First off I am going to drop some street cred/knowledge of the type of Socom gamer I am. Not to garner praise, but because it ultimately matters in your enjoyment of the game. I got Socom 1 right around release. I instantly fell in love with it. I never cared about the offline game, in fact I don’t think I ever played past the first level on any of them. Then I got into the Socom 2 beta and my love turned into obsession. When Socom 2 came out I played it for hours and hours, week after week. In fact, all told, I probably played at least 10 hours a week for over 3 years, with the majority of that time probably closer to 30 hours a week. I was a complete addict.
Socom 3 came out and I just wasn’t interested. They made the switch to a more Battlefield type of game with 32 player matches, big wide open maps, vehicles and the like. It did nothing for me. So I stuck with Socom 2. Then Socom: Combined Assault dropped and that was pretty much more of the same of Socom 3, so I skipped it also and stuck with Socom 2.
When Sony announced that they were making an on-line only version of Socom I was psyched. They handed it off to the developer of the two PSP Socom games, which I found enjoyable for what they were (i.e,… Socom-lite). The lead designer, Seth Luisi, stated that they wanted to make the game in the spirit of Socom 2. I was pleased as punch.
I got into the beta and found it to be a complete mess. The servers were laggy as hell, people were warping all over the place. The gun spray was way too random and took skill out of the hands of the user and put it in some random number generator that decided if it was going to spray a bullet at someones face or not. But, despite it’s problems, there was fun to be had. The beta was one level, Crossroads from Socom 2… but being a game with so many issues and one map you would think I would have gotten bored. But I didn’t. It showed flashes of brilliance. But then, in a heartbeat, seemed broken to hell.
The full release of the game wasn’t much better. The servers were swamped, the game play still had issues. But they did make some nice improvements from the beta. They toned down the gun spray, for one. They listened to us and put the skill back in the hands of the player. It wasn’t much for us to rest our hats on, but it did show that Slant Six did at least listen to us a little.
I’ll just skip ahead to now because we don’t really need to relive every month of this game since release. The good news is that it is much improved, the bad news is that it isn’t nearly improved enough. One of the biggest failures of the game is that stuff that is listed on the back of the box *STILL* isn’t in the game. Now, I put this on Sony, as the publisher they set release dates and their marketing teams make cover art/back of the box info. They knew this stuff wasn’t close to being ready yet they advertised it right on the box. It really is a disgrace, as far as gaming goes.
There are many points of contention throughout the Socom community about specific aspects of the game and whether it captures the feeling of Socom 2. My personal belief is that it does, barely. It is far more Socom 2 than Socom 3 or CA was. So that makes it the 3rd best Socom game out of 5. To me. And that pretty much sums up the game in a nutshell. It is a very average Socom experience. Nothing, other than the graphics, make this game stand out.
The new maps that Slant Six created vary from pretty good to pretty bad. I personally love Kasbah, Fallen and Urban Wasteland, but Quarantine is about as unfun a map as this series has ever seen. The recreations of the old maps are all solid. The addition of an actual lighting engine making shadows actually dark adds a new wrinkle to these maps that we have been playing for 6+ years. There are small changes here and there that purists moan about, but all in all they did a great job bringing the old maps into a new generation.
The game play is where it all gets so uneven. The thing about Socom 1 and 2 is that the game appealed to many different type of shooter fans. If you wanted a fast twitch based shooter you could rush, circle strafe, dolphin dive, and just go nuts. If you were a slower more tactical player you could use the terrain to your advantage in a way that a first person game could never allow you to. And if you fell somewhere in between, you had fun too.
With Confrontation, the game is slowed down quite a bit. So, right off the bat, before even firing a shot, the run n gunners already feel betrayed. But, by the same token, the tactical guys are quite pleased. Socom also incorporates an armor system where you can either bulk up and move slower but take more shots… or strip down and move at a decent (but not as fast as S2) speed. I personally love this addition. It gives you a tactical decision to make before you enter the battlefield. I am not alone in liking it, but the community as a whole definitely DOES NOT like this. People in heavy armor take too many shots to take down, making them pretty much immune to snipers. I think the armor system needs to be balanced a bit more and maybe more people will get on board with it. Because as of right now going with heavy armor to take more shots doesn’t put that big of a penalty on you. It should slow you down to a crawl, or not take as many shots. Either/or. Right now it just kinda slows you down and allows you to take 2-4 more bullets. It’s a bit overpowered.
There is also a myriad of nagging issues that mar the game play. Reloading is a tad too slow and gets interrupted if you walk over uneven terrain. The lag has largely been cleaned up for most users, but there is still a large part of the Socom community that has insane lag issues to the point where the game in unplayable for them. It’s kinda funny watching the not lagging and the lagging camp argue with each other on the Socom.com boards, it’s like they don’t believe each other. It is possible for the game to lag for some and not for others, which is clearly the case with Confrontation at this point.
Now according to my word count I’m around 1200 words into this review and I have largely been trashing the game. That’s what makes this single hardest game to review in the history of the universe. When I fire this game up, with the broken promises on the back of the box and weird, unbalanced game play… I have a really good time. I can’t help it. I want to hate it. I really do. I want to teach a lesson to publishers that they need to make sure their games are polished before releasing them. Because, really, 5 months into this motherfucker and we are still playing a beta. But it’s a beta that I really enjoy playing.
The magic of a good socom game comes from the third person camera. It changes the way a shooter is played more so than any other innovation to the genre. In a first person game, be it realistic shooters like the old Rainbow 6s on the PC, or arcade shoot-em ups like Halo 3, you were always stuck in this narrow field of view. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love plenty of first person games, but the first time I put in Socom 1 I was like “holy shit, I can’t believe how much a 3rd person camera changes everything.” Where first person games limit your view, third person games give you a view that is too far. Someday we will get something in the middle, but for now I prefer having it be too far, especially because even all these years later it still feels new and refreshing. A Call of Duty fan will be in for a HUGE adjustment if they hop over to Socom for the first time. And anyone thinking about getting this game *just* for the trophies… run away. RUN FAR AWAY! The trophies will take the rest of your life to achieve, they are absurd.
This game retains that Socom magic, despite itself. Even though when the round starts I have to make my way out of this annoying black fog, and I have to use a dedicated button to sprint to get to the spot I want, when I get there, I can setup an ambush like no other game. I love it. I LOVE IT. It is what makes socom so great. And this game, this broken ass game, is great. But it’s terrible. It’s filled with broken promises and broken game play, and for some, completely broken servers. But when I am running in to disarm a bomb and I shoot the two guys left and disarm it with a second to spare…. man, I’m just happy.
The game is not Socom 2. It probably never will be. It is getting better with each patch, no matter how much crying you read across the web to the contrary. And the game will continue to get better. But it’s not going to be Socom 2. It just isn’t. So as a gamer you need to decide whether you can get over that or not. There are TONS of people who can’t. They will tell anyone that listens that this game is complete crap. And largely, what they say is true. But for those of us that got over the fact that it’s not Socom 2, we are having a pretty damn good time playing this broken shell of a game.
Most everyone that gives a crap knows the history of SOCOM. A game known for it’s on-line play that celebrated incredible success in a time when there wasn’t much in the genre to get excited for. Every FPS before and since cannot compare in my eyes. The original SOCOM 1 and 2 experience is something that is on a pedestal. Nothing can tarnish it in my eyes.
Since then shooters have come a long way. By this I mean they have solidified the experience. Offering incredibly superior matchmaking, voice capabilities, and game play that is stable virtually all the time.
Resistance, Halo and Gears of War are all great franchises. I’ve played every game in each of those series and I have enjoyed every one. But none of them compare to the SOCOM experience.
Along comes Confrontation, under a new developer. It’s even packaged on store shelves with the official PS3 headset, just like SOCOM was with the PS2. I was so excited thinking of the good old days. Hell, I only bought a PS3 once I knew SOCOM was making a return. I even looked up my old clan members hoping they were think of getting the band back together again, which they were. I couldn’t have been more excited.
I’ve had pretty much the same experience as my buddy Mortimer since then. The difference is that I have not played the game since trophies have been added. The series was tarnished. I let SOCOM 3 slide. So far I have not been as forgiving with Confrontation. All my old mates have done the same thing, they moved on to other games.
I hope the lesson is learned that you can’t go releasing a game that is broken. I feel like it never will be only because they got my money and that’s the most important thing right? I’m no know-it-all when it comes to sales and/or money in general. But I hope that the sales have slumped and enough copies have been traded in for them to realize that it was a major mistake.
I plan to play it again, I didn’t break down and trade it in. But in my eyes this needed to be the biggest and best release that the system has seen or will see for the next year. It is far from that.