E3 06: SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault Hands-On

We buddy up with some random strangers on the show floor to try out the four-player co-op mode in SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault for the PlayStation 2.

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LOS ANGELES--The SOCOM series of tactical third-person shooters has been a staple of the Sony lineup since the first game was released in 2002 on the PlayStation 2. Since then, we've seen two additional PlayStation 2 SOCOM games, and one for the PSP. With such a prolific and successful series, it's no surprise that Sony continues to put out new products under the SOCOM name. At E3 this year, Sony is showing off the fourth PlayStation 2 game in the series, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault. We took cover in the Sony booth to get some hands-on time with the PlayStation 2 game and it looks like it stays true to the SOCOM formula while adding an interesting online coop gameplay mode.

Instead of playing through the story campaign by yourself and then playing competitive game modes online, Combined Assault lets you connect with up to three other players online to play through the story missions. Additionally, once you complete a mission in the story campaign, you can replay that mission cooperatively online. You can also customize each mission for added variety and enhanced replay value.

We played a pick-up mission with three other people on the show floor at the Sony booth. The mechanics of the cooperative play work well online, although, of course, since it is co-op a lot of your success depends on the abilities of your teammates. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of SOCOM experts hanging out in the Sony booth, so our time with the game involved more running around in circles than engaging in tactical, cooperative combat. One interesting addition in Combined Assault is the medkit. You can equip a medkit before each mission, and then use it to heal yourself or your teammates during battle. Otherwise, the game felt very much like previous SOCOM games. The controls, shooting, and so on were all the same as in SOCOM 3.

The mission we played took place in a snowy mountainous area where a small group of rebels in a village were being threatened by a foreign army. It was our job to protect the village by completing three specific missions. First, we had to blow up a bridge so that the invading army's tanks couldn't cross. The second mission required us to blow up a shipment of SAM missiles, and for the third mission we had to secure an airfield to allow support troops to enter the area. The missions were all straightforward, and we were able to complete them in any order.

We didn't get to experience much of the enemy artificial intelligence in the game, but according to the developer, it has been completely reworked to make the enemies behave more realistically. For instance, each enemy will use different tactics based on which weapon they're using. An assault unit will rush in close and try to blast you, while a sniper will stay far away, going so far as to retreat and find cover if you approach.

Combined Assault will still feature the online competitive modes of its predecessor and is fully compatible with SOCOM 3. That means that the game will have a large user base right from the get-go, which is great. Of course, everyone will have to be playing Combined Assault to play the new maps in the game.

Based on what we played, Combined Assault features the same tactical, squad-based gameplay as its predecessors, but the addition of online cooperative play sounds like it could be a lot of fun, as long as you're playing with people who have at least some idea of what they're doing. Look for SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault to ship this fall.

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