Unfortunately, it's not as if the modes are anything out of the ordinary to compensate. You simply get the usual spread of deathmatch and objective-led missions, all of which can be mixed and matched with the various maps on your own saved playlists. Most of the maps come with two sizes - a cut-down version for 4-on-4 or 8-on-8 play, and a larger version for the full 32-player 16-on-16 extravaganza. Things have been scaled down from the sprawling maps that sometimes made the later SOCOM entries on the PS2 more of a hiking simulator than a shooter, but there's still not a lot of flexibility for those wanting to create more intimate matches for small groups.
The in-game action is far from awful, but it's nothing particularly special either. The detail of the maps is rather let down by the slightly boxy character models and the rudimentary animations don't do much to sell the immersion. Invisible walls crop up in unlikely places, and your elite military specialist can be stymied by something as simple as an ankle-high barrier. Even when you allow for the fact that the game is far from a run-and-gun shooter, simple movements such as jumping feel stiff and awkward. Technical rough edges aren't confined to the gameplay either. Loading and initialising the matches is slow, while clan and tournament options are still being rolled out.
Weapon equipment selection is carried out via a clumsy selection wheel, called up with the circle button. There's a quick-swap option mapped to L1, which automatically switches to the last item selected, but for moments when you need to do more than just hop from primary weapon to grenades and back again, it's a needless fumble in a game where any delay can mean death. Given that most matches follow a strict "no respawn" policy, it's incredibly annoying to be sniped by a spawn-camper (there seem to be plenty of them about) while still trying to find your feet, and then have to wait ten minutes to rejoin the action.
Despite a five-month wait, and a 153MB patch to download, SOCOM Confrontation still feels like a half a game, released half-finished. It's unclear if the change from original developer Zipper Interactive to a new team at Slant Six (creator of the most recent and equally limp PSP entry in the series) is at fault. Certainly, asking the Canadian developer to carry the SOCOM torch into the PS3 era hasn't paid off. Even with the more egregious bugs fixed, this sparse offering does little to justify its existence. Just seven maps, only four of which are new? Absolutely no offline options, not even a practice mode against AI bots? The same old capture-or-destroy objectives we've hammered through in dozens of games over the last few years?
If this were simply the online portion of a complete shooter package it would be disappointing. As a standalone multiplayer product, and a next-gen evolution of a pioneering multiplayer series, it's unforgivably light. Where is the map-editing option to rival Halo 3's Forge? Or something to rival the perks and rewards of Call of Duty's ranking system? These are games drawn from the supposedly dumber end of the shooter market, yet they still effortlessly outclass SOCOM's PS3 debut in both fresh ideas and intuitive implementation. In 2009, ticking the basic multiplayer boxes just isn't good enough any more.
Remove brand loyalty from the equation and between the existing online pleasures of Warhawk, Killzone 2, Metal Gear Online, GRAW2 and Rainbow Six, with the promise of even more realistic and tactical games such as Operation Flashpoint and ArmA 2 in the near future, it's hard to imagine why any PS3 armchair soldier would want to invest too much time in a game this small, ordinary and generic. When a bundled Bluetooth headset is the most compelling reason to pick up a new SOCOM game, you know something has gone horribly wrong.
5 / 10