SOCOM 4 Beta Impressions

Now I’ve never claimed to be a big fan of SOCOM, but if the new beta (released on the Playstation Network Tuesday) is any indication of the things to come in the full release version, I may have found my next video game purchase.

Zipper has performed admirably with its last release MAG, bringing a new level of beastly multiplayer to the online world. With SOCOM 4, the newest itineration in the legendary SOCOM series, the developers hope to bring hours of online gunfire, airstrikes, sniping, and all the other goodies you would expect in a full blown shooter.

The graphics, while not spectacular in and of themselves, are on par with other high end games. Players can choose between several different body types to help customize the look of their soldier and many more can be unlocked through level progression, allowing for easy recognition while playing with their friends and clan members.

With over 40 weapons available for your killing needs and five weapon modifications for each weapon, SOCOM 4 seems to have it all. Each weapon mod can be unlocked by simply getting kills with the weapon that the player is currently using. These mods range from the basic extra ammo to the high powered variable scope and are automatically attached to the weapon once gained (although a player may remove them if he/she does not wish to use them).

Like most online shooters, SOCOM 4 is centered around a “level up” system. You gain experience through kills and completing certain objectives during the match. A single kill is worth five experience points (although if a kill is gained during the defense of an object it could be upward of 15 points). When a player reaches a certain preset level, new weapons become available for their use. These new additions expand further upon the players killing power and have five mod unlocks each as well. Of course, stat tracking and leaderboards are also included.

While online two maps were playable, the player statistics section hinted at a total of ten. The first map I played was named “Port Authority” and as you can imagine, it was centered around a boat. What is unique about this map is that the boat is in a dry dock in the center of the map allowing players to not only fight across the top of the boat but also under and around it as well. On either side of the map is a mixture of stacks of storage containers and small warehouses with the occasional crane spotting the landscape. I found this map to be great for both sniping and the run and gun approach.

The other map available for battle named “Assault and Battery” consisted of two large heavily damaged concrete military complexes placed in the middle of the jungle with a smaller metal platform stretching the length of the map and a small elevated complex on the ends of the map. While I found this map tedious due to the foliage blocking most good sniping spots, it did pose a relatively new concept of ambush tactics. The foliage that keeps sniper fire to a minimum is easy to lay prone under and spring a trap for the unsuspecting enemy soldier.

Everyday new and sometimes frustratingly strategic online game modes become available for everyone to enjoy. These modes began with the basic “Suppression” (team deathmatch) in both the new “Standard” (with unlimited respawns), and the “Classic Socom” modes.

On the second day of the beta, a new online mode named “Uplink” was available. Uplink is a tug of war battle between two teams of 16 players, each fighting to either defend or steal three data logs at three strategically placed locations across the map. Each game consists of two rounds, one team defends the objective while the other team tries to steal the intel, then they switch for the second round. The winning team must fulfill all of their objects. For example the defending team must not let all the intel fall into enemy hands and the attacking team must secure all of the intel to win.

A “Last Defense” mode was available on the third day. This mode put the two teams of 16 players in a furious race to secure three capture points. The team who secures all three is then given the location of the other team’s headquarters in which they are given a set time limit to place a beacon signaling a missile strike which then destroys the objective for the win.

Also on the third day a new mode named “Bomb Squad” was available. This new mode places one team as a defending team who must defend three strategically placed bombs while the other team is tasked with defusing them. The only person who is allowed to defuse the bomb is designated as the “Bomb Tech”. They are fully armored in a bomb removal suit granting that player almost three times as much health as a normal player. The defusing team must take out all three bombs in order to win the match while the defending team must keep at least one of the bombs intact.

While playing the beta I did run across a few glitches and at certain times of the day some serious lag occurred, overall though I have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would recommend giving it a try if you are a fan of  online shooters or the SOCOM series. With new life breathed so firmly into an already legendary title I can only hope the single player game offers as much enjoyment as the multiplayer has.