Is there anything cooler than a Navy SEAL? In the world of fantasy, perhaps, but when it comes to reality, you generally don’t get more monstrously cool than that. So it should go without saying that games about SEALs are going to be equally cool, yes? Well, no. The video game world doesn’t quite run that smoothly, but nonetheless there are a ton of great SEALs-centric games out there and the Bargain Bin has its sights set on a few of them.
SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Fireteam Bravo (PSP)
Considering the seemingly widely accepted rule that shooters on the PSP don’t work, there seem to be quite a few that have been successful. Fireteam Bravo–for the sake of simplicity let us drop the remainder of the title–is one of them. The game succeeds largely because it doesn’t try to emulate the rest of the games in the series, but instead recognizes the limitations of the PSP and compensates for them.
Namely, rather than trying to force the player through some god-awful, clumsy control scheme, Fireteam Bravo opts for a relatively simplistic lock-on mechanic that allows you to target an enemy with the push of a button. This may immediately sound like a game breaker to veteran fans, but the expected decline in difficulty is made up for by a clever use of range. Depending on what weapons you equip, you’ll have a harder time hitting your enemies at different ranges. In other words, equip a sniper rifle and you’ll be able to peg people on the very horizon of the screen. If you find yourself running around with a submachine gun or pistol however, you won’t be able to lock on until your enemies get a bit closer. Your shots will be more accurate at closer ranges, meaning you can start popping shots soon as you get a lock on, but depending on your weapon you’ll probably miss if they are far away. Furthermore, if you try to run and gun, your accuracy will decrease even more. Your most accurate shots will come when you’re standing completely still, which at the same time makes you an easy target. It isn’t a perfect replacement for the console scheme, but it does add it’s own unique brand of strategy to the mix.
The game, of course, has its share of flaws. Like with many modern shooting games, the single-player campaign is blatantly secondary to the online mode. AI opponents are relative dullards and though it is still fun to plow through them, the challenge is sometimes so-so. The real fun comes from partaking in the game’s 16-player online modes. Being a PSP game, this means you’ll need access to a Wi-Fi connection. It is good fun, but the game does experience some slowdown, and after nearly four years on the market, one might expect the game’s community to have declined a bit.
Overall though, for the price, Fireteam Bravo is an undeniable catch. Some people may criticize the game for basically being a port of the PS2 franchise–the PSP gets a lot of this–but honestly, when a developer finds a way to bring a console-quality experience to a handheld, I’m not going to complain. There are some hiccups in the process, but nothing big enough to destroy the experience.
Amazon (Note: Used Amazon.com prices are subject to change)
SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals Tactical Strike (PSP)
Tactical Strike is a frustrating game. It’s plagued by sparse checkpoints, unfair deaths, and lousy AI that often manages to screw up genuinely brilliant plans. That being said, it is also a fun, challenging, and when it works right, satisfying game to play.
The first thing to note is that this is not a SOCOM game in line with the rest of the shooter-based franchise. Tactical Strike is a strategy game in which you are given command over a few squads of the titular SEALs and must lead them through sets of missions. The game allows you a lot of diverse choices in how to go about the execution of these missions. You can go in, guns blazing, though you’re likely to experience more than a few casualties in the process. You can also eliminate your enemies through stealth, or attempt to avoid them altogether. The game allows a striking amount of free reign in those regards.
The game also falters a lot in some rather silly ways. The AI can be pretty shoddy, and in the most infuriating ways. You would think that in a game where the entire point is to command a group of soldiers, that those soldiers would actually listen to you, but this sometimes isn’t the case. The AI is known to, at times, do whatever it wants, completely ignoring your commands to hold or even open fire, amongst others. I suppose on one level this is realistic. Real Navy SEALs probably disobey orders from time to time, especially in the heat of a firefight, but in a game it is a frustrating experience that devalues the game.
That being said, Tactical Strike is still a good choice for fans of such titles who can forgive its problems. It’s a solid game that stumbles at times, but it never actually falls.
Amazon (Note: Used Amazon.com prices are subject to change)
Picking and choosing is one of the more painful, but sadly necessary, parts of being a modern gamer. Case in point: take a look at the lineup for this holiday season. There are so many excellent games coming out that it would be nearly impossible to devote any real time to any of them if you were to try to play them all. Often it’s better to just focus on a few games you know you’ll love as opposed to buying a dozen games you’ll just like. For instance, I have already selected and begun purchasing my holiday games. All I want for Christmas-aside from my two front teeth of course-is Resistance 2, Dead Space, and Valkyria Chronicles. There are other games I’m sure I would enjoy, but by focusing in on these three I can guarantee that I’ll have the time to enjoy them the way they deserve to be enjoyed. So the next time you see a shiny new game sitting on a shelf, take a moment to consider not just if you want it, but if you really need it. Chances are your list is already pretty full as it is.