9.5

Fireteam Bravo 2 is a solid shooter with a long lasting and replayable campaign and excellent online playability.

SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 improves in many ways over its predecessor and brings a great third person shooter experience to the PSP at last. You play as Sandman with the assistance of one of a few AI Controlled partners on a campaign to find out what is going on in Adjikistan and put a stop to it.

As you play through the game's 14 levels, you will be eliminating or capturing enemies, rescuing hostages, blowing up key assets with C4 or satchels, collecting intelligence to send to HQ and other objectives. By completing these objectives, you gain Command Equity (CE) which acts as the in-game currency for purchasing new weapons, accessories and character-customization items for multiplayer. When you capture an enemy or rescue a hostage, you gain Local Influence (LI). With your LI, the higher the rank, the more likely locals in the area will lend a hand during some missions and the more black market weapons become available for you to purchase. These two additions to the game make it a fuller experience as you are rewarded for your progress with more than a level complete.

In addition to the main storyline missions, there are Dynamic Missions that open up once a level is cleared the first time. The Dynamic Missions include similar objectives to the main ones and offer you a chance to earn more CE and LE. These can be completed multiple times and vary slightly on each play through. Including both Campaign and Dynamic missions, there are over 70 to be completed.

Gameplay is smooth and fast at times and the enemy's AI has been greatly enhanced since the first game. The Mercenaries will duck behind cover, run away from explosions and work to flank you. Very rarely do you still see "the guy next to me was sniped dead so I'm just going to stand here and pretend nothing happened" routine you find in so many other games. Your partner's AI has also been enhanced and you can now give him orders such as "fire at will", "move and clear", "sabotage" and many others. He's even smart enough to NOT fire at someone you need to capture after being given the "fire at will" order. You will, however, find that he runs in front of you when you're firing and be killed by you which will end the mission if you can't revive him fast enough.

There is a good range of weaponry from close combat SMGs to long-range sniper rifles. Each of the weapons balance well with each other and none seem to overpower the rest. There are also additional items such as medpacks, frag / smoke / flash grenades, shotguns and other less-lethal options for capturing enemies. There are several varieties of scopes from a Low Scope that zooms 4x, a High Scope that zooms 8x and a Vari Scope that allows you to choose your zoom up to 8x. There are also Red Dot and Laser sights to improve your accuracy. As a secondary function, you can attach a shotgun, silencer or grenade launcher to many of the weapons.

The controls are intuitive and easy to learn. The control stick moves your character around and you can strafe by holding the L button. The R button is your lock on and the X button is fire. O will bring up your command windows to give orders to your partner (or taunts in multiplayer). Tapping triangle will change your stance (standing, crouching or lying down) and holding it will quickly switch you from your primary weapons to your grenades or secondary weapon if you're out. Square is used to activate items such as doors and for climbing walls and other objects. You also use it to plant satchel charges and C4. Up and Down on the D-Pad zoom you in and out if you have a scope attached or change from third person to first person if you do not. Tapping Left will change your firing type (single, burst, multi or frag) and holding it will bring up your weapons and equipment window. Depending on your stance, firing rate and whether your stationary or not, your accuracy and aim are affected, even when locked on. This adds some depth to the game as you're not able to simply run-and-gun as in some other shooters.

Additionally, you have the option in the single player campaign to call in an Air Strike to eliminate a large group of enemies or a Supply Drop where you can change weapons and restock grenades and health packs. Each of these costs an amount of CE and can be used only as many times as you set before the mission starts. You activate these by switching to your binoculars and pressing the corresponding button. Also with your binoculars, you can take photos of key items (intelligence) and send it back to HQ.

When you're playing the game, it looks great on the PSP. There is a lot of detail in the levels from items scattered around to the swaying grass and rain drops. Several of the levels are fairly linear, but others have multiple paths or ways to get into a certain area. Even though you're in the same country the entire game, there is enough variety in the level designs to keep things interesting. As you play, you will see a few technical issues that appear from time to time but they are minor and don't detract from the overall experience. There is even a fair amount of looking distance which increases greatly when you use a scope to zoom in.

In addition to the great graphics, the sound is crisp too. There isn't a lot of music in the game, but what is there fits very well. Ambient sounds make up the difference and in amazing surround sound as well. There is just as much detail with the sound as with the graphics from the footsteps of you and the enemies to an enemy reloading his weapon on the other side of a door. There is a lot of voice work which is well done too and adds a lot to the game, including a little humor from what your characters say.

The single player experience is great, but where the game shines even further is with its online capabilities. In Fireteam Bravo 2, up to 16 players can play either over the Internet or Ad Hoc. There are 7 gameplay modes and 12 different maps with a lot of options to customize your playing experience. Some of the modes include Intel Grab where you must grab your opponent's briefcase and return it to your base, Demolition where you take a demo satchel to your opponent's base and destroy it (my personal favorite), Extraction where you must escort civilian prisoners out of the danger zone before they're killed, Free-for-all, Team Deathmatch and a few more.

Each map in multiplayer has numerous routes to get from one base to the other. At times, it is easy to find yourself lost even after playing on a map for a long time. You have two teams, SEALs and Mercenaries, and each team has its own unique appearance and weapons to choose from. Even though the teams have different weapons and base layouts, they are balanced well and a good game is often one that remains scoreless.

Both online and ad hoc modes play smoothly and quickly with little hiccups. There are times where they get slightly out of sync and you swear you got killed by someone standing out of sight behind a wall, but it doesn't happen often. But beware of "glitchers" online as they tend to ruin the experience by going outside the boundaries of the world and killing everyone else. For those who have a headset, you can communicate with your teammates using voice chat in both the pre-game lobby and in-game. The voice chat can be a little grainy, but it's clear enough to hear what they're saying.

Of the many shooters available on the PSP, this one is one of, if not the, best one out there. With a lengthy and very replayable single player campaign and an amazing multiplayer experience, SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 offers a rich and exhilarating gaming experience.

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