August 17, 2007 - During the recent SCEA press event, IGN was pleased to get additional hands-on time with Slant Six Games' upcoming simulation action title, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike. While Chris has written several in-depth previews of the game already, we were able to see a handful of scenarios that you'll come across much later in the game. We also had the opportunity to play through the title's beginning moments once again, though we had a more recent build with which to do so. So how has the game been coming along? While there aren't many incredible differences between this build and previous ones, we can see that the game has made excellent progress thus far, and looks like it could be a heavy competitor in the tactical genre.
Choose your team.
For those of you who haven't been able to follow Tactical Strike (and that's okay, the names of these games are quite lengthy), you're looking at an extremely strategy-oriented game; this is drastically different from its various SOCOM predecessors, which focused primarily on a third-person shooter experience. In Tactical Strike, you have no direct control over the individuals in your four-man SEAL team. You only plan out attacks, give instructions and issue commands. Don't expect to hit a button for run-and-gun action; this game is all about patience and premeditation. Tactical Strike entrusts a highly trained team of SEALs to your command, and by equipping them, giving them movement directions, and selecting targets, you'll go about completing a variety of missions that include infiltration, search and rescue, and assaults.
You generally issue commands to either Alpha team or Bravo team (each team consisting of two members of the total four). While this seems to be the "default" command style, you can also break things down further and issue individual commands to your men, or you can pull back into the macro and give orders to the whole squad. Judging from our experience, it seems like balancing between micro/macro management is the best way to go, and certain situations call for certain tactical approaches. While taking out one heavily armed guard may be easier by just having the whole squad open fire in a quick ambush, flanking a group of several enemy soldiers with Alpha and Bravo separated may be a better approach. During the demonstration, it seemed clear that each scenario could be played in a multitude of different ways, even though there are a finite number of goals.
The game as a whole consists of 9, multi-objective missions. Don't panic at the small number though, because Slant Six assured us that each individual mission could require several hours to get through, depending on how you play. Although this may seem like cause for alarm, since "several hours" and "portable game" generally don't mix, the developers seemed confident that this game can be enjoyed in pieces, and the multi-objective format is very conductive to short play sessions.
Tactical Strike has a good number of qualities that should help it stand apart from other games of its type. One notable element that made this game most enjoyable was the ability to queue a command for each soldier (or group of soldiers) in your squad, which allows you to set up extremely elaborate attacks, with enough creativity. For example, let's say we have our squad facing a few too many foes, and there's no safe way for them to move forward. We could have one of our SEALs set up a sniper position and acquire his target, without having to move away from cover. Then, we could have another man move quickly to a flanking position and prepare to open up a field of fire on the enemy soldiers. Once he's ready, we can queue the remaining two soldiers (the one's at the original position) to prepare to charge ahead and take up a forward location. Once everything is set up, you can wait. As long as you want. The SEALs remain steady and they await your go-ahead, right until that perfect moment when the guards turn their backs on you. With the single press of a button, all commands are executed at once: the sniper takes out his target; a field of fire is opened on the remaining enemies, which gives Bravo just enough time to move ahead and secure a better position. True, the action only lasts for a few seconds, but the planning is the most rewarding part.
There are several other great looking features to look forward to as well. The 9 scenarios span a rather diverse set of locales, including thick jungles, misty docks and sand-swept cities. What was more surprising was having the ability to select one out of many different special operations teams, each with their own authentic voices, speech patterns and reactions. So if you want to play as the Italian Special Forces, be prepared to hear some sweet Italian military lingo with appropriately provided English subtitles. This international approach is quite welcome and should give Tactical Strike an edge over the competition.
We'll be back with a review come October. Bravo out.