I’m not feeling super impressed with SOCOM 4’s multiplayer beta. It’s weird because it is a good game and you can tell that a lot of work went into making it what it is, but it’s just not connecting with me. Perhaps it’s the style of the game. It feels very much like it’s intended specifically for the SOCOM fanbase, but if you’re not already a veteran of the series, like me, you may not be able to get into it so easily.
For one, the interface is confusing. Trying to decipher all the little blips and indications that pop up on-screen is tough. Also, they’re difficult to see. The game is very pretty but, at the same time, all of the environments are really busy; there’s a lot to see. This causes problems because an objective indicator may pop up on-screen but you’ll have a hell of a time trying to see it because of the details in the world masking it. This could easily be fixed by making the icons a color that would better stand out among the environments. This same problem rings true for locating teammates, etc.
SOCOM 4 is very slow paced. The maps feel somewhat large because they have a lot of open air and you can sometimes wander around for a while before you see a single enemy. This can get frustrating because you’ll find yourself dying to people who you can’t even see while you’re wandering around. I don’t think I’ve had a close-range head-to-head fight with an enemy player more than once or twice. It seems like someone is always shooting at you from some direction that you just came from.
The slow pacing may be to blame for this. Many players will step just a few paces from the starting spawn point, find some nice cover to camp, and remain there for most of the match. Often times it feels like the first person to move will be the first person to get spotted and die. This can also lead to rounds dragging on and if you die at the beginning, you have to wait it out.
The game does feature a healthy variety of weapons and the ability to equip two primary weapons, which is nice. The character models are a bit lacking, though. The game feels like it could have really benefited from a Metal Gear Online-style of building the look of your guy from the ground up (gear-wise), but instead it’s more like Counter-Strike: you just pick a model from a list of five or so.
From what I’ve seen, I can’t call SOCOM 4 bad. It’s a good game that provides a very specific type of experience. In fact, I’m pretty sure that fans of the series will love it. However, it’s slow and often frustrating and has a weird learning curve so I’m not certain that it will have an easy time attracting and holding onto new players. In the end, it made me wish I was playing Uncharted 2 multiplayer instead.