular item.
To be fair, the basic gameplay itself is solid enough if also terribly cliché. There are seven different possible modes of play scattered across a handful of maps. All the play modes are directly lifted from prior SOCOM games, which in turn were directly lifted from Counter Strike. Expect no substantial variations on basic deathmatch games, hostage rescues, escorts, and bomb defusion play types.
Weapons are believably responsive, and offer the standard variety of rifles, submachine guns, pistols, and specialty weapons you’d expect from the genre. In addition, the use of ambient noise—footsteps, gunfire, and talking—fits seamlessly into your battle strategy. Beyond the more typical voice chat, the use of proximity chat adds an unexpected layer to your fighting methods. This keeps the chatter to a minimum during matches and helps to quell the inane talk that runs rampant in most other online multiplayer games.
Overall, SOCOM is a far slower-paced and more strategic game than most other shooters. You’re more likely to spend a few minutes camped out in a corner getting the lay of your surroundings than you are running down an enemy. Choosing when, where, and how to attack is the heart of SOCOM and is what sets it apart from all other multiplayer shooters. Its few moments of greatness come from executing well-planned and carefully staged attack and defense strategies.
[image3]The default control scheme seems to have been invented by Martians since the controls resemble no other game on Earth. Unless you plan on making a 35 million-mile trip, you’ll definitely want to spend some time reconfiguring the controls to your liking. But no amount of tweaking can fix some of the game’s more half-baked control ideas. There’s no quick or easy way to toss grenades, and using the zoom is far clunkier than need be. Even stranger, the jump button only comes in handy when you get stuck behind one of the many poorly placed low-lying walls, but it serves no strategic purpose. Also, there’s no training mode or tutorial, so if you’ve never played a SOCOM game, you’ll have to jump straight into the deep end with the big boys.
Last—and perhaps most egregious of all—SOCOM: Confrontation is butt-ugly. As in, worst-hangover-ever with a-nasty-stranger-in-my-bed ugly. God-awful texture and object pop-in are de rigueur in online matches just as they are in the load-out menus. Draw distances aren’t bad, but since every map looks like you're viewing it through a mud puddle, you won’t be able to make out what it is that you’re seeing. Character models range from bland to jaggy to oh-my-god-what-is-that-hideous-thing. And while this may be a server-related issue that gets fixed in the near future, annoying lag rears its head all too often.
It feels a bit like kicking a puppy because many of the pop-in, lag, and graphical issues may be fixed with a promised update, but until then, I can only review what I have right now, not the game that might be. The only reason you should buy this game is for the headset pack-in. It’s everything SOCOM: Confrontation is not: pretty, functional, and fun.