Title: SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 2
Developer: Zipper, Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 214 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
There are some franchises that just die out one day, with no real warning ahead of time. Some are third party and some are first-party. Such was the case with the SOCOM franchise. It started on the PS2, got some PS3 titles, and really soared on the PlayStation Portable. The PSP got four SOCOM games, while the PS3 only got a couple. The “Fireteam Bravo” series did nicely and added to the normal tactical shooter genre that Socom began on the PlayStation 2.
It is sad that SOCOM hasn’t gotten a new release in the past 4-5 years. There are a lot of fans who enjoyed the series that made a unique difficulty to the shooting franchise with its tactical elements in gameplay. I certainly enjoyed what I played of it on the PSP, and plan to eventually get the other SOCOM PSP games. And this is coming from someone who normally does not enjoy war shooters at all.
That franchise is what I’m here to discuss today. It may seem a bit odd choice to start off the Socom retro reviews with, but here it is. Here is my official review of the handheld shooter, SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 2.
The plot of SOCOM takes place in a fictional country called Adjikistan, which is a SOCOM universe mix of Afghanistan and Pakistan. During Fireteam Bravo 2, there is a major dealing of arms shipments in the country as well as underlying dealings with drugs, human trafficking, and more. As the game starts, you get tidbits of the story, all leading up to the cause of the corruption and shady dealings within the country as well as where they’re getting support from.
While the story synopsis above doesn’t sound too enticing, there are two reasons the story of the game is good. The first is that it has some nice and interesting CG cutscenes to push the story forward and has much more of a personal story than most war shooters. The other is the witty lines that your AI partner has as you go through each mission. I hate war shooters with a passion, but the witty lines coming out of my teammate kept me plenty entertained and I enjoyed the game from start to finish.
Fireteam Bravo 2 is a tactical third-person shooter. What this means is that it’s a Third Person Shooter with tactical elements thrown into the mix. Instead of just running and gunning like you would in a normal shooter, the gameplay mechanics encourage you to have strategies in mind when you’re going through each stage, which is very apparent when the game’s difficulty starts to kick in. The official term would be a Tactical Third-Person Shooting game.
When you start the game, you’ll be sent through missions, starting with the Tutorial missions. There are two different types of mission. There are campaign missions, where you go through main story missions. There are also Dynamic Missions, which are side missions not directly related to the store, but ways for you to get more used to the system and earn more points to use on the story missions. Every time you beat a Campaign Mission, you unlock a Dynamic Mission. You can also replay Story Missions, if you so wish.
Each mission has various goals you have to do as you proceed, from capturing enemy leaders and securing hostages to rigging enemy storage caches to explode or clear an area of all enemy units. There are main and sub objectives. There are also bonus, hidden objectives you can find and accomplish, but are not told of during the mission.
Before you go on each mission, you have various menus you can look through. You have the briefing that tells you about the mission as well as the Armory, where you can re-equip you and your partner character with any unlocked equipment you have. This can range from firearms like assault rifles and shotguns to grenades and mines to air assaults, medical packs, and body armor. There is a limited amount of slots for each character so the setup in itself is part of the strategy element thrown into the mix.
Unlocking new equipment takes place in the story progression, but also what you do during missions. Clearing objectives will net you two different types of points: Command Points and LI. On top of that, you also get currency. LI is kind of like a reputation system. You get more of these points if you opt for less violent means of downing enemies. Instead of shooting their head off with a sniper rifle, you could sneak up on them and restrain them. These points will up your overall rank, unlocking new weapons to be equipped.
The currency is used to buy equipment as well. As you complete missions, you will get more of this and they’re required for buying new firearms, extra firepower, or add-ons to weapons, such as scopes and grenade launchers. You don’t get more of this for doing the less-violent actions, but just as you complete objectives and missions.
This game is a tactical shooter, and every mission has tactics about it. You have aim assist for aiming to avoid the very-slow free-look feature for manual aiming. You can’t just run and gun through every mission, and that’s where the strategy lies. If you run and gun, you’ll take huge amounts of damage, even on the lower difficulties. So, you have various commands you can give your AI partner and different ways to take down enemies to be able to go through with minimal damage to yourself.
The first main thing is to have your AI partner Open and Clear doors. This lets them go in first and start to take down enemies so you don’t open a door and get a shotgun to the face at point-black range. There are also other methods, such as crawling to avoid detection as you snipe targets or call air-strikes to take down large groups of enemies without wasting a single bullet. The nice thing is you must use these strategies because it’s extremely hard to play through the game just running and gunning. You’ll have a hard time, no matter what difficulty you’re playing.
The difficulty is something that I should also bring up. As I said above, you have to use tactics to be able to go through the game. Aside from this, it turns out to be a very difficult journey. The first few campaign missions are easy enough, but there are no checkpoints during missions. That means, if you die at the end, you start over from the very beginning. With some of the missions being pretty lengthy, this is a very big annoyance and also raises the difficulty even higher.
The biggest complaints I have with the game are aiming and saving your data. The camera moves very slow and your cross-hairs move even slower. There are many times where I would lock onto an enemy and start firing. However, due to the camera hitting a wall, my cross-hairs were slightly left of the enemy and I fired at a civilian and got a game over. Sometimes, the cross-hairs move over fine, but a lot of the time, they don’t. Save data is difficult because you can only save on one system. If you play on your Vita and put your Memory Card into a PlayStation TV or another Vita, you will get an error that says the save data was created on another system and force you to create new save data.
As far as length is concerned, you should expect the game to last a little bit. There are over a dozen different story missions and more than that count in Dynamic missions. Across the entire single player experience, I would expect you to spend at least 5 hours if not longer. There used to be multiplayer built into the game as well, but the online servers were taken down years ago. You can do Ad Hoc if you have a buddy, but now the replay is just on the campaign mode. Still, it’s a decent amount of time for a shooter.
Controls are a little wonky in Socom and that is no lie. The PSP wasn’t built for dual analog controls, and there aren’t any workable buttons to redirect to the Right Analog Stick to be able to cover this on the Vita and PSTV. The best is to redirect the Left Analog controls to both sticks.
The Left stick is used to move your character as well as aim when you’re looking through a scope or in free aim/manual aiming mode. The D-Pad is used for zooming, pulling up your inventory, and enabling free-aim mode. The L trigger is used for strafing controls and the R trigger is used to lock onto a nearby enemy or for steady aim when sniping. Then, the face buttons. X fires off shots from your weapon. Square does physical attacks and interacts with NPCs. Triangle is used for changing standing height or crawling. Finally, Circle is used for issuing commands to your AI partner.
It’s not a terrible control scheme and it really is explained well, but a lot of the aiming and camera controls are really clunky and wonky, even with the right analog controls in there.
The presentation is definitely one of the highest points of this game. Visually, there’s a good bit of detail in the character models and environments. It’s not the best the PSP has to offer, but it looks competent and still looks nice with being expanded on the Vita and PSTV screens.
The frame rate for this game is beautiful. Fireteam Bravo 2 plays a lot smoother than most Vita games and when I say smooth, I mean smooth! It looks like it could be close to 60 fps. If not, it’s close. The game runs really smooth, and a pretty big feat for a PSP game.
The rest of the performance is nice. The voice-work is nicely done and the audio is also nice. Socom has one of my favorite gaming themes and it was utilized well in Fireteam Bravo 2.