Evaluate, plan and execute is Tactical Strike's catchphrase. In the latest SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals PSP offering the Seals are taking things a little slower. Deployed into an international hot zone, tactics will determine the outcome of the mission and not quick thumbstick motions.
The standard Fireteam Bravo formula has been running smoothly on the PSP since 2005, so I was surprised to see Sony switch things up. Similar to THQ's Full Spectrum Warrior, Tactical Strike changes the pace by slowing down the gameplay into a thinking man's game. Until the PS3 version is released fans of the Seals might have been getting a little bored being tied over with the same old Navy Seal experience. If this is the case Tactical Strike offers a new challenge for the Seals to tackle while keeping the same core idea behind the game.
Developed exclusively for the PSP Tactical Strike feels like it should in the palm of your hand, rather than a ported down PS2 version. The single player campaign starts letting you choose your difficulty level and if you want to control the U.S. Navy Seals, or another Special Forces team from different nations. (Sorry Canucks, Canada is not an option) The alternative nationalities represented in Tactical Strike are Australia, UK, France, Germany, Spain, South Korea, Italy, and the Netherlands. Besides the difference in characters names and appearance, Tactical Strike plays the same no matter where you’re team hails from.
In a typical modern warfare storyline, Tactical Strike puts you in the midst of the instable insurgents in Panama deployed to rescue and extract the U.S. ambassador. As you would figure this is easier said than done and you will find yourself completing a number of other missions before you even close in on the ambassador. You will also have to be prepared to sit down for short lengths at a time and go through long sections until you hit a save. Saves aren’t too frequent and may frustrate some gamers who want to pop in and out for a few minutes. Tactical Strike could have benefited by adding more checkpoints or by letting the gamer save at any time. I know more than once I had to quit out a mission because I didn’t have the time to reach at save point.
Commanding your Special Forces team is easy done by using a variety of commands with the PSP’s face buttons. When you hold down these button command lists will pop up for you to use more advanced commands then the generic fire and move. Movement can be excited in several different ways depending on the situation. You have the option to move stealthily, steady and fast, move with cover, or deploying a fireteam of special members to a certain area. Moving your team properly is a no brainer, although if you’re not sure if you’re clear moving with cover can’t hurt. Attacking is done with commands to fire on a target, suppressive fire, and field of fire which guns down everything in your set field of view and fire at will. Again, these controls are straight forward and easy to master. There are also breach commands that fall in the same lines, stealth, flash, frag, and there are controls to collect items for fallen foes or enemy Intel, plus the ability to revive your team mates. If you’re in the defensive you can use defensive maneuvers by using the Triangle button. On the defense you can regroup your Fireteam back the squad, switch positions with members in the Fireteam.
By accomplishing missions you’ll be graded and awarded skill points. These skill points are to be spent on improving your squads statistics and abilities. Showcasing ares like stealth, health, weapon accuracy and more. Adding skill points makes your team feels more unique and personalized. Customization allows you to focus your teammate’s abilities to your individual playing style. With your team set up to take on the challenge with increased abilities, all you have to is hope the A.I. reacts on time.
Even with your squad mates abilities enhanced you will still see some questionable behavior from your mates. The A.I. of your teammates doesn't always fall into place. It is obvious some of these boys aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. During battle you might witness a mate wandering in strange paths during the middle of a crossfire of gunfire, or a team mate hiding for cover in the wrong stop exposed to the terrorist threats. Behaviorally challenged, your good little soldiers programmed to behave and follow commands, but not adapt to a changing situations. This causes problems like sneaking teammates staying in the slow stealth crawl as enemies engage them in a fire fight without going into the defensive measures. The artificial intel doesn't cripple the gaming experience, however its obvious it needs a little work.
Beyond the A.I., Slant Six games will need to fix their problematic third-person camera. The camera in Tactical Strike doesn’t always adapt well with the team on the screen. In almost every mission I had moments when I couldn’t properly see my team, or the enemies because the camera would pull in front of a blocking object. This is easy fixed by readjusting the team only by a few footsteps which is fine when your not under the stress of battle, but once your in the battleground adjusting your teams position by two steps becomes annoying. It seems Tactical Strike is another victim to the shifty third-person camera that inflects many games that uses this perspective.
Despite a few issues, Tactical Strike is a fun and easy to play game. Six Slant Games has done a great job slowing the Seals down to a methodical pace. Besides the main storyline that consists of nine missions, there are instant action missions that brings the count to over 25, which is plenty. Tactical Strike also supports multiplayer gaming for up to four people. I found online to be a little laggy, but overall enjoyable. Online you have the standard deathmatch and team-deathmatch options along with a demolition and collateral mode which puts one team on the offensive and the other in defense. The options can be adjusted in depth to tailor your online game how you want it with restrictions on weapons and other aspects. I should also mention that Tactical Strike supports online voice chat which is a huge bonus in a team based game.
For looks, SOCOM hasn’t always been the most colourful game so expect the same washed out colours and settings as before. This doesn’t mean Tactical Strike isn’t a good looking game, for what it does right, it does it good. The load times are respectable in missions and the animations are smooth and realistic. The design is full of small detailed, but architecturally is a little bland. All that really maters is that the crates have been placed in the most convent spots that you’ll ignore the dull view of Tactical Strike and get into the important part, the game. Aside from everything you’ve seen in other SOCOM games, the same high quality of sound rings through in Tactical Strike, radio chatter included. The weapons, voice-work, and soundtrack all work together giving Tactical Strike a larger than life soundscape.
It’s good to see Slant Six games take the SOCOM series away from the normal frag em’ and bag em’ PS2 Zipper treatment. Tactical Strike brings the fun of precise planning and the joy that comes when an executing a plan goes perfectly. Tactical Strike still has a few issues that need to be improved upon in the future, but that doesn't stop Tactical Strike from being enjoyable. Hopefully Sony gives the green light for Tactical Strike II, so Slant Six can throw these SEALS back in boot camp. If you’re a war game junkie, strategy gamer, or SOCOM fan, I think you’ll find a lot to grab a hold of in SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Tactical Strike.
Gameplay: 7.5, Graphics: 7,Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 8. Final: 7.5 / 10