Clicking, pressing, tapping, holding - the overwhelmingly complex controls that come with every new instalment of the SOCOM series have long been a barrier for recruitment. Directing a squad of commandos is nowhere near as complicated as navigating the button configuration on a Dual Shock controller. SOCOM 4 US Navy SEALs doesn't scuttle any features or options, but for the first time it floats the idea of simple control and it comes by way of PlayStation Move.
The relationship between the game's tense tactical action and motion control isn't immediately clear, particularly given the recent history of underwhelming waggle-shooters. Yet, SOCOM 4 shows promise as a serious shooter with the ability to leverage motion control in a satisfying way, even if it remains to be seen whether it can trump a classic controller.
PlayStation Move controllers in hand - the primary wand with lighted sphere in my right hand and the analogue stick-equipped sub-controller gripped in my left - SOCOM 4 becomes an immediately more accessible experience. Pursuing generic terrorists holed up in a dilapidated shanty town is a matter of moving the motion controller to adjust the firing reticule, while manipulating the analogue stick on the sub-controller to walk.
On the primary wand, holding down the big thumb button zooms you in for greater accuracy. It's immensely gratifying to nail a tango in the head while zoomed in because of the amount of skill required to pull off such shots. Enemies are scurrying about, taking cover, and naturally doing their best to frustrate your efforts.
Of course, there's far more to the game than running and gunning. SOCOM 4 comes with a full suite of tactical options that require manipulation of the twin motion controllers in ways that are difficult to define as improvements over the standard Dual Shock 3 configuration. In other words, the intuitive aiming gained through use of PlayStation Move looks to offset an increase in complexity to other functions. It's not that the tactical command system has been made purposefully more complicated, but rather the position of some buttons on the controller increases awkwardness.
Cover, for example, is easier to take than ever before thanks to a simple snap-to mechanic that requires nothing more than a tap of the L2 shoulder button. Reloading, on the other hand, involves a slightly uncomfortable shift on the primary wand to hit the square button. Issuing tactical commands to your squad - such as setting way points for a patrol route or splitting up the team for a flanking formation - can be done via a series of button presses that seems entirely overwhelming. In this sense, use of PlayStation Move controllers does nothing to address the game's traditional complexity.
To be fair, much of this discomfort stems from an unfamiliarity with the controller set itself. Basic squad commands like forming up can be executed with presses of the directional pad on the sub-controller. For fundamental control, PlayStation Move integration makes great sense; however, it doesn't appear that it will necessarily address the complexity of the game's more advanced manoeuvres.
There's also concern to be raised over the speed at which actions undertaken with PlayStation Move may handicap you in relation to a person using a Dual Shock 3. SOCOM 4 has been built with the standard controller in mind and the series' active community will certainly be able to wield a Dual Shock 3 with greater efficiency than the motion controller. Much more tuning and tweaking is to be undertaken to address that very concern and it will surely be something to watch in the months leading up to the game's autumn release.
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