Socom II has to be one of the most anticipated games of the 'next generation console'generation. After all, it IS the sequel to one of the best, if not the best online PS2 game available. I was definitely one of those anxiously awaiting it's release and counting the slowly ticking minutes with each passing day and each aggrevating cheater I encountered online. After hearing so many positive things from members of my clan that got to be beta testers, I didn't think I'd make it to the release date without spontaneously combusting, but the day finally came and I was finally able to get online and lay waste to some rivals on maps that were completely fresh to everyone. After alot of map exploration and sleepless nights, my feelings about the game were shocking, even to me. I was so damn disappointed in the sequel to Socom. First, let me say that the graphics of S2 are hands down a great improvement over Socom's already crisp look. There's much more foliage and detail in all of the old stages, which have all made a return in the sequel, and the new maps are so well done you'd think there were actual places on Earth that Zipper photographed and transferred to the game. The players all have amazing detail and the outfits are varied greatly, especially amongst the terrorists. The one player game has been enhanced along with you're teammates' AI. Members of the fireteam are much more aware and sentient than there S1 counterparts and will actually take out and enemy if they get too close, even if you've told them to hold fire. Of course, they let you know why they fired on the enemy instead of making you think that you're loaded down with a pack of insubordinates. The missions have a great flow to them and completing the one-player game under certain difficulty levels unlocks selectable characters online and different weapons in the one player game. All in all, the one player mode almost carries the same weight as the online aspect. Unfortunately, that is where all of my praise stops for this game. As far as gameplay goes, they should have stuck with the original formula instead of over hauling it. The characters' movements can be jumpy at times and they move incredibly fast. It's very difficult to settle someone in between your crosshairs with such loose controls. I thought that the Seals and terrorists moved at a perfect pace and with great fluidity in the first Socom, and I definitely didn't think that it needed to be different. Like most people who are hooked on Socom, I've been playing day and night every chance I get and getting used to the movement is NOT easy. Its practically a chore. I truly believe that they should have stuck with the original movement design and been done with it for S2. The balance of the online game is horrible. In the first Socom, Seals had the advantage of stealth with silenced weapons, but terrorist weapons were the superior ones. They were more powerful and more accurate and the handguns were supreme. Where as the Seals had the silenced Mark 23, the terrorists had the deadly magnum class, 50 caliber Desert Eagle, which is basically a hand cannon, as well as the fully automatic Model 18 hand gun. Now, the terrorists really do have an overwhelming advantage in the form of PMN mines and an automatic shotgun. The mines are an incredible nuisance, especially being that they're the size of small stones and can kill two Seals if they're standing close enough. The only true way to destroy them (without stepping on them) is with and explosive device - e.g. grenades, rockets, claymores. The problem with that is that now you only get 3 grenades per selection as opposed to the four mines that terrorists get. Players have said that you can shoot the mines to detonate them, but I haven't had any luck with that with either an assault rifle, a hand gun, or a sniper rifle. The biggest problem with the mines is that they slow you way down because you have to scan the ground very carefully before proceeding, which leaves you way open to getting a nice bullet spray while you're distracted, which you will be since a mine detonation is instant death. You can spot them through a thermal scope but that's as good as it gets for detection. Personally, I think that they should have given the Seals a mine detector, something that only one Seal per team can carry that shows the mines on the radar. If the Seal carrying the detector is killed, it can be picked up by another Seal but only if they have a weapon slot open for it or by a terrorist if they wish to hide it from the Seals. That would have been fair. Oh well. The automatic shotgun has to be the second most frustrating thing in the game. We're talking about death in a button push. This is WAY TOO MUCH power. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to advance just to have a terrorist pop out from behind a corner and level me with one shot, and if I didn't die I flew back and got lambasted trying to get up. You don't get near enough grenades to clear alot of the corners so you pretty much just have to take your chances. Honestly, you've got a 5% chance of walking out of a gun fight alive against that weapon, especially since the people that use them (and most members of the terrorist team pack them) either hide around corners or run and gun, and, lets face it, when they're running and gunning they're coming up on you fast and moving in close. Once that happens, you'd better be aiming for their nose or get ready to wait for the next round to start. The Seals have absolutely nothing that compares with that in terms of power AND speed, and believe me, for a shotgun it fires fast. You're best bet against them is to lure the terrorist into open area where the buckshot is spread out and not concentrated on your chest. Good luck, since most of the map situations put you in close quarters. Now to the most frustrating, infurating aspect of S2. The health meter. Why did they put a health meter in a game dealing with gun fights? It takes an insane amount of hits to kill someone. In S1, 2-4 hits in the torso area and you were down unless you were shooting them in the back. Not in S2. Not even close. Headshots are still one hit kills, but torso and especially back shots... forget it. Where talking 3-8 hits for the torso and 5-8 for the back. You hit someone in the leg or arm and you might as well throw down your controller, because you're guaranteed to be blown away. It's amazing how you can chase someone down, continuously shoot at them and watch blood fly off of their body at a consistent rate just to have them turn around and smoke you. Aiming high up in the chest or at the head wouldn't be such a problem if the movements were cleaner and the controls were tighter. All in all, the damage system is the worst. I seriously hope that they come up with a patch for it once the PS2 harddrive hits, because the game is harddrive compatible. It really just seems like Zipper tried to up the ante too much for S2 by offering a bunch of glitsy, glamorous extras like new insanely powerful weapons, massive maps, a new damage system, and a new movement design, when all they really needed to do was fix all of the bugs in S1, tighten up the graphics, make it more secure against cheaters, and build on the already successful design of that game. The more I play S2, the more I appreciate the first Socom, and I'm not alone in that. A ton of pros and rookies alike feel the same way. Sad and disappointing.
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