For years now, COUNTER-STRIKE has been one of the most popular online multiplayer games on the internet. Its addictive team-based mission gameplay has hooked many gamers, and even now my close friends are still frequently playing it. Console gamers have never really had a chance to experience this gameplay...until now.
I think if I could give an award for incredible turnaround, it would go to SOCOM: US NAVY SEALS. A couple years ago, the game screamed "stinker", but since then, it has shaped into a something that will likely be a staple of console online gaming for months to come.
SOCOM is a tactical team-based shooter. The game's one-player mode consists of the typical hostage rescue/sabotage situation, with an interesting twist. It plays like a blend of a fast action game and the more realistic RAINBOW 6. You and a team of Navy SEALs are dropped in to the situation where you will have to use stealth, wit, and teamwork to complete the mission.
The one-player game is fairly well done, and provides a decent training run for the multiplayer mode. The only gripes about the single-player mode aren't enough to keep you from playing, though. The first of these is that the enemy AI is generally pitiful. Usually you won't get killed because of a smart enemy - rather just walking into a trap. The other problem is that a lot of these scenarios seem to be just tried and true, and nothing really stands out from the other team-based shooters that have been released.
Both complaints are fairly minor because most gamers will spend the majority of their time online with the title. First, you'll need the Network Adapter and a Broadband Connection. Once you log into the servers, you'll have to select a briefing room and a mission. The whole process isn't that difficult, but could be frustrating if you haven't ever done this sort of thing before.
The games are set up for a maximum of 8 on 8, with different levels and scenarios (kill all the enemies, rescue/protect hostages, bomb enemy base). For the most part, the game runs well online if you have a decent connection. I have had some major lag issues on occasion, and that can make the game lose its appeal quickly. But for the most part, the team element works really well, especially when you add in the voice function.
The headset included with the game lets you speak and hear your teammates calling you and issuing orders, or letting each other know which way the SEALs are taking into the building. It adds a lot to the game when you can yell to the guy next to you "Throw a grenade!"
The online mode adds tons of replay value. I have no doubt that gamers will soon be joining Clans, and attempting to make their name known or, even better, feared by the online community. If nothing else, playing with 15 other players is by far much more interesting than playing against the computer.
While you could easily argue that SOCOM fails to impress graphically, it's the little things that make the difference. There's a lot of attention to detail in the levels and environments, from weather effects to volumetric lighting. It all makes up for the simple character models and sometimes less than spectacular visuals. Another nice aspect is the excellent animation in characters, especially the death sequences.
The soundtrack in the game is dynamic, and changes based on the situation you are in. It's done fairly well, and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game. Other elements, such as the voice acting and sound effects are great, and put you right into the action.
After coming a long way, SOCOM: US NAVY SEALS is a must-own if you have Broadband and the Network Adapter. In fact, it's reason enough to get both.