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SOCOM: Tactical Strike: Not Your Typical SOCOM

The SOCOM franchise has been a major success for Sony. Not only did it introduce team-based, multiplayer online co-op to the PS2, but it also helped to launch the system's online network and became its first big-time hit. After two outings on the PSP, SOCOM is back once again, though in a much different package.

SOCOM: Tactical Strike shares more in common with Full Spectrum Warrior than with past games in the SOCOM series. Tactical Strike places you in charge of a four-man team which you order around in tactical situations by issuing commands. You have no direct control over your team, placing more emphasis on your planning and strategy skills and less on your aim.

Although you aren't the one in control of your troop's movements, you are given a considerable amount of control over your team. The command interface is very clean and easy to use. The shoulder buttons are used for switching between two-man teams or selecting the entire four-man team. Once a team is selected, orders are issued by using a context-sensitive action pointer. Place it over a location and it will turn into a ghost image of your team, showing their exact placement after moving. You can also define a fire zone or interact with other objects in the environment.

The command interface also gives you a variety of actions to choose from. When moving your squad around the area of operations, you can have them cover each other's backs by holding a button and selecting the "Cover Team" option. You can also have your troops sneak between areas or quickly run between cover. The other face buttons allow for more tactics, including grenades (the only action where you have direct control over a soldier) or firing on targets.

One of the really interesting aspects of Tactical Strike is the camera system. The camera focuses on the currently selected unit - so if they can't see it, you can't either. However, you can split the four-man group up and have each group scout an area, giving you a better idea of the area.

Tactical Strike also includes 4-player multiplayer. Though this may disappoint fans looking for 16-player frag-fests, the added tactical gameplay does offer just as exciting an experience. After creating an online profile, you jump into a game and select one of two teams; soldiers and mercenaries. Each player gets to control their own four-man team, which adds an interesting dynamic to gameplay since you have to keep track of all four - otherwise you'll end up dead.

Multiplayer is split into a number of different play modes, ranging from eliminating the other team to completing a specific task. Tactical Strike supports voice-chat, which is a necessity in a strategy-based game. Managing a four-man team is enough, but coordinating your team with your partner's team is a chore if you can't talk to the other guy.

I've been able to spend more time with the single-player side of SOCOM: Tactical Strike than the multiplayer, but so far both are fun and offer something just a little bit different. The switch to a more tactical-based game may throw off a few SOCOM fans, but at its heart this is the same game you've grown to love over the past few years, just with a different spin.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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