SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3
I wonder what it would be like to truly be a hero? How do you think it would affect you? Something inside of me tells me I’d be a modest, yet appreciative one who genuinely enjoyed making the world a better place, but throw an enemy in my face and they’d stare into the cold realities of justice. I’d swagger about, pay the admiring ladies a wry smile and perhaps even take a young, ambitious protégé under my wing. One thing is for certain though – I’d feel alive.
We’ve discussed and debated the implementation of emotion in gaming repeatedly; the concept of gaming as an art form comes across as somewhat cliché, but like likes of Final Fantasy X and Shadow of the Colossus have proved the perfect catalysts to giving gaming a new tool. What we’ve yet to truly see established however, is emotion acting as a subset, a complement to a less hormonal experience. Nobody (sane) wishes to feel a flurry of epiphanies engulf them when Mario risks life and limb in a death-defying leap of faith, but art is a canvas of potential variation. Simply put, the dry testosterone-fuelled rampages seen in squad based shooters need a shot of oestrogen this decade.
Oliver Banham discussed the implementation of emotion in gaming in his opinion piece.
When asked to review the latest instalment in a once pioneering series, scepticism crept in. The original SOCOM proved that the PS2 could handle online gaming despite being late to the party, and the original Fireteam Bravo was one of the few games to take the online side of the PSP seriously, but fast forward four years and SOCOM’s glory days are well and truly a thing of the past; the menu system, game modes and core mechanics immediately present an overpowering familiarity. The animation is functional yet remains rigid and characters have no true feeling of harmony with the environment, spare the automatic ducking when taking cover. The hardware may be somewhat outdated now the PSP is in its sixth year, but games like kill.switch on the PS2 proved that with a little initiative, such systems can work in older engines.
It’s long been recognised that SOCOM’s single player campaigns remain for the simple purposes of giving the novice a small degree of preparation for competing online, and as a selling point. Once again, a painfully unimaginative collegestudent script has been restructured to give the eight (!) missions a minor sense of continuity. Contrary to its insulting brevity however, the quality is such that a handful more missions would render any feeling of obligation to complete the campaign redundant – the developers struck a subconscious equilibrium between substandard levels of quality and quantity. The environments are all visually varied, yet all consist of the same physical structure, be they ‘outdoor’ or indoor. Repetition soon sets in as each scenario is approached by having your team cautiously advance; the unstable camera temperamental targeting system hinders progress further and the lack of clarity and sense of purpose erode away at any motivation to persevere.
These issues are somewhat quelled in the multiplayer, shying away from the slow tempo of the single player campaign into a tactical death match. The major hindrance on player skill is the lack of ability to run and gun simultaneously, although the double-edged sword opens up a tense affair; you’ll find yourself edging around corners, hastily pressing ‘R’ in hope of catching a predator off-guard as they anticipate you. Once again it’s true the maps lack variety, however the series shows its experience by striking a near perfect balance between the size of the map and the player limit (16). Dipping in and out of games is a painless procedure, there’s always a small community of players online and there is the temptation to stay for another match. Whether or not this will last depends on how die-hard a SOCOM fan you and your friends are, so if this review could swing your decision whether to buy it or not, that likely means you haven’t. There’s a curious charm to a merely functional experience. The four-player online co-op campaign may provide some variation, though don’t expect to spontaneously find a game.
“If there’s a single word I’d label Fireteam Bravo 3 with, it’s filler…”
If there’s a single word I’d label Fireteam Bravo 3 with, it’s filler. You know what to expect and it’ll happily do its job out of the spotlight, ticking over Sony’s first quarter net profit whilst remaining loyal to the franchise’s name. What’s left of the loyal community will surely migrate to the new servers over time, but with the series in its commercial twilight, it’s difficult to shake the feeling this is something of an obituary to the PSP iterations – without a full mechanical overhaul, Fireteam Bravo has nowhere left to expand.
SOCOM’s heart has become stale and ignorant of the environment it shuffles blindly into and when it’s gone, I won’t shed a single tear.
You won’t either.