SOCOM 4 Special Forces is a big departure for the flagship PlayStation series, forgoing its US Navy SEALs heritage to concentrate on the plight of a small band of elite international special forces operatives caught deep behind enemy lines.
SOCOM has always been about the multiplayer experience and Special Forces is no exception, but with a new emphasis on a cinematic storyline and the single-player game, five player co-op support, and 3D, PS Move and Sharp Shooter integration, it really does mark a major evolution for the series.
We recently tied lead designer Travis Steiner to a chair and shone a bright light into his eyes to discover the truth behind SOCOM's transformation. Here's what we discovered.
Previously you've called this the 'first proper SOCOM on PS3' what are the main advances that Special Forces brings to the series?
Well this is the first full SOCOM title on the PlayStation 3 which means it not only has competitive multiplayer, but it has online co-op and single-player too. And in particular there's a number of big advances we've been able to make with those other modes that were never possible on the PlayStation 2. Primarily in the area of overall graphical fidelity, we have great in-engine cinematics, we focus a lot more on story in this title and I think that really shows off nicely with the hardware on the PS3.
Very advanced AI. All the AIs in our game exhibit squad based behaviour, so they work like real military groups so we have a lot of advanced AI technology in the title that we're utilising that's obviously big.
Then of course there's motion control, having the ability to support the PlayStation Move with the Sharp Shooter gun peripheral and 3D is great because it truly is the most immersive SOCOM title we've ever made. I would even go so far as to say it's the most immersive military game you can play, period, because having those additional control mechanics and having immersive 3D really makes the game feel realistic.
How have traditional SOCOM fans reacted to Special Forces? Have they been very vocal in what they want from the game?
You know our SOCOM fans are awesome, they're very dedicated to the game and I think it's natural for any person who's been playing a game series for a long time, particularly people still playing SOCOM one and two online to be vocal about what they want.
To be honest I think they heard the words 'major evolution' and maybe they were a little nervous at first. But I think that's natural and what we've really seen through the numbers in the beta and people actually playing or when we've gone to events, when SOCOM fans have tried it first hand they definitely love it and they definitely feel like they're playing a real SOCOM.
I think it's one of those things, that as people play it, they'll realise 'hey they have changed a lot things and added some new ones', but it's still, at its core a SOCOM title.
Have you made a conscious attempt to attract new people to the series too?
Yeah absolutely. I think there's a lot of players out there who really wanted to see more story in SOCOM, so that's definitely something we've focussed on. The motion controls I think naturally appeal to a wider audience. There's a lot of players out there who've picked up SOCOM with the motion controls who normally wouldn't play a shooter and just really love it.
So I think naturally there's going to be a flow of people looking to play a more hardcore game, with more motion-control style gameplay, I think that'll certainly appeal to a wider group and co-op, also I think appeals to a wide group. I think it's a great way to essentially train yourself for that really competitive online gameplay. I think co-op is a very interesting way for players and friends to group up with one another and again take on these really advanced tactical enemy AIs. Those are probably the three big reasons that a lot of new players have been excited about SOCOM Special Forces.