SOCOM 4: US Navy SEALs GDC 2011 PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Mar 04, 2011
Zipper Interactive, the team behind the much beloved SOCOM series, has just introduced a new multiplayer mode for upcoming shooter SOCOM 4, and it’s the bomb... literally. "Bomb Squad" mode joins previously announced game-types Last Defense, Uplink and Suppression, and tries to do something new in the multiplayer world. It pits two teams against each other, one defending three bombs and the other trying to defuse them. Unlike standard "defend/attack the objective" multiplayer, SOCOM 4 adds a new wrinkle in the form of the bomb technician. The team attempting to defuse the explosive has a key player who must personally disable each device. The technician is a little slower than the other players, but is heavily armored and armed with a unique weapon: A repeating shotgun.
The 16 on 16 match I played at GDC began on a jungle map. My team started off as the group trying to defuse the bomb, and while the beginning of the game was chaotic, with players running around the lush, tropical map with little reason, things got orderly quick - tactics are key. You must defend your slow moving tech at all costs, taking a bullet if needed; unlike some of the more hardcore modes in SOCOMs past, you do respawn here.
The flow of the Bomb Squad gametype quickly becomes obvious, with different players defending the technician by taking on the roles they feel most comfortable with. Those who favor sniping (the bastards!) can hang back and blow off heads from across the map, while more gung-ho gamers can surround Mr. Technician and put holes in people from close range with a shotgun.
As you’d expect from a SOCOM game, teamwork and tactics are the keys. Lone wolves will quickly find themselves dead, but if that isn’t enough incentive, SOCOM 4 rewards players for "playing their position." XP is handed out for assists, cover fire and other heroic actions that are necessary, but aren’t capping an enemy.
Among the cool things I noticed about the game was how smoothly and intuitively the objectives and strategies worked with the maps. Each is obviously very carefully designed, packed with sniper-nest opportunities, different routes, bloody chokepoints, and deadly no-man’s lands where you’re fully exposed to anyone who wants to shoot your brains out.
I saw three of SOCOM’s Bomb Squad maps, a shipping dock, a Vietnam-seeming jungle warzone, and the ruins of an ancient South American temple. Each map has a distinct feel. The jungle level is huge, perfect for snipers, where the ancient ruins are packed with tight corridors, just right for those who like to get up close and personal when they kill. Soldiers must use the terrain and cover to keep from getting their brains blown out, and squads must always be aware of enemy positions and their own objectives, as well as how to use the different weapons classes in order to prove victorious. It’s all very, very SOCOM.
No doubt, SOCOM 4 is a hardcore game for hardcore gamers, but there have been some concession made for more novice war-gamers, including enhanced matchmaking, to make it more likely that noobs fight other noobs, and the helpful XP system I mentioned above that will guide you toward pointing your guns in the right direction at the right time.
The matches I played tended to come down to the final of the three bombs on the map. The first two were defused with relative ease, but the third bomb proved trickier. Obviously, by the time there’s a single objective point, every soldier on the map converges in that area.The mayhem is extravagant and the bullets fly. This creates a pace for every game, where, as the clock ticks down, the action gets more frantic, and, at least in our demo matches, victory is determined at last minute.Special rewards are given for in-game actions, so if you kill a bomb technician, your squad gets to call in an airstrike - death from above for hapless enemies not smart or quick enough to grab cover.
Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to play as the bomb defusing technician - that’s determined randomly at the start of the mach, and fate did not grant me this honor. I can only imagine the fun of being the one the entire match hinges on, being forced to slowly make your way to your trio of explosive objectives, surrounded by a scrum of heavily armed comrades.
With its perfectly dialed in controls, realistic graphics, tactical focus and a brand new mode to play around in, I have a feeling SOCOM 4 will make a lot of gamers very happy when it releases on April 19 for the PlayStation 3.