E3 06: SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 Impressions

We execute a tactical infiltration of the Sony booth to get our hands on SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 for the PlayStation Portable.

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LOS ANGELES--SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo is one of the best shooters available on the PlayStation Portable, with solid single-player gameplay, online multiplayer, and even voice chat support. Building on that success, the team at Zipper Interactive is hard at work on a follow-up, aptly named SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2. We had a chance to play the game on the show floor at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Fireteam Bravo 2 once again lets you play as an elite Navy SEAL who is part of a two-man team sent into hostile territory to complete a variety of missions. You control one soldier and are supported by an artificially intelligent teammate who you can order to move around, attack, take cover, and so on. The combat still involves holding one button to lock on to an enemy, and then firing away until the enemy is dead. The lock-on makes it somewhat easy to kill your enemies, but a few new tweaks have been introduced to make the aiming system a bit more realistic. Each of the more than 40 weapons you use has a specific acceleration speed, which means that more powerful weapons will take longer to aim at an enemy, while something light like a pistol will instantly snap to its target. This means that a player who is aiming closer to a target before locking on will get a shot off faster than a player who just hits the lock on button without aiming at all.

There are more than 40 weapons in Fireteam Bravo 2, including what are called "less-lethal" weapons, such as bean-bag guns. It's to your advantage to avoid lethal force, because it lets you detain and capture an enemy and presumably extract important information. You're rewarded for capturing enemies by earning Command Equity, which is used to unlock special weapons and unlockable bonuses for the multiplayer game. You can earn Command Equity in both the single- and multiplayer game modes.

The enemies aren't the only ones you have to worry about in Fireteam Bravo 2, though. There are civilians all over the place, and they aren't very good at not getting themselves killed. It's your job to protect them, which usually involves not tossing grenades at them or mowing them down with machine guns. That can be hard to do when you're in the middle of a heated battle and a civilian runs out in the street across your line of fire. For saving civilians, you're rewarded with Local Influence, which you can use to get intelligence and access the black market, where you can buy special weapons.

The artificial intelligence in Fireteam Bravo 2 has been updated to behave more appropriately based on class. For example, scouts will hide and wait for you to reveal yourself, machine gunners will go prone and lay down suppressing fire, and so on. Enemies will take cover, run away, ambush you, and generally behave as you might expect trained soldiers to behave.

There are other changes in store, as well. The interface has been updated to be more streamlined and easier to use, and it's now context-sensitive, so only the options you can use appear on screen. Also, there are medkits in the game that you can equip and take into battle to heal yourself or your teammate. In fact, you can heal an ally who has been killed, and an ally can heal you if you get killed. As a result, the mission isn't a failure until you run out of medkits. There are three new multiplayer modes in Fireteam Bravo 2. There's a tug-of-war mode that plays like a control point type of game; intel grab, which is a variation on capture the flag; and target, where one player has an object and all the other players have to try to kill him and take it.

The mission we played was set in a rugged, mountainous area that looked good and featured an impressive draw distance with distant, snowy mountains in the background. Our first objective was to climb to a high cliff above an enemy barricade and then call in an air strike to clear the path for reinforcements.

SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 looks like it builds on the previous game with some interesting additions such as Command Equity and Local Influence to reward you for using smart tactics. That said, the game still has the same 16-player online support and easy-to-use control scheme that made the first Fireteam Bravo game great. Fireteam Bravo 2 is currently scheduled for a fall 2006 release, so be sure to keep an eye on the gamespace for updates.

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