I’ll first say that I have never before played Socom, so when I had the opportunity to partake in the beta I was a bit hesitant. I had no idea what to expect of this third-person shooter, but nonetheless I decided to take a shot at it.
So here it is, my first impressions on the Socom 4 beta.
Socom 4 is a third-person tactical shooter, where you play from a over the shoulder perspective.
Unlike most shooters, Socom 4 has a focus on strategy. Players who work together as a team fair better, and run-n’-gun game play is usually met with a swift demise. Instead players must be prepared and use basic strategy to achieve success.
My fear of trying Socom for the first time bordered around this very concept. I was worried I would be put into tight 6v6 tactical games, where my inexperience would drag down my team. While Socom 4 does have such gameplay for the dedicated gamer, I was pleasantly surprised when I was treated to a 16v16 game of Attack and Defense, a game mode where players fight as a team to take three objectives and then attempt to destroy the enemy base. The fighting was hectic, but structured and turned out to be a good learning environment. I quickly learned the controls and then dove into the fray. Combat is fast and fun, and you quickly learn to take a “slow but steady” approach to gameplay.
This is where Socom 4 really stands out from other modern shooters. While most shooters reward frantic “twitch” game play, Socom rewards a patient and planned approach. Don’t let that fool you, there is no shortage of action to be enjoyed. Most games consist of sixteen players per team and the action never lets up.
The two maps featured in the beta are big, but well made. There are a few primary choke points per map, along with plenty of side trails for flanking and every map had few good sniper nests. Port Authority would seem to be the crowd favorite, a ship port with a lot of open ground between buildings. The lesser picked map would be Assault and Battery, a jungle map consisting of tight corners and lots of foliage.
Each day of the beta we were treated to a new set of game modes to play. The amount of options available for customizing games is awesome and will be one of Socom 4 selling points. Many of the game modes we played were custom designed, such as Sniper Alley, a mode where all weapons except sniper rifles were turned off and damage was increased. Run and Gun was another specialty game mode, featuring only SMG’s and Shotguns on Attack and Defense. This mode in particular was a lot of fun. It was a nice change of pace to have everyone running straight at each other with guns blazing and with no regard to tactics or personal safety.
As to the weapons themselves, Socom boasts a good amount of variety. Aside from the basic Assault Rifles you have SMG’s, Machine Guns, Shotguns and Sniper Rifles. As you gain levels in Socom 4 more weapons get unlocked in each category, and while some of later level weapons are more powerful, they aren’t so powerful as to keep new players from being able to compete.
Along with the nice variety of weapons, Socom 4 also has a weapon modifications system, which rewards players who pick a weapon and stick with it. The more enemies you kill, the more points go into your weapons experience level, unlocking new modifications, such as recoil reduction or increased weapon range.
All in all, I really enjoyed my chance to get hands on with Socom 4. The game play is fluid, the weapon leveling system is a nice touch and the amount of customization for game modes means we will have a chance to see some really great idea’s spring from player creativity.
If I had to nit-pick what has otherwise been a great experience, I would say work on the grenade throwing. Players can lob those things across half the map with ease and with stunning accuracy to boot. Many a sniper is dethroned from his vantage point by a ridicules grenade toss that really shouldn’t be possible, but grenade throwing aside Socom 4 is looking great, and if the final release reflects my experience in the beta then PS3 owners are in for a treat come April 19th.