Save for the past two weeks, Sony was relatively mum about the PlayStation 3, choosing instead to remind gamers “hey, the PS2 is far from dead, and we’ve got the PSP, too.” Case in point: SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Combined Assault. The first SOCOM was a showcase game on the PS2, so it seemed like the logical game to show the PS2’s vitality even as the PS3 hit stores. For the most part, SOCOM Combined Assault does just that, as it’s a solid game that offers something new without completely reinventing the wheel. But with the next-generation of consoles upon us, it’s also quite clear that it’s time for the SEALs to storm the next round of hardware.
As in the series’ previous outings, SOCOM Combined Assault provides a great base of tactical squad-based action, and it even retains the solid multiplayer aspects of its predecessors. The graphics, too, are showing some wear and tear, which goes against SOCOM’s tradition of being among the sexiest PS2 titles available. Where those aspects might be lacking, though, the gameplay picks it up a notch, both with online co-op and a surprisingly open-ended single-player campaign.
Like Splinter Cell Double Agent, SOCOM Combined Assault gives players a menu of objectives in each mission, some of which are primary and must be completed, others of which are secondary and optional. However, also like several Splinter Cell games, the secondary objectives in Combined Assault help fill in some of the blanks in the story and give players a more-comprehensive picture of the overall plot. Completing the secondary objectives isn’t “required reading” to enjoy the tale, but it definitely helps immerse you in the 18-missions that unfold in the fictional country of Adjikistan.
This feeling of “ownership” over your own, personal game is also helped by the fact that SOCOM Combined Assault doesn’t present each mission in a linear way, but by giving players two or three missions from which to choose. That’s not to say the game’s completely open-ended; players still have to complete every level to beat the game. But the freedom to choose whether you want to experience a mountain or urban or coastal environment next is a nice change of pace, and that false feeling of freedom is only augmented by the new ability to customize your loadout prior to each mission.
Customizing the loadout is a good idea, both because the tactics will change with each mission and because the squad AI can be a bit sketchy (getting in your way, pathfinding problems, etc.). As a result, you’ll often feel more like a one-man show than part of a team of SEALs. Good thing the enemy AI is just as questionable. Oh wait, the AI was supposed to be good all the way around, wasn’t it? Oops, our bad.
AI issues aside, SOCOM Combined Assault is a decent game. Zipper Interactive has never really faltered with the franchise, and Combined Assault isn’t about to start them stumbling. But SOCOM Combined Assault is the fourth game in the series, so it’s understandable to feel a bit underwhelmed by the whole thing. The online co-op is a fantastic touch (every other developer: please include this feature), and the fact that the game supports 32-player multiplayer matches will almost make you forget about the PS3. Almost. But not quite.
SOCOM Combined Assault is good offline, good online, and it provides good variety in spite of taking place in a single country. In fact, it basically picks up where SOCOM 3 left off, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Yet as good as all of that may be, it’s hard to deny the series is showing its age. SOCOM 3.1 should be an update, not a stand-alone title, and in many regards, that’s what Combined Assault feels like. Perhaps Zipper should take a bit more time between installments next time to figure out not only how to re-invigorate gamers’ interest, but perhaps even their own.
- Overall: 7.6
- It does very little wrong, per se, but the AI issues steal a bit of the teammate feel, and the overall age of the franchise is starting to show. No doubt Zipper will be able to wow us once again if they take more than a year to work on the next game.
— Jonas Allen