Not for run'n'gun gamers
Socom 4 (or Socom: Special Forces in PAL regions) will be hitting the PS3 in April and looks to be a great third person tactical shooter. Socom 4 sees the return of a story mode which was sadly absent from Socom: Confrontation. The player will be able to use voice commands via a headset, the game is 3D TV compatible and can be played with Playstation Move hardware.
Socom 4 comes to us from Zipper interactive, who also created MAG last year. Gameplay is the standard third person over-the-shoulder view with first person being used to make precision shots. Socom has always focused on reality and strategy over all-out action, so if you're a fan of Call of Duty's run and gun gameplay, this won't be for you. Players will have to give orders to their squad mates and assess any given situation before charging in. You will have a new ability known as "command mode" that will slow down the game giving you time to come up with a battle plan.
Action in Shanghai
Socom 4 boasts some stunning visuals, destructible environments and plenty of air strikes to keep players entertained. Details on the plot are sketchy but the game seems to be stretched across two lengthy acts set during a six day operation in Shanghai, Asia. It's safe to assume that battles will take place during both night and day and will be the usual mix of stealth and action we've come to expect from the series.
Some sources indicate that up to 5 player cooperative will feature in the story mode, which is a big plus in my book. Strategic gameplay is great, but even better with friends. If you all have a job to do and do it well you'll really see it pay off, conversely if four of you are taking it slow and the fifth member of your squad starts madly shooting and lobbing grenades about you'll know who to blame if everything goes pear shaped.
Choosing the controls
Playstation Move will be supported, but I'm going to say now that it won't be ideal. MAG and Resident Evil 5 showed us that Move doesn't work with first or third person shooters (the Wii working that out years beforehand). Hardcore gamers might want to stick with a Dualshock 3 as while motion controls are fun, they don't lend themselves to games where speed and precision are a must. I might be proven wrong but I'm not holding my breath for a miracle.
The series is perhaps best known for its multiplayer, with it making its début back on the Playstation 2 as the first online tactical shooter with microphone support. Fans will not be surprised to learn that there will again be multiplayer and that up to 32 players are now supported at once, although with 32 people I don't know how much tactics will be taking place as organizing them will be a chore. Gladly, Zipper has announced that side switching will not be supported, as it was abused like mad on previous instalments and gave bad players the option to jump to the winning team's side.
Multiplayer seems to have been shifted towards CoD style gameplay sadly. Looking at multiplayer trailers there's much more going on than in the previous instalments. Whether this is a bad thing is yet to be seen, but I hope that trying to steal away some of CoD's humongous fanbase will not compromise the game's strategic elements. Whilst Socom hasn't always been the most fast-paced of games, being given time to plan my next move and see it through successfully has always given me a great sense of accomplishment.
Promising addition to the series
Socom 4 looks to be a great addition to the series, the return of a story mode is good news and I'm personally interested in seeing how the multiplayer turns out. If MAG is anything to go by, I wont be getting too excited though.