Review: SOCOM 2 (PS2)

SOCOM 2
Genre: Action
Platform: PS2
Rating: Mature
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Release Date: 11/04/2003

To those who’ve been living in a hole, don’t have the network adaptor, or have just been playing better games, SOCOM 2 is the sequel the highly successful SOCOM game from 2002. The original game was the first online squad based shooter on the PS2, and the first one that used voice recognition. The first SOCOM (which stands for Special Operations COMmand) sold over a million copies in a short amount of time, and broke console records for the amount of people playing the game online. The single player game centered around commanding a team a SEALs though several missions against terrorists.

Sounds like another squad based anti-terror game that I just reviewed huh? There really isn’t much of a similarity between the last game I reviewed(Rainbow Six 3 for the Xbox) and this game beyond general appearances, but since I don’t want to have the reviews sound too similar I’ve been trying to rack my brain with a definitive way to make them sound different. I got nothing. I thought about including some jokes about terrorism (since the game is about terrorism), but I couldn’t find any (doesn’t anyone find terrorism funny?) but I did find a lot of Osama Bin Laden/Taliban jokes. So look for an Osama joke after each review section as my attempt to make this review different. Enjoy!

Back to the game, SOCOM 2 has already broken the records set up by the first game. It did it in nine days. SCEA reported on 11/13/03 that SOCOM 2 was averaging 70,000 unique players a day, with each spending an average of 4 hours online. Within a week of it’s release the game had registered 2.13 MILLION user hours. Damn! I’m wondering how many people were just playing it non-stop that week. The game also had 21,000 people simultaneously playing at once during peak hours in the first 8 days of release.

Now let’s get to this thing so I can get back to playing Baldur’s Gate: DA2.

Story:

Much like every other counter terrorism game ever created, this game is all about missions where you take out terrorist cells. Each level starts out with a mission briefing detailing exactly what is going on, why, and what is expected of your team. All of this is narrated by a female voice that could suck the life out of the room faster than a vampire on speed. The Moviefone guy has more life in his voice than this chick. While it’s important to have the narrator carry over the seriousness of the mission and the reasons for it, there is NO emotion in her voice. It’s like getting instructions from Lilith from Fraiser.

Occasionally there will be a cutscene from the terrorist perspective with a part of their story which leads me again to the biggest problem I have with these kind of games, they spend all of the game explaining to me the terrorists reasons for why they do what they do, but never give me a reason why my guy is fighting the terrorists. Is this seriously that hard to understand? Yes my guy is a SEAL. Why did he become a SEAL? What’s his beef with terrorism? What is his name even? All you are given for the names of the character you play and your teammates are codenames.

I can forgive Sports and Puzzle games for not having a story but not this type of game. There is just no excuse for the lack of character development, even if it’s just in the manual or a small cutscene in the beginning of the game that give just a basic outline. At various times in SOCOM 2 you switch Bravo team members with members of other countries counter terrorism teams. You know what you learn about your new teammates? The country they are from.

Truthfully I was way too forgiving with Rainbow Six 3 in this area, but even that game had FMV’s showing the effects of what was happening in the other countries.

One thing I did like is that your teammates in this game were a lot more talkative and occasionally would spout some kind of small talk that made it easier to believe that the members of your team were more than just robots who followed you. I’d like to see that further implemented in future games like this. Just little things like How was your daughters birthday?’ or I hope they never find that hooker we buried in the desert.’ anything that adds a personal touch to the people who are supposed to defend each other.

The only other story element in a game like this is the scripted events that occur inside each level. These are done through the objectives to complete a mission. You could argue that this isn’t a part of the story, but each objective has a requirement such as listening in on a conversation which will open up a new objective based upon the conversation. This part is very well done and I like the way it unfolds for each level.

5/10
Osama Joke #1:
American Holiday

Osama bin Laden, not feeling well and concerned about his mortality, goes to consult a psychic about the date of his death.

Closing her eyes and silently reaching into the realm of the future, she finds the answer. “You will die on an American holiday.”

“Which one?” Osama bin Laden asks nervously.

“It doesn’t matter,” replied the psychic. “Whenever you die, it will be an American holiday!”

Graphics:

Probably on of the biggest differences to the single player aspect in this game is the fact that they’ve added a lot of bushes and other environmental objects to hide behind. You’ll see these bushes a lot since through some levels as you’ll be on your stomach crawling though them. I asked a SEAL what it was like to spend a lot of time facedown in the bush, all he could tell me was that he had to floss for days. Okay, it wasn’t a SEAL but some guy on the city bus, but he was wearing camouflage so that has to count for something. The levels themselves are large and fairly well detailed. The only problems with the size of the levels is the fact that there are no checkpoints, so if you mess up a part of the mission near the end, your put back at the beginning and will be crawling your way across the level again.

The online levels are also large. There are 12 new maps for the online portion of the game, and 10 of the old maps have been improved and are in the game as well. My personal favorite map is Shadow Falls, a night map in the jungle. In that map there are small touches such as insects flying around, and graphical touches such as torches which appear the same size as a head when looking through a thermal scope. Think of my embarrassment when I kept shooting at it and wondering why the person wasn’t dying. Also on the same map I had a teammate ask me to look up, and the stars just look awesome on that level. At the same time, because of that maps size many games end in draws when the last few people are trying to find each other.

Another improvement over the original game is much smoother animation with the characters. Gone are some of the jerky animations and even the characters look better detailed. Still there are some problems with climbing up ladders and everyone trying to go through the door at the same time. They also occasionally get stuck on the environment, which has forced me to restart a mission because I couldn’t get them free of what they were stuck in. So be warned, if your teammate gets stuck in a tree, shooting him will not get him out. This also applies to grenades, running about the object, and swearing loudly at him.

The weapon effects are well done. Most notable is the addition of a rocket launcher which shoots off a rocket with a trail of smoke streaming behind it. The rocket causes a large impact, but requires the person firing the weapon to stay absolutely still and has a long reload time. Depending on the weapon you choose, you have the option of having night vision and/or thermal vision. The night vision is slightly grainy but works well, and the thermal vision is done nicely.

The best thing ever has been added to the online part of the game: dancing. That’s right, dancing. Now after you take out some fool from the other team you’ve got the option of dancing over his body. Not just one dance either, they’ve included SEVERAL dances. There’s the Macarena, the cabbage patch, the back flip, and my absolute favorite, the grabbing-crotch-with-one-hand-and—spinning-the-other-hand-in-the-air dance. If there’s a name for that, let me know. That’s just a couple of the moves you can bust out over a corpse. Of course you can still do the good old fashion teabag’ by repeatedly kneeling over the face of the person you’ve killed. Nothing like teabagging a dead body. In the game, of course.

7/10- For a PS2 game.

Osama Joke #2:
Q: Why doesn’t the Taliban have drivers ed and sex ed classes on the same day?
A: Because the camels can’t handle it.

Sound:

The sound is one of the best parts of the single player games. I’ve already stressed before how annoying the chick doing the mission briefings is, but she is one of the few negative points in the sound part. The music in the game and in the menus is excellent, all the weapons sound perfect, and the voice work for your teammates is great. What is the most impressive to me is the voice work for the terrorists, not only is the voice acting great, but it’s all in each of the terrorist’s language. That of course means you’ll be reading text on the screen about what they’re saying, but thankfully a lot of the bigger words are broken down so that I can understand them. It adds a lot to the atmosphere of the country you are supposed to be in when the locals aren’t speaking perfect English. I don’t like it when someone from a foreign country speaks better English than I do in a video game.

The other negative things I’ve witnessed with the sound other than Lilith is once or twice I’ve run into terrorists talking to each other and their speech will overlap. No big deal to me since it’s all gibberish one way or another but it’s distracting. Also the headset doesn’t seem as responsive as in the last game. I’ll press the button to speak and there will be a one or two second delay before it starts to register what I’m saying, causing me to repeat orders every now and then.

Online they’ve added the ability for people to speak in lobbies. I think this is good and bad, good because it’s easier to form teams and gives you a chance to talk to everyone in the game, and it’s much faster than trying to use the keyboard. Bad because I witnessed more people saying Good game’ to each other in the first SOCOM where now it seems more people use it as an opportunity to call each other names, and believe me you will hear some of the lamest name calling in history in the lobbies. Here’s an example:

Gamer1- You suck you noob.
Gamer2- Oh yeah, well you’re a fag.
Gamer1- What are you trying to hit on me or something?
Gamer2- No I’m not your type, I’m a man and you’re a fag.

This is an example of many of the fun conversations I’ve heard while playing the game. I’ve never seen the word fag used so much since the last time I checked Scotsmantality.com. Even then at least Scotsman is funny, where in SOCOM 2 most of the time you’ll be wondering who let the mentally retarded get a hold of this game? Hyatte mentioned how he hated when people used the term LOL. You think that’s stupid? Wait till you’ve heard someone say the term noob’ out loud. I’ve even heard someone actually say LOL’ on SOCOM 2. I swear to you I’ve never been more embarrassed to be playing a game in my life as I did at that moment when someone actually said the acronym for laughing out loud instead of actually laughing. Wait, yes I have. When the same guy killed me and did a cabbage patch over my body.

If you happen to have friends who have the game, there luckily is a friends list this year you can use to stay away from the rejects.

9/10

Osama joke #3:

Q: How is Bin Laden like Fred Flintstone?
A: Both may look out their windows and see Rubble, and they both live in a cave.

Control:

The control is pretty much the same from the first game, which is fine by me because it works great. Left joystick controls moving/strafing, right controls your aiming/moving. X executes commands, Square jumps, Triangle changes you from Standing/Crouching/Lying on the ground, pressing triangle while moving lets you dive. Pressing circle lets you make commands over the headset, holding it down will bring up the same commands in a menu to use for those without one. R1 fires your weapon. R2 brings up a weapon select screen. L1 switches to a primary weapon. L2 switches to the secondary weapon. Pressing down the left joystick changes rate of fire, pressing down the right joystick reloads your gun. If you don’t like the sound of that, there are a couple of other choices for control. There’s a Southpaw option, and I’m left handed, but it just doesn’t feel right to me, maybe I’m used to the right handed way of playing games. Damn you righties. Damn you straight to hell.

The only issue I’ve got with the default screen is how the change of fire button is the left joystick. During tense situations I seem to press down on it and go from full auto to single shot without being aware that I’m pressing the joystick down any harder. They’ve changed it from the first game where you now have to hold it down or double click to make the rate of fire change, but I still have a problem with it sometimes. The only other option is to switch the scoreboard button(select while online) around with the change of fire button. I just end up seeing everybody’s score while I’m running around. Oddly, this isn’t a problem I’ve ever had in the single player mode.

Other than that, the control is great and highly responsive with a couple of options of different control methods, and the ability to tweak turning speed and a few other options.

8/10

Osama Joke # 4:
Taliban TV Guide
MONDAYS:
8:00 – “Husseinfeld”
8:30 – “Mad About Everything”
9:00 – “Suddenly Sanctions”
9:30 – “The Brian Benben Bin Laden Show”
10:00 – “Allah McBeal”
TUESDAYS:
8:00 – “Wheel of Terror and Fortune”
8:30 – “The Price is Right If Usama Says Its Right”
9:00 – “Children Are Forbidden From Saying The Darndest Things”
9:30 – “Afganistans Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers”
10:00 – “Buffy The Yankee Imperialist Dog Slayer”
Replayability:

For the single player game? None. There is 3 different difficulty settings and weapons/character skins you can unlock. However with as much trial and error that you go through on each level, there is little reason to go through it all again once you’ve beaten the game. Unless you are a masochist. Even then there are better ways of punishing yourself, like listening to the insults from the online lobbies.

Online the game has a ton a replay value. I just take off my headset in the lobbies to avoid the painful loss of braincells. To be fair I’m slightly over exaggerating the SOCOM 2 population, not all of them sound like retards that make Beavis and Butthead look ingenious, but all you need to have is two of them in a room of 16 to make you question why you’re even wasting time playing with people like this.

Online though, the game has several modes to play in:

Breach- SEALs attempt to break into a terrorist stronghold and plant a bomb. The Terrorist team has to prevent this from happening. SEALs win by killing all of the terrorists or by blowing up the bomb. Terrorists win if they kill all of the SEALs.

Demolition- Both teams race for one bomb on the map and try to plant it in the opposing teams headquarters. You win by either killing all of one team or blowing up their base. Bombs can also be diffused.

Suppression- Deathmatch between two teams, whoever is left surviving wins.

Escort- SEALs must escort VIP’s to extraction points. The Seals win if they can extract two VIPs or kill all of the terrorists. Terrorists can win here by either killing all of the VIPs or SEALs.

Extraction- Terrorists have hostages that the SEALs must extract. Terrorists win by killing all of the SEALs, SEALs win if they extract 2 hostages or kill all of the Terrorists.

Respawn- Deathmatch that lets you respawn your character immediately after dying. Team with the most kills after the time limit ends wins.

Lots of replayability with the online game, but little for the single player aspect.

5/10

Osama Joke #5:

Taliban TV Guide Part 2

WEDNESDAYS:
8:00 – “U.S. Military Secrets Revealed”
8:30 – “Bowling For Food”
9:00 – “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pita Bread”
9:30 – “Just Shoot Everyone”
10:00 – “Veilwatch”
THURSDAYS:
8:00 – “Matima Loves Chachi”
8:30 – “M*U*S*T*A*S*H”
9:00 – “Veronicas Closet Full of Long, Black, Shapeless Dresses and Veils”
9:30 – “My Two Baghdads”
10:00 – “Diagnosis: Heresy”
Originality:

Doesn’t do anything the first game didn’t, except fixing a few things and one or two more online modes, leaving the game feeling more like an expansion to the original game than something new. Even I tried to do something different with this review. While it doesn’t do anything different from the first game, it still is one of the very few team based stealth action games out there.

4/10

Osama Joke #6

Taliban TV Guide Final

FRIDAYS:
8:00 – “Judge Laden”
8:30 – “Funniest Super 8 Home Movies”
9:00 – “Who Wants To Execute A Multimillionaire”
9:30 – “Achmeds Creek”
10:00 – “No-witness News”

Addictiveness:

The addictiveness of the single player game is partially killed by the lack of checkpoints. The frustrating amount of trial and error is annoying enough to make people with the option to play online never even look at the single player game. I like the single player mode, but I don’t feel like I should keep on playing when I’ve got to replay a level more than once. Or twice. Or three times. You get the picture. I just end up turning it off and coming back to it later, unlike other games were I’ve got to pry the controller out of my own hands to stop(Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 for example).

The online mode is highly addictive. You’ll start playing and you wont want to leave until all of the rounds are over, which can take up to an hour or more. You’ll try to move up a few ranks, learn more of the maps and modes, join a clan, or just try new tactics with different people.

5/10

Osama Joke #7:

Top Taliban Porn Sites
Maybe you heard the news. The FBI is investigating reports that Osama Bin Laden may actually be using porn sites on the Internet to send coded messages to members of the Al Qaeda network here in the U.S. This of course brings several questions to mind. First of all, isn’t it supposed to be a really big sin if these guys look at porn? And second, which sites does Osama use to get his messages out? We’re not sure about that first one but we have researched and uncovered the top 5 porn sites visited by Al Qaeda network members:

#5. Bare Burka.com
#4. Al Show You My Qaeda.com
#3. Hide In My Cave.com
#2. Shake Your Tali-bon bon.com
#1. Ji-STRING-had
Appeal:
There is no doubting the appeal of this game, go back and look at the numbers of people playing in just the first 9 days. If you have the Network Adaptor for the PS2, than this is the game to have. The original SOCOM offered a style of online gameplay that hadn’t been seen in console gaming, and while there are other online squad based shooters online out now, SOCOM 2 still provides an online experience different from any other console game out there.
Without the network adaptor, the game becomes much less appealing. While the single player game has improved, it still is a frustrated trial and error process. A lot of the frustration could have easily been avoided had they included checkpoints in the game. Other people might not mind it, but it’s not appealing to me to redo a level more than once. Another issue with this is several glitches I’ve come across in the single player campaign. One mission in Brazil called Urban Sweep, I had to redo several times not because I sucked at the level, but because I’d kill a terrorist who would suddenly respawn a second later and shoot me in the back. Even if I did kill the terrorist when it respawn (and believe me it took me more than one try to figure out what the hell was going on) my teammates would suddenly open fire on me. You read that right, they killed me for killing a terrorist. Treason! If you try to shoot one of the backstabbing bastards when you start over they’ll all just open fire on you. One the same level you have to free an informant and meet him later, but if you make the people holding the informant surrender, it will break the script and he just wont move to the rendezvous point. I’ve also had the whole game freeze on me after beating a level, so I had to go back and do the whole thing over again. Sound appealing?
That’s not to say the single player is all bad, because I actually enjoy the single player. There are just some issues that I feel could’ve been easily addressed that were issues from the first game, and yet were completely ignored. With all the work they did on the online game it makes the single player feel tacked on. Because of this people might turn away from the single player campaign, which is fun if you can get past some of the initial frustration.
In conclusion, the online is highly appealing because you will not find another console experience like it. The single player will not appeal to everyone because of some problems that have existed since the first game. It will still appeal to some people (like me) who like controlling a team through missions and can get past the flaws.
7/10
Osama Joke #8:
Q. What do you call a member of the Taliban with 6 goats?
A. A Pimp!
Balance:
There are three difficulty levels to choose from for the campaign mode. Each are progressively more difficult, and all of them provide a challenge. The enemy AI is great, and they get tougher with each level of difficulty. You team members are much smarter than the last game, and are all effective killing machines that you can trust to watch your back. They will be much more accurate than the enemy on the easier setting. The levels themselves also get progressively harder with more complicated objectives. The only AI problem I’ve encountered is that sometimes your teammates will jump over a ledge instead of climbing down a ladder. I’ve seen all three of my teammates commit suicide once that way. I laughed for a good minute or two before I realized that meant I’d have to start the level over again.
The balance online is great. All the maps are well thought out and have several different ways to access each area so you’ve always got to watch your back. Another great improvement to the balance online is rooms separated by rank insuring that the guy you are playing against is within the same skill level as you and not just some guy who plays the game all of the time that you wouldn’t have a shot against. All the weapons are fairly balanced even with the addition of rocket launchers. They added gun turrets to the levels this year, but using one isn’t always the smartest course of action because you’ll be a sitting duck. You can tell they took time to make sure everything was balanced online, and it makes the online experience that much better for it.
8/10
Osama Joke #9:
Not really a joke, but a response from someone on Osama Bin Laden jokes that I found really funny-
ok 4 startas dey are sooo notfuny.wot dum bastards aktualy lafd at dat vry pafetik atempt2 crak a joke.take it frm osamas dorta,qiut while ur behind!!’
Thank you Zah from BinLadenJokes.com! If you think that’s funny, everyone else on the site writes like that too!
Miscellaneous:
Online this game is like nothing else you can play on a console. It’s one of the most intense online games out there that will get your adrenaline pumping and make your heart rate climb. There are some people out there that will try and ruin the game by acting like complete tools, but you can always avoid that by sticking to the friends list that was included in this year’s game. For every handful of morons you come across you will also end up with a group of people that are just awesome and can remember that it’s just a game. When you get into a group like that, the game really shines online and you’ll be a hooked SOCOM junkie in no time and be spouting off terms like noob and owned with your friends in no time. The only other thing that bugs me about the online game is the amount of wait time. Betweens rounds online, if you are like me and end up dying right away, you could be waiting up to 15 minutes for the next round. Multiply that by a few rounds and you’ve got a lot of waiting. The respawn game take care of that by putting you right back into the action, but there aren’t that many respawn points in any level, leaving it as a game for campers. What’s the best part about the online game this time around? No cheating. Thankfully Zipper and SCEA fixed that problem.
The single player despite all of the flaws is still a unique gaming experience. All of the missions have a good flow to them from one objective to the other, and if your sick of going stealth, on several missions you can go gung ho. Your ranking at the end of the mission (complete with either good or bad comments by Lilith the monotone voice of death) will be effected by how you do with your team, how stealthy you were, and the amount of objectives completed so if you do decide to go Rambo expect to be told how disappointed the game is with you. So there’s always room to try another difficulty or try to get a higher ranking in the game. The headset still does a great job of immersing you into the game and I’m glad they tried to add more life into your teammates than before.
One thing that I really hope they add in future SOCOM games is the ability to do mission co-op for both the online and offline aspect of the game. While your teammate AI is very good in this game, it still doesn’t compare to having an actual person to take the terrorists on with. If they added the ability to go co-op against the computer in missions to the online mode, it might actually calm down some of the people who take the competitiveness of the game too seriously.
5/10
Last Osama Joke:
How does a member of the Taliban practice safe sex?
He puts a red X on the camels that kick!
Let me know if you thought the jokes were a great addition or just really lame by clicking on feedback. Credit for the jokes go to BinLadenJokes.com and PoliticalHumor.About.com.
Final Scores:
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 9/10
Control: 8/10
Replayability: 5/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal: 7/10
Balance: 8/10
Misc: 5/10
Overall Score: 6.3
Reviewers Tilt: 6.5/10