SOCOM 4 Multiplayer Hands-On

Find out how Zipper intends to bridge the divide between the grizzled SOCOM veterans and the wide-eyed tenderfoots.

You'd think Zipper Interactive would be able to breathe a sigh of relief with SOCOM 4. Last year the Sony-owned studio released MAG, an enormously ambitious first-person shooter that somehow managed to pull off online multiplayer matches with as many as 256 players at once. One year later, it's a slightly different story with SOCOM 4, where you'll instead find 32-player matches designed to foster the sort of tactical close-quarters combat for which the game's Navy SEALs are so well known. Should be an easy transition, right? Well, not when you have fans as ravenous as SOCOM veterans. It's a series whose roots stretch to the early days of online console shooters, and the SOCOM fan base is understandably sensitive about any sort of changes that Zipper might have in mind.

So how is Zipper approaching this latest game in the long-running tactical shooter series? The strategy, it seems, lies in balance and choice. On the one hand, you've got new features borrowed from other modern shooters--things like regenerating health, the ability to snap to cover, and a leveling system that earns you new weapons and upgrades as you gobble up experience points on the battlefield. But for every one of those changes, you'll find a thread that leads right back to the tactical roots of the series. It's there in the way you take far less damage before dying than most shooters. It's there in the way you're rewarded for reviving a fallen squadmate. It's there in the way you can dance on dead enemies. All right, so maybe that last one isn't exactly tactical, but…it was in the older games, and it's here too. Trust us. We did the robot on a dead insurgent and earned 10 experience points for it.

Then, there's the idea of giving players a decision in how they want to play the game. For every game mode in SOCOM 4, you can play with either the standard set of features or by using the Classic game mode variant. Classic takes you back to the early 2000s by removing some of those aforementioned additions, like regenerating health and snap cover. What you've got instead is a game with no respawns, a finite health bar, and a palpable tension as your number of teammates dwindles down to nothing. When looking for a match online, you've got the choice to look for Classic matches or you can look for standard matches. Your call.

You can unlock new character models, including familiar faces from the campaign.

Among the game modes that those Classic rules can be applied to is a new match type called Last Defense. This is a territories mode where you've got a pair of teams and three neutral capture points spread across the map. Once one of the teams manages to successfully hold down all three capture points, it is given a two-minute window to assault the enemy team's base. If the assaulting team is able to plant an air strike beacon within the enemy team's base in under two minutes, it gets to wildly fire off a few rounds in victory. If it doesn't, the capture points reset and the struggle begins anew. What we liked about this mode was the dramatic shift in tempo as you move from the three main capture points to assaulting the enemy base within a narrow window of time. The game tends to go from a cautious, measured game of tug-of-war in capturing and recapturing those control points to a mad-dash scramble to plant that beacon in the other team's base. Definitely a nice way to end each match on a dramatic note.

Other modes in the game include Suppression (team deathmatch), Uplink (assault an enemy's base and make off with vital intel), and an as-yet-unannounced fourth mode. All of the game modes work on all nine of the game's maps. There seems to be a pretty good mix of location types in there, ranging from wide-open jungle settings to dense urban warzones. One highlight was a map called Rush Hour, which despite its name does not actually feature Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. Instead, you've got an intriguing map layout where a demolished and tangled freeway system provides all sorts of bizarre routes around the map--a pretty decent approximation of an M.C. Escher drawing as far as online shooter maps go.

That tree totally had it coming. I mean, it really asked to be shot.

As for how the game plays, there are certainly some issues present, but in the few hours we spent playing it, SOCOM 4 multiplayer was largely an enjoyable experience. Small things like not being able to throw grenades while crouching behind cover or an inconsistency in which objects can be vaulted over and which can't made moving around the map a little awkward. But overall, we had a good time with the game. We especially enjoyed the way SOCOM 4 lets you play it how you want, whether that's going with the default gameplay options or sticking to the Classic mode variants. No matter which side of that divide you happen to fall on, you can expect to see the game released on April 19.

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105 comments
Accuracy158
Accuracy158

@DarkGhost32 Don't get me wrong... I love SOCOM, but I always thought realism was ARMA's thing. The SOCOM experience should be somewhat fast paced but reward smart thinking and teamwork.

KALl_KING
KALl_KING

if they re-made Socom2 mixed with Socom 3. EPIC

BombayNugz
BombayNugz

whoa whoa you cant even compare cod to mag.. mags not great but its not that bad. cod is like the 5th shelf down. mag 3rd and i would say bf bc 1st. dunno what the other shelves are as i havent played socom before lol

GTAKing11
GTAKing11

zipper just build off of socom 2, be smart and make modern tweaks here and there. please, i miss the old socom 2 days.

xgemini87
xgemini87

ive already been letdown before by zipper... it was called socom 3. at least this time i expect it...

Gabe11cap
Gabe11cap

Just to play sandstorm and crossroads again with old modes in HD would be all I needed. Bring back old maps, layout unchanged

cardkoda
cardkoda

I just can't wait. I am one of those SOCOM vets all the way from original one. I skipped confrontation knowing it wasn't going to live up to the name. I am psyched for this. Classic mode all the way!

meleekill989
meleekill989

these developers are going to have to work hard to pull me away from Battlefield 3, but SOCOM 4 looks intriguing enough for me to look into it... and i'm glad that people are finally understanding that COD needs a serious update after three consecutive games of same graphics, same gameplay, etc. etc. i mean, modern warfare 2 was bad enough, but then they just went ahead and made black ops the same way the always do. by recycling their previous games.

rascalalpha345
rascalalpha345

nuff said man cod must go or change therefore its done.

DarkGhost32
DarkGhost32

What I don't understand is why the ignorant people out there compare a FPS to SOCOM. SOCOM is a third-person shooter, not to be compared, they are 2 different categories! COD should not be compared to SOCOM, nor should ideas been taken from it. COD is a fast-action game filled with explosions and unreal scenario's that only someone like James Bond could recreate. The multiplayer only caters to gamers who want close-quarters fast-paced action and not the fans of larger, more tactical matches. If you want a game thats as realistic as it gets, SOCOM 4's classic mode will be the closest to real as it will get on the market. If you want the most realistic FPS, the Battlefield series is as close as your going to get, alongside Crysis. COD doesn't even rank among realistic games, but if you want something that will enter you into a game within 2 minutes and will get you out of the game in less than 15, COD is your series.

advanracer
advanracer

Can't wait.. Nothing like "Running Over" your oppenents as they try to run away from you out in the desert. Hopefully, they don't turn this game into a MAG/COD It's already bad enough Zipper tried to to mimick the COD hype with MAG. So Hopefully, they bring back the Classic SOCOM 1,2,3. Type of Gameplay.

dcoy8
dcoy8

Well they're trying to. I've been playing the series since the first day of Socom I. I'm afraid that unless they release an s2 HD version for the veterans; it will never be what we want it to. I'm sure they do respect us, we've been clocking hours on their games for years. Honestly, you want testers? It's us. We know how the game should play, we've played it more than anyone. Socom was never supposed to be a mainstream game, that's what COD is for. Let the ADD kids play COD, and let the real shooter fans have Socom. I'll buy 10 copies of the game if Zipper cares that much about profit. You can bet every socom vet out there would do the same in a heartbeat. The classic mode is a nice gesture; but they're missing the point. Release every map and every weapon from the Socom series in the multiplayer. Recycle the old files if you have to. Something so simple like an M4A1 SD on Abandoned can't be delivered any other way. And its what we long for.

ClevBeast
ClevBeast

You cant please everyone all of the time

SUKMYTURBAN
SUKMYTURBAN

THIS FRANCHISE IS ADDING A BUNCH OF GOODIES FOR THE KIDS YAY... FOLLOW ME AND THE 10,000 + DIEHARD SOCOM PLAYERS TO HELP BRING THIS FAILING FRANCHISE BACK TO LIFE ON YOUTUBE...LINKS RIGHT THERE BROSEPH... http://www.youtube.com/user/Blackwido88?feature=mhum ALSO, IF YOU WANT A CHANCE TO ACTUALLY PLAY A REAL SOCOM GAME ON YOUR PS3...PUT YOUR VOTE IN FOR SOCOM 2 IN HD BY GOING TO THE LINK PROVIDED...MAKE SURE YOU CLICK YES..WHETHER YOU'RE A SKEPTIC OR AN OPTIMIST FOR SOCOM 4, ITS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO VOTE YES FOR SOCOM 2 IN HD...AT LEAST IF THIS GAME FAILS MISERABLY, YOU'LL HAVE A CHANCE FOR ANOTHER 3RD PERSON SHOOTER...GOD SPEED http://share.blog.us.playstation.com/ideas/2010/03/17/socom-ii-hd/

gypsygib
gypsygib

I hope there's a way to play with regenerating health, cover and NO respawning. That would be perfect.

NiteShadeX
NiteShadeX

Another series of a long gone era being revived only to be crushed under CoD's booted heel. FPS' need some fresh blood if they wish to dethrone the king before Activision runs it wholey into the ground.

peanut-butter
peanut-butter

Respawning let's people who suck at SOCOM, like me, have fun.

The-Comedian
The-Comedian

The only thing that will redeem this game is classic mode. I mean seriously why muck up a good gameplay system by changing up everything?

cyclonebw
cyclonebw

Thank you! Respawning!!!!!! It is now a good SOCOM.

stu_gamer
stu_gamer

should be a refresfing break from COD

Macdaddy0
Macdaddy0

hopefully they make GNK rooms. Haha, only the hardest of hard veterans know what I'm talking about. But honestly, code9 better stay the hell away from my socom!

jordankimball
jordankimball

Remember when SOCOM games were amazing. O right, that was only the first one.

systemovercast
systemovercast

I have never really played a SOCOM online before, just with buddies on a couch. It looks pretty good so far.

usermikey
usermikey

I like the different game rules. Looks fun, different from what I've ever played.

Nishua
Nishua

The perfect way to destroy a games community is to divide it. I don't know why they decided to add health regeneration and more respawn crap. I'm excited about cover in MP it adds new elements. The rest can go.

KingChainz31684
KingChainz31684

pretty excited I like that they are modernizing the game with out going completely crazy. I hate respawning health in games like COD and Halo espeically but mostly because you can take several shots in the first place it won't be as bad with socoms realism seeing as how a couple clean shots and your down anyhow. Being able to bring back team mates is new as far as I know they said it was going back to its roots but I never remember reviving anyone unless it was from socom 3 I didn't play that one much. 9 maps is plenty to start with its almost a standard for non rehashing games. I always liked the tactical premise of socom non respawn sounds like they will also have ranked respawn games this time around could be ok though with the balance of both. Respawn is just a way to make sucky players feel decent. I used to love warming up in a respawn room get a clan of punks talking crap cuz their scores are decent then taking HnH or RD to play them in a war and show them why spending all day in respawn and only playing 4v4 to rank up was for chumps ah the good old days. Suppose Ill jump back on confronation the first couple weeks of april to get a feel.

Silent_death7
Silent_death7

i love the idea that there is no respawn when you die... sick and tired of the CoD franchise (ever since the online play became the sales pitch) no more spawn campers, no more run n gun n complain when they die idiots. with no kill streaks and no respawns hopefully people will start to focus on the OBJECTIVE, not their next spy plane

dalua360
dalua360

@ejpaine that was the good thing about that game! Current games are almost playing for you, they say what you have to do, and if you don't, you lose. A good example is the latest COD series, where you can't do anything different or else you die. On Black Ops where you enter in the missile facility disguised, you can't kill the guards, you have to wait, then your friend call their attention and the alarm is triggered anyway! No sense at all!!! No freedom! SOCOM was all about having freedom of choice! btw COD online is great!

deathTHEkidd
deathTHEkidd

@camdean5 its about qualilty not quantity. I always prefer a few great maps than a large number of crappy maps. And am sure they will release dlc with new maps and weapons. Maybe even new modes.

camdean5
camdean5

Once again another game developer takes 10 steps backwards by creating a smaller game, smaller maps and less players. Just like every other FPS out there, war in a matchbox! May as well play WOW arena and act smart.

Muisee
Muisee

@Sardinar Stay in school.

Dansdaman180
Dansdaman180

can u guys just stop complaining about this game unless u have played it. KZ3 will have the beta for it so then we can talk about it k.

NickerGPT
NickerGPT

I'm hopeful they can capture the feel of the first SOCOM game on the ps2. I had some great times and memories from it, and I feel like it is kinda strayed from what really worked with the additions of more players and bigger maps

gugler990
gugler990

i hope the single player will be like b4, they should also make the game more realistic. @ppg4all Killzone 2 had clan support....

DNYCE
DNYCE

I'm hoping that the "unannounced 4th mode" will finally be a devoted SNIPE NO-CROSS match!!! At least bring back the DEVIL's ROAD map (complete with the "butt-crack") so we can start those up again! SOCOM vets out there, give this post some love & attention and maybe ZIPPER can smarten up... Hoo-AH!

TheImpact121
TheImpact121

If these people made MAG the thing i am afraid of is that MAG was a great game when it came out. But with all of the updates to MAG it made it a bad game. MAG should have stayed the way it was. And if this game were to change like MAG then I will not want to buy it.

Sardinar
Sardinar

@Muisee Why the hell would you compare three completely different games? I'd play all three. Here is a good comparison - Starcraft 2 > FFXlll. Trolololololol.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Not that there was anything wrong with the earlier SOCOM games, but MAG is good evidence Zipper has matured perfectly as a developer. I'm betting this game will be excellent.

blueoni01
blueoni01

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Muisee
Muisee

Socom > Battlefield > Call of Duty.

SUKMYTURBAN
SUKMYTURBAN

I'm seeing tons of new players here...I'm guessing by the reactions of most here...TRUST ME, THIS GAME WILL RUN SMOOTH, BUT IT'S NOT SOCOM BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION....GO TO SOCOM.COM AND PUSH FOR A NEXT GEN SOCOM THAT FEELS LIKE SOCOM 2 AND YOU'LL FORGET THAT SOCOM 4 EVER EXISTED...

georgeww
georgeww

his innervation is gun unlocks is the same as mw2, still excited for this game

BetardxFoosier
BetardxFoosier

That interviewer's hair is messed up. That's for sure.

Venom341
Venom341

Looks like SOCOM 4 is made by Zipper, the guys that made MAG. If that game had 256 players without lag, then 32 player matches should run silky smooth.

ff10andff12
ff10andff12

Thats awesome! I havent played the confrontation. Hopefully performance will be very good with that many players. Looks very good though.