Ever since E3 last year, we’ve had a huge interest in SOCOM 4 and the included PlayStation Move integration. While we noticed plenty of potential for the motion peripheral, especially when considering its true 1:1 nature, we were skeptical about how long it would take for “core” titles to pick up on what some would consider a “niche” or “casual” consumer device. Sony silenced everyone when they included it in Killzone 3 earlier this year where, thanks to the Sharpshooter controller, it worked pretty much as advertised. I think that with SOCOM 4 and the Sharpshooter controller, the Move finally has it’s 1st killer app.
Today I had the chance to get a private demo of a couple levels of SOCOM 4’s campaign mode in 3D, and in the process put the Sharpshooter controller through it’s paces. The first thing that Sony rep Scott Pytlik told me was that “core gamers can take a little longer to get used to it” and used the example of having his fiance (who doesn’t game anywhere near as much as he does) try out the controller, where she was able to pick up and play with ease.
I have to say that after my initial time with the controller I have to agree with Scott. In a way, you have to take everything you’ve learned from holding a DualShock 3 and just place that in the back of your mind and out of the way. Once you grasp where everything is on the controller, you quickly stop checking your hand placement and start having fun. There’s nothing more rewarding than actually having to cock-back your gun to reload (there’s also a button, but it’s just not as fun). That motion alone instantly brings you back to the light gun arcade games of yesteryear — and its an awesome feeling.
The way the sharpshooter works is through a digital connection using the Mini USB input found at the bottom of the move controller to its advantage; and that’s unlike any other Move gun peripheral on the market. Think of it kind of like a hot-shoe attachment on a DSLR camera, where once you add it the move controller uses the digital connection to re-map the buttons throughout the peripheral. The more obvious ones are two of Sony’s (famous) face buttons, triangle and square are mapped right above the trigger symmetrically on either side, making the controller ambidextrous. Others buttons are not so obvious, but SOCOM 4 makes use of all of them.
One of the most notable functions of the Sharpshooter not taken advantage of by Killzone 3 was the rate of fire switch. Its what allows you to switch from single shot, to burst fire, to full automatic in SOCOM 4. When I asked why the switch wasn’t used by Herman Hulst (a Sharpshooter advocate) and his team at Guerilla Games, Scott told told me “it was simply because KZ3 only has automatic weapons.”
It’s nothing against Killzone 3, but there’s good reason why I think SOCOM 4 is the move’s first killer app and a lot of it has to do with the fact that’s it’s not in 1st person. While the Move provides unrivaled accuracy in both titles, looking around fares a bit differently. With SOCOM 4 the team at Zipper Interactive took into account different play styles and settings for looking.
First up you have focal, which is very similar to what you’ll find in KZ3. It involves pointing to the different edges of the screen to make character look that way. Not exactly the most intuitive but for the casuals and newcomers alike it will probably get the job done.
Next mode is modal, (the mode I used in my play time) which uses the left trigger for manual looking. If your reticule is on the left, you give LT a quick press and it will look in that direction. Same thing when the reticule is positioned on the right. It gives it somewhat of an analog feel for looking at your surroundings. When you hold the LT you have full look control as you move your reticule around the screen.
The last mode is quick, this allows for well — you guessed it — quick 180 degree looking. A function NOT found when playing using the DualShock 3; A feature that would have probably saved my behind during some recent multi-player beta sessions. According to Scott, some of the team at Zipper have become so good with the Sharpshooter and the move using the quick setting that it’s what they now use to play competitively online.
While Scott did tell me that he’s had some people tell him that they prefer to play it with just the move control sans the sharpshooter, after the demo I just cant see myself playing and using the Move controller without it. Speaking of the demo, let’s talk about what I played.
I had the chance to check out the second mission (called “rendezvous”) and eighth mission (called “onslaught”) of SOCOM 4’s campaign, and while I won’t spoil anything about the cutscenes and plot (yes, there’s a real story here), I need to share what i learned about the game’s characters, mechanics and most importantly the AI. The days of Jester’s stupid mistakes are finally behind us.
One of the characters introduced for the first time today is LT. Park also known as “45”. She (that’s right I said she) is part of South Korean special forces and will help out the Navy Seals with recon assignments. At certain points throughout the game you will actually play as Park and her segments will involve much more stealth to provide a nice change of pace to the non-stop tactical action.
As far as game mechanics are concerned i think that the use of a cover system is probably the most welcomed addition to the series. You now have both soft and hard cover at your disposal, and if you plan on surviving you will use them often. Soft cover consists of using foliage to your advantage (i.e. bushes and high grass). As long as you move slowly through soft cover the enemy AI will not spot you as easily. Hard cover or sticky cover as i like to call it will provide a safe haven from gun fire, but will also allow you to see more of where the enemies are. Think Uncharted’s cover system. Hard cover is destructible, so don’t you plan on getting too comfortable either.
AI is one thing that the series has always been known for, sometimes for reasons more negative than positive. With SOCOM 4 the team at Zipper has introduced “Team Play” and with it created a complex yet intuitive system used for commanding your AI squad mates. Your crew is now smarter than ever, and will react to orders efficiently. Whether its moving to cover, assigning targets, or securing a clearing, its all done with one button. If you’re in control of more than one squad or team, they are each assigned a button on the D-Pad ( left or right) and through that one button you have full control of both.
The name of the game is tactics, and if used correctly assigning commands and directions will get you out of some hairy situations. Don’t think for a second you can send the teams into an obvious ambush, as they will actually refuse the order. In the event that things do get crazy and your mates are in need of some medical attention, they will come to each others aid.
If the downed squad member is in the line of fire, the friendly AI is smart enough to clear the area before rescuing their team mates. You can also help revive them, however if you go down it’s game over. Squad mates will also provide you with information about the current situation, cover (how much damage it can take), enemy position, in other words listening to them will be key.
After checking out the game almost a whole year ago, and with only weeks left to the game’s launch I’m now officially more excited than ever for it to hit store shelves, as I’ve been yearning for a core title that will really put my dusty Move controllers to use. Sony knows of this excitement and because of it they’re releasing a package that includes the game, a move bundle, and the sharpshooter controller all in one box. The package retails for $149.99, which is a savings of $70 if these items were bought separately, enough to buy yourself another game! Gamers fortunate enough to already own a 3DTV should be all over this one as it happens to be one another 3D technical showpiece for the tech on the PS3… just wait until you see the particle effects.
For those of you who have been on the fence wondering whether or not you should pick up the PlayStation Move, on April 19th I think your decision will already be made. And for the SOCOM fans just think about this: thanks to the leaps and bounds made with the AI you will never again have to worry about screaming out “Jester, Nooooooooo!”