The latest edition of the squad-based shooter series from developer Zipper Interactive is coming for the PlayStation 3, designed specifically for use with the upcoming PlayStation Move control system. We had a chance to get a peek at the SOCOM 4 E3 2010 demo last night before the opening of the show.
Previous Coverage: SOCOM 4 was unveiled back in March when Sony debuted the PlayStation Move system to the press for the first time.
What's New: This demo opens with an insurgent attack on a South American city. You are part of a small peacekeeping force and have a squad of four additional soldiers (organized into two fireteams) that you can control. You can give orders to your squadmates to move to certain areas onscreen or attack certain enemies, simply by pointing to the location onscreen and pushing either left or right on the D pad.
From a shooting standpoint, the controls in SOCOM 4 are motion based and look to be just as accurate as they were back in the Game Developers Conference demo. Undoubtedly, the new control scheme will take some getting used to, but small touches, such as the ability to zoom in for more accurate shots, look to improve your chances of getting the kill.
Thanks to dynamic enemy AI, encounters will be slightly different each time you play through a level. As a result, squadmates are essential to success. In addition to being able to send your squaddies out one objective at a time, you'll be able to chain together objectives simply by pointing to the screen and then holding the appropriate direction on the D pad at the same time. These chained objectives will be on "hold" until you hit the "go" button (up on the D pad). This ends up being a sort of battlefield improvisation, where you'll be able to plan and execute coordinated attacks. It also places a premium on field of view--having an elevated position on your enemy will give you more options for coordinating attacks, for example.
Also new were the air strikes, one of several assets you'll find in the final version of SOCOM 4. To launch an air strike, you just point at the target and press the R2 button; a few seconds later, the air strike hit its intended target and things blow up nicely. We had infinite air strikes available to us in the E3 demo, but producers told us that there will be different types of these military assets available to you, some of which will be limited in number.
Updated Thoughts: Cool squad tactics, big explosions, and emergent enemy AI aside, SOCOM 4 is going to live or die by its shooting controls. From what we've seen, using the Move controller to aim a gun looks to be simple and effective. In the past, the PC mouse versus console controller has sharply divided the shooter community in terms of effectiveness. Perhaps, in a few years, that debate might change to mouse vs. Move?