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Anthony Capone
11 Mar, 2008

SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Tactical Strike Review

PSP Review | Tactically sound or hit-and-miss?
The Navy SEALs of the SOCOM franchise made a successful transition to the PlayStation Portable with each of the Fireteam Bravo titles. In SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike, the elite soldiers of the US armed forces are again poised to take the battle to the scourge of the earth. While previous SOCOM games adopted an over-the-shoulder perspective, Tactical Strike plays similarly to the Full Spectrum Warrior titles. Players order their team where and when to move to shoot, rather then actually pulling the trigger. The effect is that SOCOM: Tactical Strike is more in-depth and strategic game, which is both entertaining and nail-biting at the same time.

Before beginning the SOCOM: Tactical Strike campaign, players can choose which elite army unit they would like to command, including the Australian S.A.S. and the U.S. Navy Seals. This feature works well and helps players better identify with the squad under their instruction. The story begins with the kidnapping of your country's ambassador, but it later becomes apparent that there are more sinister plans afoot. The plot is paced well and is accompanied by several first-class cutscenes. Even though it's similar to what we've seen before, the story functions as a good pretext for leading your squad around various international localities.

Missions range from rescuing hostages in enemy warehouses to stalking around hostile territory at night. At the start of each mission, players are given a lengthy briefing, and guns can be swapped, purchased and fitted out with various attachments. However, SOCOM: Tactical Strike is mainly about the tactics; you can order your four-man squad to sneak, shoot, snipe, regroup or breach a room – just to name a few possible actions – using menus selected with the face buttons. Players guide their team through each level with a movement indicator – a cursor located on the ground that shows where your squad will move to. The cursor is brought up with the circle button and moved using the analog stick. It pays to navigate your team using the indicator, rather than simply aiming the camera at a general location and hitting the movement button. Doing so slows the pace of the game, but ensures that your squad will end up in the correct position behind cover. Since the camera is always positioned behind the team, the movement indicator is sometimes difficult to sight when moved around corners, up stairs or to a distant location. However, the minimap also displays the indicator, so is almost as a good reference for directing squad movements.

The squad AI are good at taking orders and avoiding the enemy.

The squad AI are good at taking orders and avoiding the enemy.
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As well as hiding behind cover and avoiding enemy fire, the team AI is very good at executing commands. Players can order their squad to throw grenades, fire at a specific target, cover a certain area or breach a room in a particular fashion. Attacks can be timed, and enemies sniped or targeted from afar with air strikes. Players can only snipe a handful of foes, so it's better to use stealth to deplete enemy numbers – something that the squad is also quite good at – rather than going in Rambo-style. You can divide your team into two fireteams, or command them as a whole. The former works better for flanking, covering team movements and assaulting large groups of enemies. Watching your team execute attacks is extremely satisfying, especially when they are timed. Overall, Sony has done a commendable job in fitting all of the various commands into the PlayStation Portable's control scheme.

Nonetheless, SOCOM: Tactical Strike really requires a separate 'take cover' command, as on occasion players will unexpectedly find themselves under attack. In these instances it's annoying to have to direct your unit to cover, which takes several seconds and can result in serious health depletion. If a team-mate does lose enough health though, players have several seconds in which they may be revived.

Squad members can also administer first aid to themselves, but the amount of times this can be done depends on the number of health packs the team is packing. At the start of the game, each squad member is equipped to carry two items, such as extra ammo and grenades. As SOCOM: Tactical Strike progresses, players earn points that can be spent on skills such as extra gear slots, improved stealth, and enhanced accuracy. Skills with grenades and firearms can also be upgraded.

Players can upgrade the various skills of their unit members.

Players can upgrade the various skills of their unit members.
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The enemy AI in SOCOM: Tactical Strike is almost as polished as the player squad. Foes will flank, take cover and retreat when appropriate, but sometimes leave themselves exposed in the open. Missions are quite large, with numerous approaches for disposing of the enemy. Elevated stages for sniping and areas where foes can be caught in crossfire are littered throughout each level. There are also plenty of points for the squad to take cover, but this doesn't mean that players will have an easy ride. There will inevitably be a few scenarios that have to be played more than once, but with a little planning and a cool head, players will triumph over the majority of the game's challenges.

Each of SOCOM: Tactical Strike's nine levels – including the introductory tutorial – will take over an hour to complete. There are a number of primary, secondary and bonus objectives in every mission, so you'll probably have to play the game more than once to achieve everything. Checkpoints are scatted throughout the levels, meaning large areas will seldom have to be replayed. Checkpoints can thankfully be saved to the PSP's memory stick, so missions will not have to be replayed from the start every time the console is powered up. Nonetheless, Sony could have been more conservative with the save points, and they should have been better placed. Another drawback of SOCOM: Tactical Strike is the loading times – though they are far from the worst we have seen, they'll still leave players strumming their fingers.

SOCOM: Tactical Strike is one of the best-looking PSP games currently on the market. All of the levels feature a high level of detail in their design and presentation. Trees, buildings, vehicles and weapons all look fantastic. Lighting is also impressive, as are the various character animations. Voice acting is believable, and during our initial play through we were treated to a mission commander with an Australian accent (as a consequence of choosing to play as the S.A.S.). Sound design is competent, but players may tire of game's repetitive soundtrack.

SOCOM is one of the best-looking PSP games we've seen.

SOCOM is one of the best-looking PSP games we've seen.
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Once you have finished the single-player campaign, players can test their skills online or against friends. SOCOM: Tactical Strike supports voice chat and allows for a maximum of four players in each of the game's five multiplayer modes – free for all, deathmatch, extract, demolition and collateral damage. Extract is always intense, as one team protects a VIP and the other attempts to take them out. The demolition and collateral damage modes are even more nerve-racking. In each of these game types a team is tasked with preventing the other from destroying an objective. The only difference between the two modes is the number of objectives that must be protected – in demolition there is one, whereas in collateral damage there are more. Multiplayer matches can also be made more strategic by prohibiting specific weapon types or preventing players from assisting downed team-mates.

SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike is a departure from the style of play that we have become accustomed to in the SOCOM series, but it is all the better for it. The indirect command-based system worked successfully in Full Spectrum Warrior, and Sony have done admirably in replicating and refining that strategy-based experience. With excellent visuals and generally solid gameplay, SOCOM: Tactical Strike is a refreshing game that deserves a peek by all strategy and shooter fans. Despite a few niggling issues, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike marks a good start to the year for the PlayStation Portable.
The Score
Despite a few minor issues, polished visuals and solid gameplay make SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike a fun and entertaining game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault Review
27 Jun, 2007 Team work is overrated.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 Review
06 Jun, 2007 Back into the trenches.
SOCOM: Tactical Strike revealed
17 May, 2007 Not your typical SOCOM title.
3 Comments
6 years ago
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6 years ago
Excellent review Anthony!
6 years ago
great review, definitely makes me ponder about getting this
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  28/02/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $59.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007

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