SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike Preview

As someone who claims a less than expert level of proficiency with the popular SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs series, I picked up Slant Six's upcoming Tactical Strike entry on PSP at a recent Sony event with a great deal of trepidation. The idea of putting my skills to the test on a portable iteration was, I thought, sure to be an awkward experience. Imagine my surprise when I quickly learned that Tactical Strike is a marked departure from its predecessors, and one quite well suited to the hardware.

Tactical Strike, as its name suggests, plays out purely on the tactical level. You do not have direct real-time control over your squad of who I assume are U.S. Navy SEALs, though the game does progress in real-time. Rather, you control your uniquely-armed soldiers indirectly via commands and waypoints--either as a squad, in pairs, or individually.

This works quite well, as it completely sidesteps the control roadblocks that tend to accompany attempts to translate complex home console games over to portable systems. Squad members can be instructed to move quickly or stealthily, attack with firearms or grenades, breach a doorway, or perform other appropriately tactical actions, but they will also automatically do certain things--such as return fire--contextually.

Tactical Strike's lack of run-and-gun potential gives the game a satisfying and manageable strategic feel--it's satisfying to stealthily send your squad from corner to corner, quickly and quietly dispatching insurgents (or terrorists, or whatever they are) while keeping enemy forces at large unaware of your presence.

Occasionally, with the relatively restricted view, it can be difficult to know exactly where the next objective is located and, probably inevitably, fiddly camera issues pop up from time to time. Neither issue became at all debilitating during my hands-on time with the game, but they do represent issues not uncommon to this kind of ambitious full 3D game on handhelds.

On that note, Tactical Strike is indeed ambitious, and it really does work very well. Its real-time 3D graphics are attractive and technically impressive, and mission load times are better than one might expect, which is a welcome relief.

Tactical Strike should have enough of the character and flavor of the SOCOM franchise to appeal to existing fans, but its gameplay is unique and appropriate enough to the hardware that it looks to be accessible to outsiders like me as well. Kudos to the team.