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SOCOM: Confrontation

If people were as faithful to their significant others as SOCOM fans are to their games, there would be a lot more blissful relationships in the world today. Take SOCOM: Confrontation for instance. It was released back in October 2008 as an online-only next-gen addition to the wildly popular PlayStation 2 series. Unfortunately for fans and newcomers alike, it was an inexplicably incomplete offering, with many of the features that were promised upon release (trophies, SOCOM awards, quick match & party system) nowhere to be found. On top of that there were a myriad of technical issues with the game ranging from horrible lag and community/stats errors to in various in-game glitches. Still, the hardcore community stayed true to their flawed partner and played away – All while patiently awaiting a gift from the SOCOM gods at Slant Six Games in the form of a miraculous software update that would put this in its rightful place as the best tactical shooter in the land. That patch has finally arrived nearly 3 months after release in the form of update 1.30 and now we are ready to dig into the finally “completed” game.

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SOCOM revolves around the battle between the US Seals (Commandos) and some group of mercenaries who of course have sinister goals. Since there is no single-player campaign, unlike past SOCOMs , that’s about all we have to go on for the reason behind this “confrontation”. Upon entering the game, the first things you are greeted with are avatars of your commando and mercenary personas. Before diving in head first you will want to jump into the Armory and customize your soldiers. One major credit I give to this game is that the amount of modifications you can make to your character is immense. In terms of facial features and the like there is your standard variety of shades, facial hair, etc that you would expect. Where the mods really begin to shine though is when you dig into the weapons and body gear. You’ll find a nice assortment of assault rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles to whet your fragging appetite, all with various attachments (scopes, grenade launchers, etc) that can be added. In addition there is an assortment of explosive devices (grenades, c4, claymores, etc), three different levels of body armor, and a large amount of camouflages to choose from. The impressive part is that all of these modifications have an effect on your character’s mobility so the heavier your armor/weapons, the slower you will move in the game.

Veteran SOCOM players should feel right at home with the gameplay. The emphasis as usual is on working as a team and gaining tactical advantages over your enemy and it shines in that regard. There are seven different game modes in total, ranging from your basic Team Deathmatch to more tactical modes like Demolition (locate a bomb and plant it at a point of interest), Extraction (commandos seek out hostages controlled by mercenary team and escort them to an extraction point), and Control (capture key points around the map to win). Communication is crucial of course and victory goes to the team that is able to most effectively coordinate their assaults. However players that are touching the series for the first time may quickly become irritated as they are being dominated by clan members and other people who have been playing the series for years. This feeling of frustration is only amplified by the fact that most of the matches that are available to join have no respawns; the reward for dying quickly is a tedious wait until the next round begins. An offline training mode would have been a great addition that would keep newer players from being forced to have a trial by fire initiation to the game.

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The aiming and hit detection are precise enough and the addition of motion controls for leaning out of cover works well also. There are a few design decisions, however, that will definitely make you scratch your head. The “weapons wheel” (requires you to hold down a button and then use an analog stick to change weapons) doesn’t sound too bad in theory but is just cumbersome practice. It basically forces a player to stop what they are doing in the middle of a heated battlefield or run for cover in order to switch items. It’s also nearly impossible shoot at people though windows as well as gratings on terraces but easy to get sniped while behind them. In addition I’m still trying to make sense of why in a nighttime battle a Navy SEAL would be able to use night vision goggles while standing still or walking, but somehow they become disabled once he starts running. It’s hard enough trying to stay alive in SOCOM without having to worry about poor design putting you at a disadvantage.

“It is a shame that three months later what they have given their faithful community is still broken and incomplete.”At least SOCOM: Confrontationensures that while you have stunning environments to enjoy as you are laboring through its issues. All of the maps are beautiful, varied and well designed, containing more than enough sniping points and places to cover up and ambush unsuspecting opponents. The usage of colors and shading in particular is impressive and allows players to blend into the backgrounds enough so that they are well camouflaged but not so much that it causes an unfair advantage. Fans of the series will immediately recognize some classic maps from previous SOCOM editions like Crossroads and Desert Glory that were very accurately recreated. However with only seven environments to choose from it’s easy to quickly get tired of doing battle in the same places over and over again. The sounds are also well done, with amusing taunts that can be thrown at your opponents, in-match music that’s not overbearing, and gun sounds that are dead ringers for their real life counterparts.

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Most of the really ugly technical glitches that existed when this was released appear to have been worked out via the recent patch. However there were a couple of occasions in which while waiting in a lobby for my match to start I randomly got kicked out of the game and back into the XMB. The stat tracking, while stable now for the most part, continues to have moments where it is hit or miss. There are also still features that were printed in the game’s manual which do not exist even after this latest software update (Tournament matches, Clan Ladder Matches, Calendars, Community Portal, and Downloads). It’s inexcusable that crashes and deficiencies like this still exist at this point. Slant Six has definitely over-promised and under-delivered in this regard and it is a shame that three months later what they have given their faithful community is still broken and incomplete.

If this game was being judged purely on potential it would be certainly critically acclaimed. However the flaws certainly have to be considered and in this case they keep Confrontation from being in the upper echelon of tactical shooters. There is certainly lots of enjoyment to be had here, particularly when you play with a clan, but in the end this is really a game that only the SOCOM faithful will have the patience to continue playing while waiting for yet another patch. On the bright side for newcomers though, at least the game can be purchased with the official PS3 headset which at least makes may make it worth it to at least dip your toe in the pool.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2008.

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