Tactical-rich campaign mode, robust multiplayer third person shooter…in a portable? ‘SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3’ and Slant-6 attempt both on the Playstation Portable (PSP), all within one itty-bitty UMD. The verdict? After the jump.
Somewhere in between the brew-ha that is the SOCOM vs. ‘MAG’ development saga, Slant-6 snuck a little Navy SEAL gift onto our PSP’s. As someone both unfamiliar with the SOCOM series – thus indifferent to the developer switch drama for its big console brethren – I approached SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 (‘Fireteam Bravo 3’) expecting both little and much, simultaneously.
Thankfully, however – as with most PSP gamers – I’ve kicked the tires a bit on other offerings of this genre for Sony’s Portable. The solid – if not spectacular – ‘Medal of Honor,’ spy drama extraordinaire of ‘Syphon Filter,’ (review) virus-induced shooting spree of ‘Resistance Retribution.’ (review) Needless to say, anyone considering Fireteam Bravo 3 likely has been around the rat-a-tat block for a bit.
Better in some ways, worse than others in its genre, Fireteam Bravo 3 is certainly an ambitious title. It’s brief – albeit well thought out – campaign mode puts you in the role of a Vin Diesel clone named ‘Wraith,’ tasked with guiding his team of three co-SEALs to the bottom of a military coup gone horribly awry. Graphics, voice-overs, well done for the PSP.
While a third-person shooter in execution, the crux of campaign mode is its tactical element. Success will literally hinge on Wraith’s ability to dictate tactical orders to his squad mates, to include stealth, destination assignment, open doors and clear rooms, fire at will, etc. Teams can be further separated into dual two-man (Alpha and Bravo) squads, where one can provide cover fire for the other advancing unit.
Teammate A. I. is surprisingly good, so good that they often leave little for Wraith to do once they’ve decimated wave-after-wave of enemy baddies. With such ass- kicking prowess, there’s little incentive for Wraith to personally lead battle charges (versus directing squad mates) since he can revive them…but not the other way around. Flanking a position – with your teammates in the lead – is clearly the most effective survival tactic in Fireteam Bravo 3. ‘Call of Duty’ approaches will leave Wraith bullet ridden, banished back to the last (thankfully well placed) checkpoint.
Leaving the comforts of teammate-driven success, however, will yield considerable upgrade rewards. Fireteam Bravo 3 features ‘Command Equity’ points, accomplishment currency transferrable to gear and/or multiplayer skin upgrades. These upgrades are significant, as is the cache of available weapons at Wraith’s disposal.
While short, one cannot accuse Fireteam Bravo 3’s campaign mode of being lean. Levels are enormous, well laid out, with excellent use of cover. Uncovering hidden enemy intelligence is worth its weight in Command Equity gold, making exploration a must for Wraith and Co. Muzzles, scopes, grips, claymores, smoke bombs: awesome.
Moreover and to give Fireteam Bravo 3 much-deserved credit, it’s arguably the first multiplayer mode in three years of owning a PSP worth playing. While hard to connect – and stay connected – at times, team deathmatch (with ‘elimination’ a personal favorite) and cooperative modes execute smoothly. Multiplayer is headset/microphone compatible for the vocally inspired, likewise feature the same badge/ranking/medals system the norm for the genre.
Unfortunately, Fireteam Bravo 3 is not without its hiccups, most notably in a non-intuitive, stodgy control scheme that never quite plays as nicely as it should. The decision to map strafing to the left shoulder button, precision to d-pad touches followed by analog (versus the other way round) never cease to be frustrating. Combined with a semi-convoluted approach to giving tactical commands (in campaign mode) via circle button…then d-pad…then out again, Fireteam Bravo 3 can occasionally erode into feeble, staccato button attempts to get Wraith and buddies to play nicely. It literally took almost two hours of gameplay time to feel comfortable in the game’s control scheme. Referencing ‘Resistance’ above, there’s a lot to learn from this earlier offering’s stellar controls.
Perhaps due to its difficult controls, multiplayer Fireteam Bravo 3 devolves into a simple cat-and-mouse game of triangulating enemies, then unloading on ‘em with semi-automatic weapons. Yes, one can crawl and tactically fire, but turning around while doing so is akin to giving birth to twins.
Further confounding is why teams re-spawn in the same place within maps. When playing 11-round elimination matches, this reality equates to running Matchbox cars into each other…from the same points of origination…over and over again.
As an entire package – and noting limitations of a portable - Fireteam Bravo 3, stumbles included, is a fairly good product that does a whole lot of things nicely if not perfectly. Slant-6 did many things right in Fireteam Bravo 3, with this reviewer eager to purchase and play its next iteration as a result.
SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 for the PSP is a strong attempt at bringing tactical, multiplayer third person shooting on the road. Poor controls hamper the experience, but its robust package compensate nicely.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:7.7, Sound:7.3, Innovation:8.2, Mojo:8.4 Final: 7.7 / 10
Reviewed by Paul Stuart | 03.08.10