That’s right, it’s back. I’ve quit my job and sent the girlfriend to Barbados. It’s time to do some serious gaming. SOCOM is one of the highest profile games on the PS2, and they absolutely have to get it right. So how is it? Is it the second coming, or a serial cash-in?
First of all, the beauty of SOCOM II, is brushing off the dusty headset and perching it back on your head - it’s like your going back into action with the boys. You know the format, the controls and the briefing is reassuringly familiar. That’s the great thing about second parts, you know what you are doing - just like in Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, Covert Ops, etc., to which SOCOM has often been compared. The downside, is that sometimes the virgin is not catered for, you are expected to be in the fold already.
SOCOM is good in that it doesn’t assume you are already a player. If you start as a novice, the tutorial will intelligently guide you through the first level. Sadly, I ignored that, and went screaming off to cap the first terrorist I could find, and thereby failing one of my mission objectives of maintaining a low profile. I still emerged with a good (ok, excellent) score, so let’s not sweat too much.
If you are a newbie, the headset can be your greatest friend - read the review on SOCOM to see what all the fuss is about. Again, it is great fun, even if it does get you some very strange looks from the rest of your household. Whilst ordering Bravo Element to Run to Waypoint Zulu, I was mocked with commands to Make a Sandwich and Feed the Cat. That’s jealousy for you.
Ok, so SOCOM II itself. Yes, it is still very good. The graphics are refreshingly good on the PS2 considering how old that little box is getting. The sound is great, supported by the headset and through the normal TV system. The realism and the detail in briefing and executing missions is what it is all about. If you love the combat sim, you’ll probably already have it. If you spent 6 months playing the original, then you’ll already be looking to get this.
SOCOM is also one of the greatest online games, and SOCOM II has done much to support this - 12 new maps, and more multi-player modes that look to have been stolen from Counter Strike. They’ve not neglected single player, with improved graphics and improved communication - great for the solo gamer, and brilliant for the online gamers out there.
One thing they obviously didn’t spend too much time on was AI. I noticed that when you shoot at a bad guy he might run around like a headless chicken for a bit rather than adopting a sensible immediate action drill (such as dash, down, crawl, observe, sights, fire). That aside, the single player game can be either hard or easy, depending on how much you do yourself. If you choose to lead all the way, you might get more involved, but part of the aim here is teamwork - throw the others a bone or two - but realise that your buddies aren’t human and can sometimes have moments of gross stupidity. It’s a shame that the kind of faults you’d associate with the earlier Delta Force Games on the PC are allowed to get in the way on PS2 as well. Some might argue that running around after incoming fire is realistic in war, but it happened just a little too often for us to agree.
Overall, it's an excellent progression on an excellent game, but SOCOM II is more accomplished. It is available with or without the USB headset, for oldies or newbies alike. If you can only get one game, get the new one, but if you have some spare money and don't have the first game, get that too!
(Search on the Games Channel Page where the SOCOM review will be listed just above this one).