Don't let the last SOCOM game scare you. Although it wasn't bad it didn't really fit the bill of a true sequel, but SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALS more than makes up for that little fiasco.

Just about everything has been tweaked to bring you a better overall game. The menus are easier to access. There is more flexibility with the weapons thanks to peripherals that allow for hundreds of combinations. The AI has been given a stern talking to and they've smartened up considerably. The maps are huge and you can travel around using jeeps, tanks, trucks, hummers and boats. Last but not least is the excellent online experience complete with new modes. There's nothing not to like about this game and I don't say that lightly. It's definitely a contender for Game of the Year - at least the online portion.

The single-player campaign is no slouch either. The storyline is still not interactive in that you are forced to watch cutscenes and receive mission briefings but it's done so well that you want to see more. The missions are really nothing new but the way they are presented, with great animation, pacing and voiceacting, you become totally immersed in your role. It seems that you never do the same thing twice.

One of the best upgrades to the single-player campaign is the implementation of a checkpoint system. No more unnecessary frustration. There are about four checkpoints per mission, well spaced and well paced. It's not so much a favor as a necessity since the maps are streaming and are five to six times the size of the last game. You will go through urban and rural areas with highly detailed routes. The gameplay varies to include different degrees of stealth and full-blown battles in just one mission.

Vehicles can be put to good use since you can not only use them to get to different points on the map but you can fire from them using your own weapons or the installed turrets. On land or on sea you can give the bastards hell while on the move. They handle well and are relatively easy to drive. The tank is cumbersome but extremely powerful. It will take a small army of enemies to destroy it. If you can't aim the cannon fast enough you can just run them over. The hummer is my favorite as it acts like a cross between a jeep and a tank. It's maneuverable and heavily armored.

Online games can accommodate up to 32 players. The size of the maps vary depending on the server and the number of players. You don't want too huge of a map if you've only got five players per team as things could drag on for days. As it is you will be warned when you are going out of bounds so that players can be more confined which will result in more intense action.

Convoy and Control are two of the new modes. In Convoy a group of terrorists attempt to drive a small convoy to a pick up location close to the SEAL's outpost. Their goal is to rendezvous with their drop off, load up their illegal contraband and get the hell out of the territory without alerting the SEALs - or protecting the truck by any means possible if it comes under attack. Control is a race that pits two teams against each other to see which one can plant all of its markers on the map. Points are chosen and cannot be changed until the game is over.

Yes, there is a downside. You will experience some slowdown and lag online. But there's not much at all - a great feat when you consider there are almost three dozen characters onscreen with weapons, vehicles and a huge map.

Not all of the game is a looker. The developers decided to make the un-pretty regions even more un-pretty such as the wastelands, and put more eye candy where it belongs such as in the city streets. The characters and vehicles display great detail and animation. Particle effects such as sand, dust, smoke and fog look and respond naturally. The sound effects are convincing with plenty of punchy mids and rumbling bass. It sounds like you're in a war zone and not an arcade.

The best compliment I can give a game is to return to play it after I finish reviewing it. I can guarantee I will be online with SOCOM 3 for at least the next few weeks. In case you can't read between the lines I really like this game. I don't need my Magic 8 Ball to tell me that you probably will too. See ya online! I'll be the one killing you over and over and over....

System: PS2
Dev: Zipper Int.
Pub: Sony
Release: Oct 2005
Players: 1 - 32 Online
Review by StewXX