SOCOM Confrontation Review

Game: SOCOM: Confrontation
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Developer: Slant Six

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Note: I did NOT want to review this game till all the features that were promised were in it.

When I first heard that SOCOM was finally coming to the Playstation 3, my first reaction was, “Finally I can put SOCOM 2 back on the shelf.” Actually, I think a lot of SOCOMers felt the same way. Little that we knew, SOCOM: Confrontation turned out a lot differently than expected.

SOCOM: Confrontation follows the footsteps of Warhawk; you can buy a disc version at retail stores or you can download it from the Playstation Store. The retail version is a way better buy because for $59.99 you get the game and the official Playstation headset which is $49.99 anyways. The retail version comes with a few “Behind The Scenes” movies. Once you finally decide what version to get, there is a pretty long and obnoxious install period. The install period takes a good 20-30 minutes and eats over 2.5 GB of your hardrive. After that, you will need to download the most recent update which will be over 500 MB.

You can customize all the guns just the way you like them.

You can customize all the guns just the way you like them.

SOCOM: Confrontation is a lot different from its predecessors. The biggest difference is that there is absolutely no single player. This game is online only. You can’t even access the menu without being online which is ridiculous. If you want to watch those movies, you need to be online. Also, Slant Six really tried to push the new “Over The Shoulder” (OTS) view. Well, the new view is very hard to get used to and you can’t see nearly as much as the “Classic” view, and you can only use Night Vision in OTS. Slant Six took out the very useful “First Person” view. Now when you are camping in a bush and you zoom all the way in with the D-Pad, all you see if a close up on the bush you are hiding in.

The gameplay to SOCOM: Confrontation is pretty much the same as previous games in the series. Every game mode is Commandos vs Mercenaries. Every gametype in the game are all from past SOCOM games. You have your classic Suppression, Elimination, Demolition, Breach, Control, Escort, and Extraction. Past SOCOM games had 11 rounds per game. In SOCOM: Confrontation, they removed three rounds and half way through the game, your team switches sides. There is no tie breaker round anymore so if the game lasts all eight rounds, whichever team has the most number of kills wins. The best additions to the series are the Special Forces. There are five Special Forces that you can pick from. Each Special Forces have their own unique weapon. For example, if you choose to be the SAS, your clan will have access to the IW-80A2 or if you choose to be the KSK, your clan will have access to the GMP. There are a ton of weapons in the game spanning from Assault Rifles, SMGs, MGs, Sniper Rifles, and Handguns. Every weapon you choose, you can have up to two attachments on that gun. Attachments include suppressors, scopes, bipods, and lasers. Another cool addition to the game is the proxy chat. The proxy chat is basically when you are close to a teammate, they can hear you without pushing L2, but be careful because the enemy can hear you too. You will hear your teammates whispering through the mic “I can hear the enemy through my proxy chat.” The proxy chat feature really brings the intensity up to the game.

SOCOM: Confrontation has a built in Clan Ladder system which comes in very handy. The clan leader can go to the in-game calendar, pick a day on when the match will be and challenge a clan to whatever time he wants. A lot of clans don’t like using third party sites and the in-game ladder feature is very easy to use.

There are quite a bit of downfalls to the gameplay. Probably the biggest one is shooting over railings or windows. The game has a hard time figuring out what your are trying to do. For example, if you are trying to shoot over a railing, the game thinks that the railing is either too high or it is a wall. Another annoyance is getting stuck on ledges and pebbles. This happens a lot. You would think that your highly trained soldier could walk up on a curb or walk through some little rocks. Well, your soldier will get stuck and you will need to jump over the curb to get on top of it. The last big gripe about the gameplay is the reloading. Sometimes when you try to reload, you won’t. You will see your soldier reload, but he will stop halfway through the animation and you will still have a half empty clip in your gun.

Lions and Tigers and Bears. OH MY!

Lions and Tigers and Bears. OH MY!

The graphics to the game are pretty decent. They do not look like Call of Duty or Resistance, but they look like a SOCOM game. If you never seen SOCOM: Confrontation before, but you have played all the other SOCOM games, you will know it is a SOCOM game. The car explosions look really top notch. You can see all the debris from the car splatter in every direction. All the animations are dead on. The only real issue I have with the graphics are the pop in textures. This is only an issue when you are spectating players. When scrolling through alive players you will notice walls missing for a few seconds or players not holding their weapons. This can be a pretty big issue because the player that is watching the alive players can see through the map, making it easier to spot enemies and message it to their fellow clan mates.

The one thing that SOCOM: Confrontation really nails is the sound. At the beginning of each round HQ tell you what your mission is. On the Commando side, you can tell HQ is talking through a headset while on the Mercenary side, HQ seems to be there in the game with you. Every soldier has taunts and insults you can say. Depending on what Special Forces you pick, you can hear their accents perfectly. The gun sounds are spot on. You can tell what gun everyone is using by just listening to it. Slant Six did an incredible job on muffling gun sounds from room to room or if you hear a sniper shot on the other side of the map.

SOCOM: Confrontation isn’t for everyone. If you love respawn fast pace shooting games, SOCOM is not the game for you. However, if you can overlook some of the annoyances and love modern day team oriented slow paced shooters, SOCOM: Confrontation might be something you want to check out.

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Gameplay- 7.5… Classic SOCOM. Little annoyances hurt the game a lot.

Sound- 9… From gun sounds to proxy chat. Feels like you are in a real war.

Graphics- 7.5… Looks like a SOCOM game. Pop in textures.

Replay- 8… If you overlook the majority of the problems and join an active clan, you will easily put 100+ hours in the game.

Overall (Not Average)- 8/10

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Puzzle Quest: Galactrix – Twenty dollars worth of moving sideways

After a few months of exclusivity on the PC and the DS, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix has finally made its way onto the PSN.  It is a welcome sight, to be sure, especially considering the lack of any sort of release on the network in the last few weeks.   And it also doesn’t hurt that PQG is going to end up being one of the higher quality releases on the PSN this year.   The package certainly isn’t perfect, however.

This new version of Puzzle Quest does do a number of things to make changes from its predecessors.   The problem is that most of the changes feel just like that:  changes.  They aren’t necessarily better, they are just different.   The story and location, for instance, is all Sci-Fi futuristic, and the battle is between ships instead of between Warriors and Wizards and other nerd faire like that.   This is purely aesthetic though, as the +5 laser missile does the same thing as the +5 fire ball.    One change that does affect the gameplay is the shape of the board.   Gone is the typical Bejeweled style square and in its place is a hexagonal shaped board that seems to cause more problems than it does bring excitement.

The number one problem is that there is now a lot more pieces on the “edge” of the viewable surface, which means there are that many more pieces just off the edge waiting to get in…   and since you can’t see those, you can’t strategize around them, and it ends up making a lot of the Bejeweled styled battles a lot more luck than skill.   Puzzle Quest (and Bejeweled for that matter) always counted on a bit of luck but this new board design only adds to that.

Round boards are round.

Round boards are round.

The RPG elements of the game have been fleshed out a bit.  There are now faction tabs, the bane of any MMO player.  But factions do give you some strategic decisions as you make your way through this massive story.   You also gain some skills from the members of your party, much like the first Puzzle Quest.   The universe is multi-branched, letting you explore quite a bit if you are up for it, but the story itself keeps you on a pretty straight line.

There are a few new additions to the gameplay.  Namely mining and hacking.   The easiest way to explain either of these modes is that they basically mirror the puzzle mode found in Bejeweled 2.   They are a nice diversion from the typical player versus player battles battles that the game throws at you, and the addition of mining in particular also adds to the RPG part of the game by letting you gather materials to either sell or turn into new skills.   It’s definitely a welcome addition to the series.

In the end, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is as good as any of us hoped it would be, but it’s certainly not much more.   In fact, I found the story of the first to be a bit more engaging than this one.   But even though the additions are hit and miss, none of them miss so badly that they ruin the experience.   What you end up with, for a fairly pricey $20, is a very long and deep game that will give you 10s and 10s of hours of puzzle/RPG excitement.   There is also offline and online multiplayer, which is a nice touch, though it’s not the most exciting stuff in the world.   And, I must say, I have had a bit of trouble finding folks to play online.   I’m not sure if the problem is on my end, or the servers…  or if there is just no one trying to play online.   But thus far, I haven’t had any luck there.

Get used to the CPU pulling off combos like crazy.

Get used to the CPU pulling off combos like crazy.

The computer still cheats as always, and like I said, it comes in at a pricey $20…   but unlike Watchmen, it offers tons and tons of gameplay.   If you liked the first you will like this one, if you hated the first this version isn’t going to blow your mind.   But as far as I’m concerned PQG is an incredibly solid PSN download.  I’m just not convinced that it’s any better than the first.

Comet Crash review – Tower Offense?

As the resident Tower Defense nerd, I instantly took a liking to Comet Crash.   The graphics aren’t much more complex than what a semi-talented 12 year old could pull off with Flash, but the gameplay takes the genre forward in pretty interesting ways.

What sets Comet Crash apart from most tower defense games is that 50% of what you are doing is actually being on offense.   Like a normal Tower Defense game you have to put up towers and defend your base, as usual, but you can’t win with defense alone.   At  the same time as you are spending resources to defend you must also spend resources to build units and then you decide when to send them in.   Once out of your base you don’t control them, they follow the same set path that the AI units attacking you take, but in reverse.

Flash lolz

It may not be pushing the PS3 (or the PSone, for that matter) but what you will find here is a very fun and deep experience. It's just too bad it isn't online.

This obviously makes for a fairly fresh experience for Tower Defense fans.   The problem is that the game begs for player vs player multiplayer, and it has it, but only in offline multiplayer.    If you are like me you probably don’t have friends as nerdtastical as yourself that would get into this type of thing.    The game begs and pleads and grovels to be played online, but the developers ignored our cries and withheld this most important of gameplay slices.

This is really my only complaint about the game but it is a rather large one.   At the end of the day the game has tons of gameplay for $10 and is certainly worth the cost of admission, but as you are playing the computer you will wish and hope and pray each time you start up the game that there is a patch that puts in online multiplayer.   If you can get past that, however, you will find a very deep and satisfying game.   Well, assuming you aren’t a graphics whore.

Wheel of Fortune Review: Regression Through Unlearning

Wheel of Fortune is one of those games. You know, the one where most people already know if they want it or not. Pretty much anyone over the age of 15 is going to know exactly what to expect with this title. Spinning wheel, word puzzles, Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Are they still doing that show? Wow, they are! They sure do look old these days.

Being the household name that Wheel of Fortune is, many copies will be sold regardless of the actual quality of the game. Many copies will not be sold for that exact same reason. By my count, around 30 versions of the game have been released over the years. It’s been done, it’s also not going to offer any incredible game play opportunities.

Wikipedia says “Every modern version of Wheel features the likeness of co-host Vanna White.” but, interestingly enough, “not Pat Sajak”. Even more interesting than that, neither of them are in the most current iteration for the Playstation 3. Instead, there is no one in the game except for the three contestants. No voice work whatsoever was done for this version. You might ask yourself, does this game do anything for me that the Commodore 64 version didn’t already do? As much as I would like to hype a game from 1986 over a 2009 release, I cannot.

The funny thing is, this photo actually highlights a game mechanic superior to the PS3 version. You can see the wheel spinning and the puzzle at the same time.

The funny thing is, this photo actually highlights a game mechanic superior to the PS3 version. You can see the wheel spinning and the puzzle at the same time.

With the exception of the choppy quality of the shows logo before each game, it looks well enough to be called a Playstation 3 game. Character selection options aren’t the deepest around, but they suffice. The canned character animations like the cabbage patch, and lasso are pretty lame. Besides those points, the game is easy on the eyes.

There aren’t any major concerns with the game that justify a text based beat-down. There are however, many minor issues that should have been addressed prior to release. Not having the game board viewable at all times is an annoyance. So you are left with decision making moments where you can’t see the game board, which is rather frustrating.

Included with this game is the Road Trip mode. Essentially this is an 11 city Wheel of Fortune tour. There are trophies which require play in every city to unlock. Completing the tour is made difficult by lack of functions like game saves and really, any structure whatsoever. When you go into this mode, you are plopped into a city at the mercy of the random number generator. Unless you play the tour straight through without turning off your system, you are doomed to repeatedly play cities over and over. This is due to the lack of any type of game save feature.

Another misstep is found while playing online. As any gamer involved in online play knows, people quit/disconnect in the middle of games often enough to cause major frustration. In Wheel of Fortune, any player that leaves in the middle of a game is not replaced, even by an AI opponent. Where the issue becomes a larger concern is in the online version of Road Trip mode. Road Trip mode is an unstoppable force. You lock into play with 3 people, permanently bound to those players until you quit out. Some road trip, the game never ends.

While not as bad as a video game version of Deal or no Deal, Wheel is lacking in enough facets to say that $14.99 is too high a price. Not being the best version available to date might leave some feeling ripped off. In closing, regardless of its shortcomings, it’s a functional enough version of the game to be fun for anyone who thinks they would enjoy the game.

Astro Tripper review – Smash your controller into your TV type fun

Astro Tripper is a 2D space shooter on a 3D plain. It’s a real throw back to the arcade days. I could see this game sucking quarters out of my pocket because it’s so hard. No joke, I failed the tutorial 5 times. It’s really tough.

The thing that made this game difficult for me is the whole 3D plain deal. You simply move from side to side, looking for things to shoot. These things occasionally shoot back at you. When they shoot you obviously want to avoid the fire. This is where it gets hard. While you have to adhere to the limitations the game sets for you, your enemies do not. So you have enemy fire coming at you in a way that should just not be able to hit you, but it does!

Meanwhile your weapon fire observes all the logical rules. This can be frustrating as you move along and don’t completely realize that the area in front of you is actually not on the same plain as you are. I think that might be confusing to you dudes out there in Readerland but you will understand when you play. 

It’s also difficult to tell when you can fall off the world and when you cannot. Sometimes a simple line on the screen is an impenetrable wall and other times it is a dire warning that death awaits. I imagine that once you get used to all of the ways this game tries to make you cry you might be able to begin moving through it.

After suffering through learning the ropes I came to a boss fight. Some giant robotic bug looking thing that sort of reminds me of the boss fight at the end of Littlebigplanet or pretty much any boss fight prior to 1990. Some big dude with glowy orbs on his body that are, ever so obviously, his weak points. I imagine my nether regions appeared this way to the female eye in middle school. As I took far too many jelly shoes to the nuts during those years.

Big Bad Bionic Bug. He goes boom.

Big Bad Bug. He goes boom.

Anyways, I’m fighting this boss and making progress. Destroying his glowy parts and avoiding him as he chased me around. All of a sudden I hear what I can only recall as an air raid siren begin blaring. Then I am insta-dead. Game over.

I had no idea why but I was dead. It really didn’t seem like I had taken an incredibly long time to kill the boss. Apparently though this game did not agree. So yeah, that was the tutorial.

Other aspects of the game also make it difficult. For instance, you can only shoot your weapons from side to side. Enemies however can shoot at you with homing missile space ammo from any direction. There is also a button press required in order to make your ship change it’s direction of travel or to change the direction you shoot in.

Enemies love to spawn right on top of you. Or immediately in your path with zero warning, thereby killing you. It just feels like the game is cheating all the damn time. Like I said this game is tough.

At $5.00 though you get trophy support and I believe, 14 levels of kick-your-ass pew pewing. If you dig these type of shooters pick it up. The price alone is good enough reason to get it. I think Sony should be pumping out as many $5.00 games as they can. Every now and then you will get a Noby Noby Boy that blows your mind. Astro Tripper isn’t going to blow your mind but it is worth the money.

So in closing, get the game. I just can’t promise that Astro Tripper won’t make you cause physical harm to your expensive entertainment equipment.

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Mort’s Take:

I agree pretty much with what Dicky has to say, except I think I am enjoying the challenge a bit more than he is.   Like any good 2D shooter, there is a certain type of flow you need to get into.   Astro Tripper throws you for a loop with its 2D but kinda 3D plains, and by having a more complex control system.   But once you get it all down you can pull off some amazing stuff.

But yes, there will be many cheap deaths until you memorize the patterns of the levels, and the controls do feel a little clunky at first.   But after a short while you will grow to enjoy the frantic pace of the game.   It doesn’t compete with SSHD or any other twin stick shooter, for that matter, but for $5 it is plenty of game and plenty of fun.   But it may end up costing you $55 after you smash your controller.   $1055 if you smash said controller into your HDTV.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Mighty’s Take:

With a name like Astro Tripper, you would expect the game to have block-rockin’ beats. It doesn’t. But for $5, it’s a clean take on retro-favorite Defender. Like said game, you must utilize the map to make short work of your enemies–I found myself looking there more than I should have.

And unlike Dicky J, I had no issues with the 3D perspective often shifting, but my issues lie with the generic look of the game. Cheesy robotic enemies on pastel mechanical backgrounds do little for my imagination. I would have much rather had windmills where there are pistons and wheat  fields where there are metal tiles. But with controls as spot on as this, I can put a bag over its head.

Age of Booty review – Not a Ratchet & Clank game

When I was 11 years old, a doctor told me it would take unusual force to break one of my bones. He said I could play harder than the boys at school, and when I got older, I could take on more strenuous work. But in 1989 the Gameboy came out, so I couldn’t be bothered.

Actually, that never happened. My name is mightybones for a wholly different reason. The name comes from the Greek term Piratecus G mightycus bonesies, meaning pirates are harder than gods. And Age of Booty does much to remind us of that.

X marks the spot...or hex

X marks the spot...or hex

Age of Booty looks like Calling All Cars but plays like a German board game. What’s not to love. Well, your AI teammates are not to love. More on that later. In AoB you control just one ship. You direct it to either collect resources, attack merchants for their curses (magic attacks) or occupy and defend towns for which to pillage. The latter being the object of the game. Teams of two to four provide cannon fodder for one another, as well.  
In single-player missions, if you’re not babysitting your AI-controlled teammates, you’re not winning. And I hate it when a game doesn’t give you full control of your squad. But it’s evident this game was made with multiplayer in mind, so you can’t overly fault them for this.

Right now on the PS3’s network, it isn’t too easy finding a game (in random match-ups I often played with the same people). I imagine this not being as much of a problem on the 360. Though, If you have friends that are interested in the purchase, it should not be an issue. If you have friends locally you board game with, AoB is deep. With the intuitive custom-map creator and highly-configurable settings, this could be the only way to play for most. I preferred playing locally due to this mode’s freedom to choose your AI’s behavior in the pre-game menu. But that’s just me.

4 old ladies with eyepatches / 7

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Dick’s Take:

I really enjoy this game. I can only describe it as a rather simple Real Time Strategy type concept. After playing through the entire single player campaign, I was left craving more. Online multiplayer is a letdown, due only to the lack of a player base. I was stuck waiting on a match for a good half an hour in prime time. Go buy this game and add me to your friends list so we can play!