This fall, Zipper Interactive Inc. and Sony Computer Entertainment are expanding one of their most successful titles. SOCOM 3: U.S Navy SEALs, in stores now, is bringing the best action and improvements to the third person shooter genre.

In this latest installment, your SEAL team takes the fight to the enemy across three new areas of operation: Morocco, Poland, and South Asia. Missions range from close quarter combat to strategic air strikes to hostage taking. The story line pretty much follows a typical day at the office for any U.S Navy SEAL: busting down doors and saving the world from tyranny and terror.

SOCOM 3 expands on the series with all new missions, features, and even new squad members. Just like the previous titles, you command a fire team consisting of teams Able and Bravo. You still play as "Specter" from SOCOM II, but Bravo team introduces new members "Killjoy" and "Simple". Several new features bring this third person shooter to status of all-time great.

Probably one of the biggest improvements in SOCOM 3 is the use of vehicles. It allows you to take control of several military vehicles including the M1025 HMMWV, Special Operations dune buggies, the SOC-R assault boat, and even terrorist pickup trucks. Most all vehicles allow your team and others to ride along wreaking havoc on the enemy, by using the vehicles' fixed gun turrets. The most common vehicle weapon is the .50 caliber machine gun, which is excellent for providing covering fire while your SEAL team assaults the enemy.

If you run out of vehicle ammo, or have a twisted mind, you can also use your vehicle as a weapon by running over the enemy. The introduction of vehicles expands gameplay like you would not believe. Not only have vehicles been added but also each level is around five to six times larger than the previous SOCOM titles. Walking through mission levels really demonstrates how much the maps were expanded from the previous two titles.

Another improvement over the previous titles is the ability for your SEAL team to hide under water, and pop up in a "Rambo" style to sneak up on enemy terrorists. When under water, you and your SEAL team are invisible to the enemy but you are limited by an oxygen meter. This greatly increases your ability of achieving stealth kills. Besides hiding under water, your SEAL team can also swim.

Zipper Interactive has also added a cool new command feature: The Team Command Actions (TCA). TCA gives you the ability to move your SEAL team to certain points by simply pressing the L2 button. This feature comes in handy for users without the USB headset. Auto Save checkpoints have made their way in SOCOM 3. Saves take place after certain objectives; if you die, you don't have to start from the beginning of the mission. It's a nice feature but I dislike the fact that they give you a replenishment of ammunition. It doesn't make you conserve your ammo and it causes you to go trigger-happy. Real U.S Navy SEALs don't go trigger-happy - only when the "you know what" hits the fan.

Likewise, the USB headset is back for another round and the voice controls operate just like the previous versions with all the standard commands such as "Follow," "Hold Position," and my personal favorite: "Fire at Will."

SOCOM 3 features better graphics than most third person shooters. The graphics are much sharper and cleaner - in fact, so clear that you can see each detail on a SEAL's tactical gear. Each stage is accurate and more focused to detail. Audio output is just as solid with a crisp sound that is so clear you are able to hear spent shells hit the deck - just like in SOCOM II.

For those who have a PSP (PlayStation Portable) or are thinking about getting one, SOCOM 3 has a new feature called "Cross Talk." This allows you to pass data from your current SOCOM 3 PS2 game to your PSP version of SOCOM (SOCOM: U.S Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo, launches in November) through a USB connection. Cross Talk essentially allows you to affect the way you play in the PSP version. For example, if you destroy a radio tower in SOCOM 3 and sync the data to your PSP, the enemies will not be able to use their radios in your PSP version.

Once again, SOCOM 3 is playable online and has some new additions to the mix. SOCOM 3 carries the ability to play up to 32 players online simultaneously. New game types include: Convoy, where you can test your vehicle combat skills online; and Control Point, where online gamers fight for control of the map.

I really can't complain about the graphics, gameplay, or missions. But I hate the fact that they changed the reload and fire mode controls. In the previous games, you simply press R3 to reload. Now to reload, you have to press and hold (for a few seconds) and then you get to reload. It's annoying to get shot up while you wait for a reload. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's like complaining about winning a million dollars.

Zipper Interactive has another hit on their hands. On a scale of 1 to 10, SOCOM 3: U.S Navy SEALs is a 50. The graphics, vehicles, and online play all hit their mark. What I would like to see in the next SOCOM are newer voice commands that include newer tactics (perhaps like the Special Ops Cover) and a peel maneuver just in case a quick fall back is needed. Zipper Interactive and Sony Computer Entertainment have some pretty decent websites with forums, tactics, and other cool stuff. The official SOCOM 3 website has all the gaming info, and also Socom3tactics has cool video on how to perform specific moves in SOCOM 3.

To all veterans of previous SOCOM installments and military enthusiasts in general, this is one title not to be missed this fall. You better not be AWOL on this SOCOM deployment. You will not be disappointed.

SOCOM 3: U.S Navy SEALs is rated "M" for Mature (Content suitable for ages 17 or older) and is available for the PlayStation 2 game console.


Latest from CBS News