Tara's G-Spot - SOCOM 4: Tara the Tactical Noob by Tara Babcock - www.impulsegamer.com

SOCOM 4: TARA THE TACTICAL NOOB
BY TARA BABCOCK

"Here!" my assistant, J, says as he hands me the controller. "You'll do great!"

I sigh and grab the controller. There are very few game genres I have not played to death throughout my life, and realistic tactical shooters happen to be one of them. Oh, they're all the same, I think, Let's do this!

I check through the loading screen; M4a1, PKP, and concussive and frag granades... that sounds good, I decide as the countdown ends and the game commences. My character, a rugged, and apparently military, man adorning a green ski mask spawns on the screen and drops about a foot onto the starting point. "Suppression! Eliminate the Hostiles!" exclaims an Australian accented man.


Yeah, that's my guy! The one who's getting his ass handed to him by a petite Asian babe... I knew this fail wasn't my fault! /facepalm, anyone?

Alright, I think, this looks easy, just point at the red diamonds, avoid friendly firing the blue ones, got it! I start running in the same direction as everyone else, feeling pretty confident-BAM! The sudden annihilation of my character startles me enough to jump off of the couch, "What the hell was that!?"

"Hah! You got headshotted!" My assistant cackles in true "that's what he said" fashion. Practice makes perfect, I suppose, and practice -a lot of it- was what I did!

Playing SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs wasn't something I thought I would be doing when I heard of its release. I was under the impression that all of the "worth-playing" shooters were solely in first-person view and, unless I have a three-monitor peripheral system and take some motion sickness pills beforehand, that's not usually my cup of tea. I was getting a lot of referrals from different friends and fans about TPS-style games that I should try as an alternative, and SOCOM, with its release having been pretty recent, was my first choice. After hours of practice in various modes, map sizes, teams, and gear, I was starting to feel confident, as well as simultaneously falling in love!


C
APTION: Me: Wha- what? Is that a player or a tree!? Shou- should I fire aimlessly or turn down camera sensitivity so I can imitate a semblance of precision!? Random level 60 player: She's a noob, let's shoot her in the face!

MULTIPLAYER AND CO-OP MODES

SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs has a rich online gameplay platform and community. All of the classic modes that players grew to love in earlier releases from the franchise are replaced by new modes; the classic rules are still available, although it is harder to find a full game for a large map. Standard mode features a best-of-three rounds, thirty-minute time limit layout with respawns and regenerative health. I bask in the opportunity, especially when I first started attempting the game, to turtle in an unpopulated corner and restore health, or die for the umpteenth time and still be able to respawn and try again. This adds a nice little welcome mat to players who are new to the game and may not be as skilled at staying alive initially. Walking on the battlefield, dying, and then enduring a lengthy wait while the better players fight to the death… That can get disheartening quick, trust me. Subsequently, there is a vote-to-kick feature for away, or just blatantly horrific, players.

There are four standard modes, four custom modes, and the ability to acquire the classic demolition mode through DLC. Co-op modes, such as Evac, are available in DLC as well, along with an excess of extra weapons, multiplayer skins, and various new, and nostalgic, maps. The mode I played the most was the standard multiplayer Suppression on large and small maps. Suppression was the straightforward, two-team, rack up as many kills as possible to win mode. It's safe to say I was never the game's MVP, but I did come dangerously close a few times! I also took advantage of Bomb Squad and Uplink frequently during my SOCOMical journeys. Uplink is a capture the flag-reminiscent game that surrounds the attacking team with the task of downloading important intel from enemy computers around the map. One of the most memorable parts of the game, for me, was downloading from a random, cute little iPad-esque electronic on an obscure crate in the middle of the battlefront. Who leaves their important military intelligence in a compromising static location? It's not a tank people, it's a portable data tablet! Bomb Squad is similar, but the objective, instead, is to disarm enemy bombs strategically placed in various locations.


Oh crap, Guys! I think I left our intel tablet at that little Bistro we dined at yesterday! Can someone go back and check, it should be near the Ketchup!

TARA'S SOCOM SURVIVAL TIPS

I've decided to go ahead and do something a little bit different than usual, in the spirit of learning, and throughout my quest to become a better SOCOM tactician, I have devised a few tips you can use to avoid dying, at least, as much as you would be had you not read this!

1. Play with the settings! If you play with the camera speed and pan speed, as well as how quickly and smoothly it moves while in scope-mode, then you're bound to find something more comfortable for your style of play than what default gifted you with. Even switching buttons around may help!

2. Learn the crouch, dive and cover buttons! The triangle dive button has been one of my best friends. You're running from cover to cover and someone's firing straight at me with perfect aim? Dive your hardest to safety immediately!

3. Running while shooting. Never staying still is key to getting that headshot in, without giving a nice, easy target to your opponent! Easier said than done, though, when you also factor in the aiming part.

4. It's better to be cautious, or to turtle a bit, than run out into open fire and get clipped! Remember, racking up deaths is not only completely counterproductive, but it doesn't make you better at the game to charge out, guns blazing, with no skill whatsoever.

5. Lastly, experiment with different guns and equipment! Some guns actually are better than others for your play style. Don't condemn yourself to a gun that is not suited for you and then end up moding it up to max level, making it harder to start anew!

THE STORY MODE

The unfortunate circumstance with current online gameplay-driven games, and shooters specifically, is that most people don't give a damn about the story of the game. I implore you to think twice before you jump into the vast expanse of the online gaming community for all of eternity without backstory and lore knowledge! If you enjoy a game, you should respect its background and work the developers put into story. The reason shooters typically have poorly done, short campaigns is the general lack of interest by the community! Let's make epic single-player story modes a reality again, people!

Exhibit A is the wonderfully smart assed, Eric Schweitzer. He's by far my favorite character in the single-player missions, as well as the best choice when playing on the Spec Ops team in multiplayer modes. He adds a touch of raw humor and an uncanny unlikable likability to the scene, but most importantly of all, he's super hot!


If only I had known about him when I wrote my "20 Most Badass Video Game Studs" article! Yum!

Yes, the single-player story mode is a bit short, as expected, and yes the story can be a bit cliché, but it is involving, with interesting happenings. It sports climaxes that will grab you in and make you finish it in entirety, if the voice of "Oracle" doesn't leave you wanting more already. The squad-based missions which allow you to control the main character, known by the moniker Ops Com mostly, contrast nicely with the solo stealth missions of the Korean 707 Lieutenant, Forty-Five. The range of difficulties make it easy for players of all levels to either breeze through, letting the support team take out the bad guys for you, or involve heavy strategy with a decent team control mechanic. Not only is the campaign worth a play-through for content, it'll also help you learn the multiplayer and co-op mode controls much better when first picking up the game. Just don't forget to take the blood oranges!

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SOCOM FRANCHISE

While I enjoyed getting used to a genre of game that was relatively new to me, I felt that there were a few empty spaces that left me wanting, and things that I felt were major flaws in the functions of each mode, as well as the multiplayer profiles and social aspects of the game. I know readers of my previous articles are not necessarily used to me berating the titles I choose to feature. This contrast is possibly credited to my coming into this genre with a fresh outlook, untainted by many years of adoring bias, but riddled with high expectation.

One thing I think is essential, and totally omitted from the interface, is an easy way to view player profiles complete with game history, rank, weapon modes, and other interesting facts. I feel that this should be as simple as selecting one of the people you are in a Suppression queue with, especially as there is virtually no way to view any comprehensive and detailed stats of others, making these items feel irrelevant. This accessibility would also dilute the boredom of waiting for the games to start, and would add to the addiction of extended play.

Another important overlooked factor is the addition of assists in the kills and deaths board that can be viewed during, and after, the game. Often times, especially when learning, I would end up with a wicked number of assists, but little actual kills to my name. With the simple implementation of this information, it would be easier to decipher whether someone is kick-worthy, or if they are just being beaten to the punch a few times too often.

I could envision smaller quick rectifications as well, such as team colors that are more easily visible (although I understand the realism offered in these similarities), points that are much more clear and do not confusingly add together mid-screen, and map pinging, or easily expressible locations on the map.

The biggest suggestion I have is customizable characters. I often spawn into a game with upwards of five to ten players wearing identical skin, making the game feel impersonal and drab. Gamers would have a stronger sense of accomplishment if they could receive attire or other appearance-altering benefits to leveling, racking up points, or being the game's MVP, if they had this kind of extrinsic motivation. In addition, they would feel a stronger bond to the character they play, and would be less bored and off-put by the lack of variety they see on the field. I would suggest having a couple distinct, yet small, variables, as well as a whole set of items available to distinguish Insurgents from Spec Ops. Currently, players just memorize when to fire based on the generic, and few, different looks, which defeats the initial "realistic" intentions of designers. In summation, I feel this would add more hours, overall, to the desired play of SOCOMers by making the game feel more personal and... "worth it".

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whether you love it, hate it, suck at it, or have never played it, SOCOM is a staple among the tactical video game franchises. It utilizes all modes of gameplay excellently, and is a leader in the vast sea that is the shooter genre. With its release date surrounded by the infamous lengthy PSN outage, it's evident that the popularity and selling power of this newest installment would have been otherwise massive. SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy Seals reminds me of how far gaming has come since the proprietors of the phenomenon, with its realistic visuals and incredible sound and voice repertoire. When you compare today's MMO games and movies, games prevail greatly in authenticity. Think about SOCOM for a second; every smash, boom, scream, hiss of smoke, is all made by a real action created by a real player. It's not a random background track formulated to sound natural! Although SOCOM is not completely unique in this regard, it is a summation of all of the real-time actions of each person participating in the game, rather than a developer-created atmosphere. Movies make a track to dub over the final product that they think will sound believable, but games like SOCOM allow us to come together as a community, invent the story, and collaborate to make truly epic history ourselves as we go!


With Schweitzer taking the lead, we can't go wrong... right?

MEANWHILE, IN TARA LAND...

I'm home from Glamourcon and LA, my last trip of the year, and my birthday is over, but the fun is just beginning for me! I'm taking a small hiatus from full-time modeling in order to... well, let's just say I'll have an epic surprise for you all very soon! I'll still be shooting several times a month and taking some work, but I'm going to try focus on keeping up with my site and getting in the best shape of my life! You guys don't know how hard it is to hit the gym and eat right when you're traveling monthly or weekly! This also means that I'll be overloading you all with Tara articles! Stay tuned for all the awesome that will be unveiled in the near future! Here are a couple pictures from the show. The real treat is the awesome Mario cosplay I did on the first day, though! Check out the gallery my editor put together for me, sweetly, here!


My Booth and I on day one of the convention. With my Mario outfit that I crafted from scratch!


Day two with some of the sexiest girls at the event! My job is just so hard!

Without further ado, this article's Ask Tara question is, “Hi Tara. I know you love Mortal Kombat, but what I want to know is, which is better: Tekken or Mortal Kombat?" I actually love this question! If you had asked me when I was super young, and spending at least five hours a day playing Nina and Ling Xiaou in Tekken 2 and 3, the answer would have been hands-down Tekken. As a franchise, though, now that I have played all of the Mortal Kombat games (well, most of them...) and actually taken in the depth of the story and characters… It's close! I would have to say, ultimately, that Mortal Kombat takes the prize! Keep them coming!  


Tara has spoken... Mortal Kombat Wins!

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