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SOCOM: Tactical Strike Hands-On First Look

SOCOM will return to the PSP later this year, but not in the form you might expect. We gave this new strategy game a try.


This year, Vancouver-based Slant Six Games is taking over development of the SOCOM franchise not only on the PlayStation 3, with the just-unveiled Confrontation, but also with the series' third PSP installment, Tactical Strike. Those who played the last two PSP games--not to mention the previous four action-oriented PlayStation 2 titles--will find that SOCOM has taken a turn for the strategic under Slant Six's auspices. Tactical Strike will retain the fast pace and real-world military trappings that SOCOM is known for, but it will also increase the emphasis on executing more complex, multistage tactical maneuvers than were possible when the series operated like other direct-control shooters.

To give you the breathing room to properly strategize, Tactical Strike will employ a sort of point-and-click interface somewhat akin to real-time strategy games. In the demo we played, we took control of a typical four-man SEAL team (split into alpha and bravo pairs), which was tasked with finding a downed chopper and retrieving sensitive intel located at the crash site. We immediately noticed we couldn't directly move our soldiers around with the analog stick anymore; instead, we could bring up a movement cursor and direct them to move individually or as a unit to a specific spot on the field. This cursor would also pop up silhouettes of our soldiers at predefined cover points to show the exact positions they would take up after reaching that cover point, and we found that this feature eased the process of deciding where to direct our boys in relation to nearby enemies and obstacles. Moreover, holding down the movement button before issuing the order allowed us to specify whether the SEALs should run to the next destination or move there stealthily.

Likewise, holding down the attack button gave us an array of attack options, ranging from targeting and neutralizing a specific enemy to laying down suppressing fire, delivering a barrage of fire to a wider area of targets, or simply going in guns ablaze and shooting freely at any hostile you encounter. Targeting an enemy was as easy as moving the targeting reticle over a tango and giving the appropriate order--but you won't be able to detach the camera angle from your troops, so you'll be able to attack only those enemies that are within your immediate visual range. You'll also be able to queue up a command--either for your entire group or discretely for each of your four troops--to execute the most complicated multipart maneuvers.

Each of your four characters will have specific abilities. One may carry a sniper rifle, for instance, and you'll simply have to command him to use this weapon for him to bring it up to eye level, allowing you to see through his scope as he picks off the target enemy. But as with the rest of the game, you won't actually move the aim and pull the trigger yourself. Rather, the speed and precision of your sniper's shot will be determined by his attributes, which can be powered up after each mission with experience points you accumulate. You'll be able to augment basic stats like hit points and carrying capacity, as well as more advanced skills like hacking, which will likewise determine how quickly you can access some computer terminals.

Past SOCOM games have focused on American combat specialists (hence the "US Navy SEALs" subtitle), but this year both the PS3 and PSP games will include special forces from nine different countries. These will again include the SEALs, of course, but you'll also get local elite troops from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Korea, to name a few. In Tactical Strike, you'll get to choose your nationality at the beginning of a new campaign, and this will determine the appearance, names, and armament of your troops, as well as some specific story points and more. (The main plot arc will be consistent for all nationalities, though.)

Sony shared a few details about Tactical Strike's multiplayer component, namely that it will include five game modes, will work via both ad hoc and infrastructure modes, and will support remote voice chat. But beyond those details, company reps are declining to comment further on the game. Like with many of Sony's other new games, we're told we'll find out much more at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in July.

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