Getting tactical on the go.
Before I can even dare to begin this review, I will have to admit a few things about my gaming habits. I'm a very methodical player, and when the game allows it, I enjoy planning out my moves and carrying them out with the highest level of precision. I also like to be stealthy when a game allows for it, which explains my love for the Hitman and Splinter Cell games. I do not, however, have much experience with tactical squad based games. Sure, I dabbled with GRAW and Rainbow Six Vegas, but SOCOM, in my simple mind, has always been various steps above those games in terms of complexity, realism, and unfriendliness to newcomers. To my surprise, Fireteam Bravo 3 is anything but. Even though it has a lot of complexity and tactics, a newbie like me didn't have a hard time jumping into the counter-terrorism fray.
[image1]Fireteam Bravo 3 has that B-action flick feel from the get-go, one where you can see a '90s Steven Seagal in the main role. SEALs veteran Wraith, interrupted by the Navy during his vacation time, is ordered to assemble a team to prevent a coup d'etat in a fictional ex-Soviet country. As always, things get hairy quickly, and a simple drop and grab mission turns into a shooting gallery.
As a tactical shooter, however, Fireteam Bravo 3 is competent. Squad control is very simple, mapped to a single face button on the PSP. With a touch, you can order your team to breach and clear a room, or silently pick off an enemy from a distance. Normally, ordering your team to do the killing is the best way to go. That's not me bad-mouthing the shooter controls on the PSP like I did before for Everyday Shooter. The single analog stick doesn't limit the amount of movement you have, and even though a second stick would be more than welcome, the combination of shoulder button lock-on targeting and the aiming mode at the touch of a directional button more than makes up for that hardware omission.
On the other hand, auto-aiming does make things easier in firefights, although it doesn't guarantee a clean kill every time. As in tactical games like Rainbow Six, short-controlled machine gun bursts, for instance, are much more precise than a full burst shots, and the auto-aim reticule reflects that as it slowly locks onto an enemy with each careful shot you take.
Using your team in an intelligent manner is crucial, even more on the higher difficulty settings, especially since Wraith can be incapacitated easily. Instead of a pick-me-up system like in Gears of War, getting shot off your feet is an instant game over, which makes the cover fighting that much more important. Thankfully, the game is more forgiving when it comes to reviving your squad friends, with a bit of leeway time between incapacitation and actual death. More often than not, your squadmates will actually revive each other.
[image2]Levels are usually broken up into fight rooms, and thanks to a forgiving checkpoint and waypoint system, it never gets too frustrating. Enemies tend to adopt a style of rushing attacks. The action-movie, tough-guy team nature of the game does its best to put you into bigger and bigger jams, and firefights get crazier and better the further you move through the story mode. Unfortunately, the campaign is too short.
The main draw to this SOCOM is its multiplayer options that offer a lot of options in both cooperative and competitive modes. The entire campaign mode can be tackled with three other players over ad-hoc or online, all with the usual online suspects like deathmatch and capture point modes. The online mode runs smoothly, even on a Japanese server, without lag or connection problems. The auto-lock nature of the shooting can lead to a lot of circle strafing and in-your-face gun-to-gun fights, but it also leaves space for the more serious gun nut with friends in a squad. With that in mind, multiplayer can become very deep, supporting both casual and hardcore players, particularly the latter with clans and friend lists.
Another draw to playing the game by yourself, with friends or over the web is SOCOM's reward system, which awards medals for certain actions during matches and levels. Medals translate to tangible rewards like alternate skins and weapons, giving a lot of bang for your tactical buck.
SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 3 is a solid tactical shooter and has the legs to last long for those that love to get into the competitive scene or even for the newbie player. Bravo 3 can be considered the gateway drug to the name 'SOCOM', which has often been associated to deep, complex tactical games. Thanks to its many improvements and additions, Bravo 3 has everything what fans have been loving about the series, and then some.