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Developer: Zipper Interactive | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 08/17/02 | Genre: Shooter

For several years now we have been hearing how online gaming will change the home console market forever. In 2000, it appeared that a foundation for online play had been built with the 56k modem play offered on the Sega Dreamcast. But despite some quality online titles, such as NFL 2K1 and Phantasy Star Online, the all but forgotten Dreamcast failed to appeal to the masses. Thankfully, two long years later, online gaming is getting a second chance. Waiting until they had successfully infiltrated millions of homes in the United States with PlayStation 2 consoles, Sony has now begun their attempt to put together a successful online gaming campaign. Their secret weapon, the amazingly fun stealth combat title, SOCOM: Navy SEALs.

Launching with Sony’s Network Adapter, SOCOM is the perfect example of how online play should be. The game’s multiplayer mode lets as many as 16 players (eight per team) participate in team-based tactical fighting. Here a group of Navy SEALs are paired against a group of terrorists in levels designed for stealth action. From swampy jungles to blinding snow levels, hiding from the opposition has never been more fun. In each level, SOCOM offers three different modes of online play: suppression (where one team must kill off the opposing team), demolition (a capture-the-flag inspired mode where gamers must grab a bomb and place it in the opposing team’s base) and hostage rescue (where SEALs try to save hostages, while terrorists try to stop them). With various stages to be played through different game modes against people around the country, the multiplayer mode in SOCOM delivers endless replay value.

To add to the excitement of the team-based online gaming, SOCOM comes with a Logitech-designed USB headset for communicating with team members. Similar to using a walkie-talkie, gamers simply need to hold down the circle button on the controller Shock to relay messages to team members. This comes in handy, as gamers can form intense game plans with teammates on how to thwart their opponent or just curse like a sailor (or a SEAL for that matter) with teammates. Either way, the headset is a fun addition.

While the online experience in SOCOM will have gamers scoffing at those who play split screen multiplayer, it definitely comes at a price. In addition to forcing gamers to plunk down 40 bones for the network adapter, the game requires a broadband connection, despite the fact that the adapter also has connection for modem play. In the end, however, this decision is for the best, as SOCOM’s online play suffers from very little lag as a result of the high speed connection. So if you have broadband, get ready for a new addiction.

For those not ready to go broadband, “SOCOMâ€? single player experience is still worth the price of admission. Featuring 16 unique missions over varying terrain, gamers’ will rarely find the experience to be anything but amazing. No longer having the assistance of human-controlled teammates found in the multiplayer mode, gamers take the lead of each stealth mission (as the Kahuna) with the help of three computer-controlled teammates. Like the multiplayer mode, communication is still essential. With stealth being the key to success, it is important for gamers to keep in close contact with their AI-based SEAL teammates. To do this, gamers once again use the USB headset to of voice commands or simply use a menu of on screen commands. While both options can lead to success in missions, the headset is highly recommended. Just hearing teammates communicating with you through the headset is an experience in itself. Gamers will find mastering the voice commands will not only make them better at the multiplayer mode, but also give them the feeling of being at the head of a real military squad.

Adding to the terrific gameplay experience of SOCOM’s terrific gameplay is outstanding video and audio. Offering intense Dolby Pro Logic II sound (wait until you start hearing enemy fire from all directions) with progressive-scan video for digital TVs (a first for the PlayStation 2), “SOCOMâ€? is a great game to showcase your PS2. That said, it appears Sony has done everything right to deliver a AAA online title for the launch of the network adapter.

Get SOCOM now! That’s an order!

By Matt Grandstaff - 10/15/02
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence

Screenshots for SOCOM: Navy SEALs

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