For its first six to eight weeks, SOCOM: Confrontation carried significant baggage, with server uptime and performance failing to meet expectations. But with several patches under its belt since release, the game is now a competent online-only tactical shooter. It’s still very much SOCOM, thriving on an awareness of your surroundings and the ability to move around while staying hidden.
SOCOM games are often an acquired taste, progressing at a slower pace than your average first-person shooter and demanding a more tactical approach. The maps are larger than usual, and almost every one offers water to swim and hide in. There are also plenty of spots to for cover, and you and your teammates must learn to take advantage of each one.
The game has a slightly stiff feel, as your avatar isn’t as nimble with turning compared to typical third person shooters. That means if someone is behind you, chances are you will die. This isn’t a bad game design choice, as it lends realism and increases the value of having teammates by your side. Still, the way you play will change depending on a variety of multiplayer options. In a mode where there are sixteen players on each team and you can’t respawn, you will want to stick together and be light on your feet. In other circumstances you might take a looser, more carefree battle plan.
Because the original SOCOM games dominated much of the PS2’s online gaming space, it seems developer Saint Six tried to recreate the core experience in terms of controls and gameplay. Although there are a few differences in bringing Socom to the PS3. Confrontation adds more control options such as the cover system, utilizing the Sixaxis controller, and the new control option to switch shoulders with the new shoulder camera. The changes, while minimal, still make the controller seem crowded, though this problem subsides as you get used to the new setup.
There are some subtle interface changes from the last game. Some data was removed from the HUD, and the whole interface is cast in the blue tint that Confrontation uses throughout, and overall these changes are direct and clean. The graphics have essentially the same art style as the previous games, but with much more detail. The sound design does a good job of changing relative to your position.
Developer Saint Six did change some aspects of the SOCOM experience to better fit the online-only format. Teamwork is much more important in this title, which helps explain why vehicles have been removed. Without them, players can focus more on moving indoors and out as a group, without worrying about cheap deaths. This also makes it easier for teams to stick together if everyone is moving at the same speed.
The game adds a few subtler features that lend a helping hand to the gameplay. The online interface consists of an arsenal of ways to enhance your online experience. The party system is a new feature coming in the 1.30 patch, allowing a group of friends to travel together. There are also leaderboards, clan leader boards and tournaments. Another great feature is the separation of servers by region or location within your region, which reduces lag by keeping players closer geographically. Home should eventually compliment clan play and organizing friends for this game substantially.
Some of the previous games faults, however, were left unfixed. With all the extra commands, it would have been nice to have a dedicated grenade button. Choosing one on the menu can lead to some frustrating deaths if caught at the wrong time. Switching to the gun’s sight can also be frustrating when you are in a hurry, taking up to three presses on the D-pad depending on your level of aim.
Of course, what Confrontation review would be complete without a mention of the bundled headset. For clarity and compatibility, it’s the best one I’ve seen for the Playstation 3. An HQ mode that enables voice commands for certain games is an added bonus. And if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth headset, consider this: for the same price as a high quality set for your cell phone, you can basically get a new online game to play as well.
With the patches in place, SOCOM fans should have nothing to fear with this title, and anyone who gave this game a chance and gave up to its early shortcomings should give it another try. This game feels more like Socom every time it’s updated.