SOCOM returns in fine form to the PSP, thanks to a solid presentation and playable controls. The game sports some of the most extensive multiplayer options of any portable game and makes great use of the PSP's power. Even better is the inclusion of full-on co-op play through the main story line.
- Great portable war-time action with a streamlined control scheme
- Looks and sounds excellent
- Superb multiplayer, especially co-op campaign over PSN
- Story gets a little strange by the end
- Easy to get stuck on obstacles
- Sometimes too reliant on auto-aim
The SOCOM: US Navy SEALs series has found a very comfortable niche on the small screen, a medium in which nearly every other military-themed franchise has failed. In the transition from innovative online PS2 shooter to the PSP, Sony’s SEAL-focused games have managed to provide highly playable, tactical shooting on the go for several years now.
The latest in the portable series is SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3, and it returns the series from a detour (2007’s Tactical Strike) to its real-time, multiplayer-centric action roots. Filling the combat boots of SEAL squad leader Wraith, you’ll take your three squadmates deep into enemy territory on a black-ops mission to discover the fate of a U.S. operative in an ex-Soviet bloc country and find some weapons of mass destruction along the way. Wraith and his team are on their own, though -- no back-up, no on site Intel, and no rescue if things go FUBAR.
Except for some strange moments toward the end, Fireteam Bravo 3 has a surprisingly decent storyline, which makes the single player campaign more than a mere tutorial to the extensive multiplayer side of the package. It rings particularly strong thanks to the excellent team AI. With the press of a button or two, you can order your men to do a variety of actions. Thanks to a simple control design, there are plenty of useful commands at your disposal, including holding off for you to scout the landscape or silently kill a guard, opening doors to clear the room, planting bombs, and efficiently dispatching designated targets.
Moving around is simplified as well. You use the analog stick for almost all movements, with the left shoulder to strafe, and your stance dictates your cover placement. The cover system is elementary, yet effective. When crouching, just get behind an obstacle and you’re covered. You can lay suppressing fire down from there, and while it is possible to manually aim, the game is reliant -- sometimes too reliant -- on the auto-targeting system. The downside to single stick control is that it’s often easy to get stuck on obstacles, or turned around during combat.
Online and Ready
Thankfully, the aforementioned auto-targeting is surprisingly good, making Fireteam Bravo 3 one of the more enjoyable shooters on the PSP. The nine missions are action-packed and the ability to approach objectives with different techniques (stealth or guns-blazing) earns Bravo 3 points for replayability. There are also custom missions that are essentially re-mixed versions of the main story maps, but with a variety of options to change the enemies, objectives, and other aspects of the combat field.
Although single-player is quite good, SOCOM’s strongest suit is multiplayer action. Fireteam Bravo 3 offers up not just a great array of team-based and free-for-all online action, but complete co-operative play through the campaign. Being able to grab three friends (or strangers) and blow through the story again is a welcome addition to the series and the PSP in general. Online play is stable and chock full of customization options. Fireteam Bravo 3 even boasts PSN integration, allowing you to login with your ID and access your friends list to link up.
Black Ops Fun
The SOCOM series has been a popular choice for PSP gamers for nearly five years. With SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3, Slant Six delivers a remarkably complete military shooter for the PSP. It looks and sounds excellent, boasts a solid single-player campaign, and superb multiplayer. If you like action on the go, the SOCOM games have always been good, but the important addition of online co-op play and plenty of refinements across the board make this one of the best games to hit the platform in some time.