Its inevitability probably had more to do with rumours of its existence than any actual solid evidence, but, perhaps spurred into action by media speculation [punches air], Sony has now officially confirmed that Zipper Interactive is working on another PlayStation 2 SOCOM game, due out this autumn. Which obviously confirms speculation relating to this, the third game in Sony's third-person squad-based online shooter. And you know, isn't it a touch ironic that we can now predict when elite, super Special Forces who Do Not Exist are about to turn up? We can smell clampers too, you know, and quite frankly Echelon has nothing on us. [Actually, I bet it has a heck of a lot on you. -Ed] You know, since we mentioned it, we've always wanted to try this...
OI, ECHELON! BOMBS! TERRORISM! HEY! LOOK OVER HERE!
And if news of SOCOM 3's existence didn't surprise, you'll probably be equally unsurprised by the feature list - Moroccan, Polish and Bangladeshi theatres of operation (gosh those brave yanks do get around a bit), improved artificial intelligence, and a more customisable system of weapon attachments for specifying your pre-round loadout. And here be some screenshots.
Nah we're not that cynical. Just hungover. It actually sounds like a neat range of improvements. Although we've yet to hear anything about the online aspect - which is an absolute given considering SOCOM's standing as "the PS2 Online game people actually play" - it's quite encouraging to see more of a focus on the single-player game anyway, which has been a bit lacking in the past.
The improvements here start most notably and most deservedly with the technology, which now employs some manner of streaming to allow for single-player levels five or six times the size of previous offerings. Obviously the easiest comparison, for those of you quietly pretending to know what "streaming" refers to, is the way that Jak & Daxter allowed you to roam free without loading pauses and literally and imperceptibly streamed in the bits of the level you were running towards while you played. Actually, Dakar 2 did that too. Dunno why we're mentioning that though.
Zipper can accommodate chunkier level-meat, it seems, thanks to the addition of mid-level checkpoints, and the increased size also means you can now find multiple routes to victory. You can expect to do some swimming, too, when you're not busy driving around in Humvees, tanks, assault boats and other vehicular toys.
The "improved AI" claims are difficult to judge, obviously, but if your team-mates and enemies really are cleverer then that's good; we hate it when our super Special Force buddies block up doors. One thing that it's easy to be enthusiastic about, at least, is the addition of a context-sensitive button for commanding allies to move to a certain area, flash and clear and the like.
That's it for now though. We'll let you know more when we hear it, and we'd be very surprised if it's not playable at E3 in May, so we'll be sure to take a look - assuming we can prise ourselves away from the orgy of neophiles humping translucent next-generation mock-ups whilst ogling bikini-clad temps for long enough.