Review by sfcalimari
"Another good game for the ps2's twilight years"
First of all, this is the first Socom game that I have really played at all, so I can't really compare it to previous Socom games. I can really only consider Combined Assault on its own merits.
GENERAL GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLS
The general nature of the gameplay in SCA is quite good. You generally use a third-person perspective, but you can switch to a first-person view and, with scoped weapons, to a view down your scope. Overall the controls are pretty good, but they could have used a lot of improvement. Several buttons are mapped awkwardly, such as weapon selection. The fire selection and ammo reload buttons are mapped to the unreliable L3 and R3 buttons, and I can't tell you how annoying it can be to be running around in a fierce firefight and suddenly, just as I get ambushed, my guy switches to single-bullet rather than full-auto, or reloads when what I need is to unleash a hail of bullets. Other than this awkward button mapping though, the controls generally feel very tight and responsive.
The different weapons you have access are very varied and are generally very fun to use. You can also use several vehicles in offline and online gaming, which is a nice feature, though the vehicles can be rather cheaply used online.
Even if you don't have access to online play, it is still quite fun to play SCA offline. There is a campaign with 18 missions, and you can also do dozens of short "Instant Action" missions where you have to perform an objective like extract a prisoner or destroy some weapons boxes. The campaign missions are all pretty big and are generally quite fun to play, although I think they could have been a bit bigger, longer and more challenging. On the other hand, this game has very short load times for all the maps, which is nice.
The worst thing about the offline gameplay is the AI of your three teammates. Any time you play any mission offline you are forced to bring these three guys, who seem to have the combined IQ of a rock. You have several commands you can give these guys, but usually they will do nothing, or complain that your command is impossible, even though you simply commanded them to toss a smoke grenade three feet ahead of them. And even if you command them to fire at will, they generally will not fire at or react to enemies that are nearby, which gets pretty annoying. Also they will often get stuck on objects like stairs or doorways. The poor AI of your team might come as a shock when you start playing this game, but I will say that after a while you get used to what they can and can't do, and you can pretty much ignore their presence.
The online gameplay is definitely very fun, and you can pretty much always get a good game going. New to Socom CA is the co-op gaming, where you can play campaign or Instant Action games with 2 to 4 players. The co-op is generally pretty fun, especially because you can finally forget about the bad AI in single-player.
You can also play "classic" team deathmatches, which is much more popular than the co-op. Basically the teams are split between the SEALs, and their foes, the "Mercenaries." The only real complaint I have about the online is that the weapon sets for the SEALs and the Mercenaries are quite unevenly balanced. For instance the Mercenaries have some very powerful pistols, but weak anti-tank weaponry, while the SEALs have very weak pistols but very powerful anti-tank weaponry. So a pistols-only battle is probably going to result in a Mercenaries win, and a tank battle is probably going to result in a SEAL win.
Other than that, the only problems with the online are due to the game's runaway popularity. Lots of cheaters and cheap tacticians can be found on Socom CA, as on any popular online game. Fortunately the friends tracking system is pretty user-friendly and lets you meet up with people you know.
Overall, despite the nagging problems I have listed, Socom Combined Assault is a very solid game and very much worth buying. If you like any kind of action game, or if you are a fan of online gaming (or a fan of SOCOM) you will probably enjoy the game a lot. There is plenty to keep you busy playing either offline or online, and unlike some PS2 games you can always find games to play online.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/25/07
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