'SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Combined Assault'

SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Combined Assault screenshot
Since its release in 2002, the "SOCOM" series has set the standard for the third-person military shooter. This series, based on the U.S. Navy's elite SEALs, just gets better with every version.

Now in its fourth installment on the PS2, the "SOCOM" series continues to succeed. "SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Combined Assault" is not a sequel per se, it's more like a facelift for the series. And this facelift gives so much enjoyable gameplay that you will be playing it for hours on end.

Unlike its predecessors, where real locations were used, "Combined Assault" takes place entirely in one country. The Area of Operation is a fictional country called Adjikistan.

The main campaign mode is similar to previous titles where you are tasked with completing a series of objectives on any given mission. The mission objectives in this release are non-linear, so you can do them in whatever order you want, which is a great change. At the main menu, gamers can choose from campaign modes, and multiplayer format.

Similarly, a training mode helps you sharpen much needed battlefield skills. You can practice tasks such as general player movement, vehicle driving and using medical kits to recover your health. Instant Action Missions are now available. They allow you to go back to a previously completed mission to do it over again for some quick fun.

Besides your standard load of military weapons, also added to the mix is a new batch of weapons. For example, there are now non-lethal weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray projectiles and concussion ordinance. You can also select body armor in the weapons select menu, a first for the series.

Body armor is great as you are less likely to be slowed by damage, but it will make your overall load much heavier. So there is a balance you have to strike when selecting weapons. Welcomed additions are medical kits, which can be used to restore health at any time during a mission if you're carrying one.

For the most part, most of the cool features and additions that made "SOCOM 3" memorable are back. The stealthy swimming approach is back, and there are more aquatic areas to take advantage of the tactic. Vehicles scattered throughout the area of operation return as well, so if you don't feel like walking, just steal an enemy truck.

Again like its predecessor, "SOCOM 3," this new title uses the same controls, meaning the Team Command Action (TCA) system from the last game is back. With one of the L2 buttons you can command your team to certain areas quickly. If you still have one, the USB headset that came packaged with the first "SOCOM" game is still supported and you can use it to issue voice commands to you teammates.

The enemy AI has definitely received an overhaul. The enemies now use better tactics when engaging your fireteam, such as evading your fire much better than previous versions. On some occasions, enemies will rush your squad and pump you full of lead. Also shooting suppressed weapons does not always guarantee a stealthy kill. Sometimes when you fire a suppressed weapon, if more enemies are nearby, they will react to it and attack your fireteam.

The Crosstalk capability with "SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2" for the PlayStation Portable has been greatly expanded. Your actions in one game will have an impact on the other when you connect the two. During your missions you'll hear from HQ telling you, "Fireteam Bravo will take care of this one." So, if you eliminate enemies in the Fireteam Bravo 2, they will not be there in the "Combined Assault" version.

The core of this game is the ability to have a four-player cooperative campaign mode. That means you and three of your buddies can tackle the campaign missions together. It can get a little frustrating if your buddies don't work with you and go off on their own set of orders.

It takes much practice to work effectively as a team. Likewise, the online community is expanded with chat functionality, ranking structure and stat tracking. Just like its predecessor, "SOCOM 3," "Combined Assault" has doubled the number of online players from 16 to 32.

The entire "SOCOM" series for PlayStation 2 is my hands-down favorite. The GameCore staff is not sure if this will be the last "SOCOM" release for the PlayStation 2 system, but if it is, then this surely will leave its mark. We have to wait and see what happens if SCEA releases a new version for the PlayStation 3 next-gen system.

There is no official word on that version, but I would imagine SCEA has something in mind. As they develop the next-gen military action-adventure console games, "SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Combined Assault" is a winner. With tons of new features and gameplay, I see no reason why gamers shouldn't get this game. It is totally worth the cash. For more screenshots, click here.

"SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Combined Assault" is rated "T" for Teen (Content suitable for ages 13 or older) and is available exclusively for the PlayStation 2.