|Dev: Zipper Interactive|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Release: April 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
There's a particular instance around halfway through the game where your squad is being attacked by pinpoint accurate bombardments from a docked stealth frigate. The only way to get close enough to the frigate to plant C4 on it was if I sent out teams a distraction, so from the protection of the only piece of centrally-located cover, I issued my orders, repeatedly. "No can do, sir," one of my team said. The sentiment was echoed in various other facets. Moving backwards and issuing the orders again did nothing. Either the AI was too stupid to realize that I wanted it to move to another position, or Zipper imbued my bot pals with an annoying sense of Darwinism. Either way, I had to move everyone together to the side following close behind me until I could once again tell them to draw the attention of the massive battery laying waste to the map (all this with plenty of enemy soldiers around, who are somehow never caught in the shock of the massive explosions hitting the battlefield as they continually assault your positions). This sort of occurrence is not infrequent, meaning you'll probably mostly abandon your ineffective teammate's skills to play the game like every other third-person shooter. And when you're willfully ignoring key design components, that's a big problem.
To break up the monotony of shooting bad guys repeatedly, the game occasionally throws you stealth missions in which you play a female covert operative. This is a nice idea, but once again, SOCOM more or less falls on its face here. The stealth itself works fine—in fact in order to keep up the pacing and difficulty, it's a little too easy. That's exactly the problem: enemies are so unbelievably brain dead it completely saps these segments of any sort of urgency or risk. It's probably no shock when I say that Metal Gear Solid 4 is the only stealth game this generation that even comes close to realism in both sneaking and AI, where more often than not you were quickly forced to abandon stealth entirely given the merciless way that if you so much as moved just a little too quickly behind a guard you were discovered. In SOCOM 4, enemies are so dumb they don't even hear you crawling in overgrowth two feet in front of them. And why do guards always muse to themselves out loud that it must just be their imagination? I guess the lowest-tier henchmen of every video game come from the same factory of defective morons.
There are a few nice things about SOCOM. The shooting, for what it is, is mostly competent, and despite issues following commands, your AI teammates will actually make a dent in enemy numbers. The multiplayer modes add some fun mechanics, like bomb squad defusing, making this more interesting than the single player game. Bear McCreary's score is also actually pretty good, though it may lean a little heavily on a couple of musical motifs. And, because not every military shooter can be about WWIII with Russia or Korea, it's very refreshing to see a game where the heroes' primary objective is as comparatively mundane as protecting a vital shipping lane in East Asia. How's that for realism? Still, SOCOM 4 is mostly forgettable.
CCC Freelance Writer