So, what makes a good online multiplayer game? Is it the sheer amounts of features it possesses in order to extend playability? Polished netcode? Great gameplay? Well, we think all three of these things are required to make a great and memorable online game. The SOCOM series has a pretty decent track record, so why is it that SOCOM: Confrontation on the PlayStation 3 feels so..underwhelming?
Lack of polish is the answer. Though the game has a great concept and quite a few features worth mentioning, the manner of its execution is poor.
To start off, Confrontation's gameplay mechanics are fairly solid from the get-go, with tight controls on aim and several different easy-to-access abilities such as proning and crouching. Using a scope to aim in the first person perspective is also well done, and feels 'just right'. It's not surprising to see Confrontation working well with the controls, as Slant Six Games have been developing on Sony's platforms for years. But this isn't the problem that Confrontation is suffering from.
The problem lies more in a lack of polish in the feel and flow of the game. Upon some of our first online matches, we encountered unusual latency issues and some rather large game-breaking bugs. Players were able to walk outside the entire map and rig games, so that on an Elimination match, the other team will beat yours through avoiding you until the time runs out. The only way to actually take them out is following them through the level glitches, which is not a good thing, and truly shows just how unpolished the game is.
It's not just glitches such as this that detract from the experience. Moments of total server cut-outs and disconnections are all too frequent and we felt we accumulated more hours disconnecting rather than actually playing the game. Smaller matches seem to work fine, but when going into larger, 32-player matches, Confrontation is incredibly unstable - you may be lucky to stay in the game, but the lag can sometimes get really bad and make aiming a very frustrating process.
When the game works though, it works pretty well. Team co-ordination and voice chat is encouraged, and it can make for some pretty intense matches where just one bullet could down you. Player customisation and weapon layout is pretty vast as well, with a plethora of different outfits, weapons, grenades and accessories to choose from. Servers can be actively customised to ban certain weapons and such, so there's a good amount of depth in Confrontation. It's just a shame that the core gameplay is marred by so many technical issues, as the potential is definitely there.
On a visual note, Confrontation looks pretty decent, however once more it's hurt by some technical flaws. We noticed quite a bit of texture pop-in at points, and even some slowdown, which is never a nice thing when combined with latency. Though most of the time you won't notice some of these glitches, it's still something that really shouldn't be there and hurts the game as a whole in terms of immersion. Animation-wise, some of the characters are a little stiff, with some animation cues feeling very 'PlayStation 2 era', which we would think wouldn't be an issue this far into the current generation. It's a nice-looking game and can really catch your eye with some of its design, it's just that with so many prevailing technical issues, we can't help but feel a little disappointed.
Aurally Confrontation does not disappoint, with some nice ambient music playing in the midst of the battlefield that can certainly strike a chord with the gameplay. Sound effects are excellent too, with weapons and explosions sounding exactly how you would imagine them to sound in the real world. The developers did an excellent job in the sound department, and this is definitely one of the game's highlights.
SOCOM: Confrontation is an unfinished game. Though the core gameplay mechanics and the ability to customise is there, the online aspect and overall functionality isn't. The glue obviously didn't stick them all together very well and what we have is an unpolished and disappointing piece of gaming. With a few extra months in development time, Confrontation could have been a whole lot more and potentially one of the highest-quality PlayStation 3 multiplayer titles out there. But as it stands, Confrontation is an unfinished product, and unless you're a die-hard fan, you'd best look elsewhere for your PS3 online fix.