SOCOM has never been known for its single player action. Not because it?s bad or anything, just that most of the missions were always so short and kind of boring. I think I played through three or four of the 12 missions in the first game, and went straight to online in SOCOM II without touching the single player. I know I?m not the only one to jump right into the online multiplayer; when I was playing SOCOM II one night, single player was brought up in a discussion. One of the guys on our team that hadn?t really said much the entire game commented, “There?s single player? Whoa, I thought this was just an online game.” You can imagine the laughter that erupted after hearing that.
SOCOM 3?s single player is kind of short, but it?s a bit more interesting than the original, taking you to places like South Asia and Africa. The overall single player experience is the same as the first two installments as you command two teams of two; Able and Bravo. You (Specter) and “dumb as rocks” Jester makes up Able element, with Killjoy and Simple making up the Bravo team. In familiar SOCOM fashion, you command your three comrades as you tackle the various mission objectives from a rendezvous with an ally, to planting explosives and doing a little demolition work. There are also check points that you pass through every so often in a mission so that when you fail the mission for some reason, you can load from the last checkpoint you went through instead of redoing the entire mission.
As far along with the series that Zipper Interactive has come, they still couldn?t manage any favorable AI. The enemies are dumb even on the Admiral difficulty, and your team will most likely frustrate you to no end. For example, when riding in vehicles, whoever is in the turret will watch a soldier or enemy vehicle go by. The reaction time is so slow, you’ll have to turn around and go back to make sure they get killed. Making the commands to your teammates are simple, but the horrible AI makes things much more complicated. Zipper?s intention with this game (and the whole series) is to work as a team, but there are times where the enjoyment in single player would skyrocket if you could take on the mission solo.
It?s nice to see the addition of vehicles, though they?re not as fun as you’d expect. There are all sorts of different terrain vehicles to ride in like Humvees, jeeps, tanks, gun-mounted trucks, and boats. Each vehicle has multiple “mounting” spots capable of transporting several teammates. It would have been nice if other vehicles like helicopters were added, but Zipper was lucky enough to fit the stuff in that they did.
SOCOM isn?t known for an addicting and well-executed single player campaign, and SOCOM III doesn’t change this. The only incentive to completing single player is to unlock the different character models, which isn’t really worth it. Most players just go online right when they get the game.
If you’re new to SOCOM, online multiplayer is divided up into two different teams: Seals and Terrorists. The Seals generally have the silenced weapons, but SOCOM 3 changes it up so that terrorists have more silenced options as well. The default game length is best out of 11, though the amount of rounds can be customized if you create your own game. While trash talking is better suited for a faster action game like Halo 2, it’s still fairly rampant in SOCOM. In the first game a player might jump around the dead player they had just killed, mocking them like people that “t-bag” in Halo 2. Zipper took advantage of this and added different “Victory” dances that you can do when you stand over a dead body and push a certain button. They’re usually really funny, but the dances in this are even better and are sure to tick a lot of people off, even more so than in SOCOM II. I don’t know about you, but if my dead body was lying on the ground and the guy that killed me came up and started doing pelvic thrusts, I’d be furious.
SOCOM 3 launched with plenty of rooms to prevent a massive overload, but has been plagued with other issues, like a major problem with team kills. The names of your teammates are displayed in white letters above their heads, or at least they?re supposed to be. The problem is that the names are delayed in showing up, and sometimes they don?t show up at all. You practically have to be up in their face to see that they are on the other team, and if you hesitate to shoot so you can see who it is, you?ve already been killed. The name delay wouldn?t be so bad if the Seal and Terrorist outfits weren?t almost exactly alike. This makes it difficult to recognize who is who until you?re either in their face or your cursor turns red (which is also delayed). The result is confusion, which means a lot of team kills.
The maximum player limit has jumped from 16 players to 32 players, which means ultra competitive 16 Seals vs. 16 Terrorist games. In order to accommodate the doubling of players, SOCOM 3?s maps are quite large. The smallest map in SOCOM 3 is even twice as large as the largest map in SOCOM 2. It?s fortunate that the guys at Zipper added vehicles, because the new maps are so big that it?d be a major pain to have to walk, especially when carrying a heavy load.
The online interface has been improved a lot. It?s broken up into tabs: Briefing, Auto Play, Community, Create a Clan, etc. It?s really easy to use, taking the frustration out of navigating confusing and annoying menus. Under community you can create and manage clan challenges, check out the leader boards, mess around with your personal profile, and even post and read messages on the message board specifically on the SOCOM 3 server. Anyone can jump into SOCOM 3 and play online. Now, playing well is a different story. In order to join the ranking system and play in special ranked rooms, you have to verify your account with a major credit or debit card. You aren?t charged anything, but this filters out a lot of unwanted players that made the SOCOM II ranks so corrupt. Are there still idiots with credit cards out there? Yes, of course. Having to verify your account will help in keeping the idiots to a minimum, though. Once verifying your account, you are then ?Enlisted,? and can play in ranked games, as well as enter the Enlisted playing rooms.