Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs

Most guys have this thing where they want to be the biggest badasses on the planet, so it's a good thing there are video games. That way, we can be, for a few bucks and a few minutes. And we can stay warm and dry in the process. Actually getting to be one of the biggest badasses on the planet—a group that includes the Navy's Sea-Air-Land commandos, or "SEALs"—would be hard. And those badasses have to endure uncomfortable and unsafe working conditions, and do stuff the rest of us probably wouldn't really enjoy.

And unless you have a fast Internet connection, you won't enjoy playing SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs that much either. As with the first two SOCOM games, single-player mode is pretty rudimentary, with unimaginative missions and pretty lousy AI. You're placed in command of three guys who, in spite of their knack for shooting each other, playing grenade-catch, and disobeying your orders, are supposedly our nation's most elite warriors. If this were a realistic simulation of American special forces, Kim Jong Il's face would be on the quarter.

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But for online play, which is why anyone in his or her right mind buys this game anyway, it's great. SOCOM 3 offers 32-player mayhem on huge, well-designed customizable maps, including drivable vehicles and ton after ton of lovely guns. A good SOCOM battle, especially playing with the supported headsets alongside or against good friends you can trust, is what kids always wanted playing with plastic army guys to be.

Beyond the game: Here's a debate topic. Does a nation need more large-scale military units such as the First Army, or more highly trained, ultra-capable special-ops units like the SEALs or Delta Force, to ensure national security? Discuss either on the Senate floor or on creepy-ass message boards.

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Worth playing for: Single-player mode is worth playing for long enough to get the hang of things, and that's it. Online, well… The first time you use silenced weapons on a night map to take out the entire opposition before they even know you're there, it's just the coolest.

Frustration sets in when: The first time you realize that everyone else on your team has been taken out by the other guys with suppressed weapons, and you have no idea where the bad guys are, it's kind of cool; the 10th time in 90 minutes, it's just not funny. Still, cheating and glitch-exploiting, the deal-breaker and fun-killer of earlier SOCOM editions, seem to have been fixed here. (Always check for updates.)

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Final judgment: SOCOM 3 is a lousy recruiting tool; why go through all that hell when you get this much fun in the warm and dry, plus your own bed at night?

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