When Sony announced its PSP console a lot of people including us were expecting a raft of announcements that their most popular franchises would be making the jump to portable. This took a little time, but the PSP is slowly starting to build its library. This is because developers have tried to make brand new original games rather than just port a whole bunch of old ones to the new system. The latest to make it to the console is the SOCOM franchise but this version has a difference. Sony also released a new SOCOM PS2 game recently and the two interconnect to provide some interesting gameplay mechanics. SOCOM has been popular for quite sometime, and the PSP version continues giving tactical action gamers exactly what they want.
SOCOM, as you may have guessed already, revolves around the world of military tactics and taking down rogue factions, intent on creating havoc. The game features a multitude of missions to complete and in between full motion cut scenes provide the back story. It really is a PS2 game, squeezed onto a small UMD disc and playable on the go, which in itself is quite a feat. The main storyline behind the PSP game is quite cliche, with a rogue government agent trying to horde nuclear weapons which is obviously making the western world quite nervous and tense. You as the SOCOM Navy Seal team are sent in to alleviate the threat and restore peace once again.
SOCOM on the PSP is pretty much a mirror image of the PS2 game in terms of how it is played. You have the choice of two viewpoints, either behind the character or a first person view. Most of the time you will find yourself switching between the two - Rear for moving around, while zooming in to take down specific targets. The control system aids this as the DPAD is use to control the camera. Up zoom in, down zoom out. Simple in design yet flawless in execution.
The mission objectives range from clearing out enemy areas, destroying power generators or blowing things up. The game is a lot easier to get into than the PS2 version based on the fact it gives you a lot more help along the way. For instance, on the map, objectives will flash. As well as this the missions are quite short and can be completed quickly, making it perfect for the PSP console. The only problem with the missions is that there is a distinct lack of variation in objectives, and you will find yourself doing the same thing a few times over before the game ends, albeit in different locations.
As you would expect the missions are set in uncivilized areas without many civilians (although the odd one pops up and you do get in trouble for shooting them). While this offers a realistic setting, it can also become a bit boring. We yearn for the days of SOCOM II where you were infiltrating train yards, taking down heavily guarded enemies. Don't get us wrong, there are points in SOCOM which reflect this style of gameplay, but it's not as fully fleshed out as the PS2 in this regard.
However one area where the game really impresses is the visuals. While it's not as clear and detailed as the PS2 games, it is still one of the better looking action games on the PSP. Just think Splinter Cell Essentials with a few Army units instead of Sam Fisher and you're on the right track. The frame rate remains stable as well and the fast paced action (if you choose to play this way) does not give you any grief in the frame rate department either. The other impressive aspect to the game is the motion video used to portray the cut scenes. It is most definitely at the same level of the PS2 games and really sets you up for the next missions well. The only problem is they are short and we are guessing this is because of the reduced size of a UMD disc compared to a DVD.
SOCOM PSP is a successful transition of one of the most popular PS2 games to the handheld market. While it's not as fully fleshed out and doesn't offer as much of a challenge as the PS2 version, the developers have put a huge emphasis on making this game as pick up and play as possible and shortened the missions to accommodate play on the go, which it does very well.
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