Fireteam Bravo 3
Developer: Slant Six Games
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players: WiFi 2-4 player ad hoc co-op mode, 2-16 multiplayer
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Iíve probably played more tactical military shooter games than anything else, and have yet to find a franchise more inconsistent or more frustrating than SOCOM. This series could have been a must-play classic but seems to have gone downhill since its first outing. After a disappointing last outing on PS3 with the multiplayer-only Confrontation can the latest instalment work on the PS3ís little brother?

Well, if looks are anything to go by, then from the start, the answer is a resounding Ďyesíóbut more on that later. Fireteam Bravo 3ís solo (or 4-man co-op) campaign has you playing as Wraith, commander of the usual four-man Navy SEAL team hunting for an ex-KGB informant. A typically hectic and overdramatic story sees you battling both armies and PMCs (private military contractors). I didnít really have a clue what was going on or why but thatís a common feeling for me in real life tooómaybe I should pay more attention when people are yelling at meÖ

As ever SOCOM is played from a third person perspective (it was probably the first franchise to popularise the TPS viewpoint) and it moves and aims smoothly and accurately. The control method takes some getting used to as it uses the left-hand-only FPS-type control so that the analog stick moves your character forward and backwards, and it turns him left and right and the face buttons control your camera movement (unlike say, Resistance). By pressing Ďupí on the D-pad the camera zooms in to an over-the shoulder view and with a further press (depending on the weapon selected) allows for sniping and precision shots with non-sniper weapons. The character is now locked in place and the nub stick is used to aim. Strafing is accomplished by holding the left shoulder button (at which point Ďturní becomes sideways movement) and you pop in and out of this viewpoint at any time. The right shoulder auto-locks the sights onto the nearest target. It might sound a little confused the way I described it but trust me, after trying a few other PSP shooters this control method comes out on topóit really is quite clever and feels intuitive after only a few minutes play.

Along with a story the squad commands are back for this SOCOM outing, and they allow you to split the 4-man squad up into two teams (Alpha & Bravo) letting you simultaneously breach different entry points or attack multiple enemies. Whilst the AI and control scheme isnít without its problems, it certainly adds a great deal to the game, and is the main reason whyófor me at leastóthe likes of SOCOM, Brothers in Arms and Rainbow Six will always have the edge in realism over the Call of Duties, Bad Companies and Medals of Honor out there.

You can get your hands on SOCOM: U.S Navy SEALs - Fireteam Bravo 3 via either UMD or download. Itís around 1.2GB when installed, and we were fortunate enough to have both UMD and D/L versions to compare and play the co-op mode. Even with the game installed on the memory stick, load times are painfully slow, and differences in loading times were negligible. So hereís yet another PSP game that lets itself down leaving you feeling like you spend more time looking at a loading screen than actually playing the gameÖ

The game looks really good for a PSP game, with sharp and detailed locations and plenty going on in the background. Character models are extremely well drawn and just about of a comparable quality to that of an early PS2 game. The cut-scenes pull the story along and are some of the visual highlights, but thatís not to take anything away from the in-game visuals. The sound is also of a very high quality with decent voice talent and some resonant weapon and explosion effects. You expect the orchestral background music on a PS3 game (or even PS2) but to hear it done so well on the PSP is a delight to the ear holes.

In the multiplayer game the deliberate and tactical tempo of the single player campaign turns into a slightly less tactical death match. The game wasnít well supported at the time of this review (games for up to 16 players were never full) but when I did find a game the first thing that strikes you is the inability of some players to run and gun. Most kills seem to come about by players happening upon each other, then shooting, face to face, until one is dead. Catching someone unawares seemed almost impossible, like I was wearing tap shoes and they heard me coming. Successful sniping is a rare occurrence because of either lag or collision detection issues. The Sharpshooter arena pits One Vs One and harks back to ancient PC games of yore Ė I have no idea why anyone would want to play that mode, and I wonít be returning to it despite winning my only game. The samey, hackneyed selection of maps and clunky online menus didnít make me think Iíd ever be getting addicted to the multiplayer game. The online ad hoc co-op campaign is a different thing altogether though, and has become an unique and entirely new experience to my PSP. Itís hard to find a game unless you have friends who play, but itís well worth it as the voice chat makes proper co-op play possible. The co-op campaign is without doubt the main reason to try Fireteam Bravo 3, a game that is otherwise bordering on be tired and unoriginal.

As a single-player experience the campaign is short, even by todayís standards, but it is fun and varied. The problem is that if youíve played a SOCOM game previously, youíll feel like youíve done it all before, and if youíve played a SOCOM game on the PS2 youíve probably done it with finer controls and (slightly) better graphics.

SOCOM (particularly as a PS3 franchise) needs a shot in the arm or a bullet to the head. This isnít really either, but you could do a lot worse if youíre looking for an atmospheric solo campaign to while away a few hours on your PSP. Get a mate to buy a copy too and the gameís co-op mode might give it some long term appeal as well.

Best Bits

- Good looking
- Excellent sounds
- Well thought-out control method
- Co-op mode with voice comms
Worst Bits

- Tired gameplay
- Unimaginative MP maps

by: Sloppy Sneak

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