Amy Winehouse is an interesting one. She looks odd, behaves even odder, and by all accounts likes cutting words into herself during interviews. Yet many, me included, probably still 'would'. It's a terrible confession, of course, and one I wouldn't repeat to my parents, nor the majority of my friends. But it also illustrates our great species' diversity of opinion.
As does, conveniently, SOCOM on the PSP.
SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 was originally released in America late last year, whereupon the PSP game-buying public immediately went mad for it. Maybe it's because they like war a lot more than we do. But I suspect it's because they love games that are technically stretched and frustratingly implemented, because that can be the only reason for its success.
Paragraph of facts: You play a US Navy SEAL (Elite, obviously) who's charged with liberating a fictional Middle Eastern country of Adjikistan (which is, I think, where Borat is from). The single-player mode is 14 missions long, and it ticks all the different environment boxes – hot, cold, indoor, outdoor, and so on – which is, I think, a requirement of everything these days. The multiplayer mode supports 16 players across a number of different mission types, and these are naturally better than the playing solo, where enemies will often happily stand still waiting to be shot or, more worryingly, actually sprint into your bullets. Clearly a nation of suicide runners.
Paragraph of facts out.
It looks pretty. Environments are varied, character models detailed, and the special effects such as smoke and explosions are hardware-pushingly pleasing. The map designs are linear but varied, and the range of mission types, are on paper, extremely varied.
But, but, but... it's really not very enjoyable.
For a start, it's clunky. It takes forever to get into the action, thanks to a reliance on bogging itself down with heavy going mission briefings and countless deployment options (who doesn't go for default these days?). In-game, the controls are a mess of sub-menus and multiple key presses.
You can't aim up or down whilst moving, which is immensely limiting. In first-person view it feels like you're controlling a character in a neck brace, or someone who's soiled their trousers. So you have to wait to get shot from above before hitting the convenient lock-on button, which in my book is cheating, both from a game design and player perspective.
When using precision weapons such as sniper rifles, aiming can be particularly problematic. Even the slowest movements can jump too far one way or another, often resulting in alternative near misses either side of an enemy's head, much like a knife-thrower performing for a crowd. It's a similar scenario when you interact with objects, with you veering left then right until the icon remains highlighted. It's like trying to grab a door knob on the wrong side of a half dozen pints.
Perhaps most annoyingly, it's impossible to save your progress during the game. Given these missions can take over 30 minutes, if you're desperate to complete every primary and secondary objective, this proves intensely frustrating. There's nothing worse than dying close to the end of a level, only to be sent right back to the start. And woe betide anyone whose battery dies. Because they'll be dead, too. Like I was. Grrr.
The point of a PlayStation Portable is that it is 'portable'. It should be offering games that can be happily played on the move. If you need to ensure you've got a power socket nearby, it kind of defeats the object. Because if you've got electricity, you could probably sit at home playing SOCOM on the PlayStation 2, on which I would presume it's more ideally suited. (Talking of which, you can, apparently, swap bits between the two games, but I've not got SOCOM on PS2 so couldn't verify this.)
In multiplayer, the game is expanded, with seven mission types spread across specifically designed maps. Missions are varied – breaking down into Demolition, Extraction, Free For All, Intel Grab, Suppression, Target, and Tug-of-War – adding much to the single-player campaign, particularly the ability to play against (mainly) intelligent opponents. The microphone add-on is supported, too, so you can either discuss commands vocally with team-mates or simply call them 'fags' a lot, depending on your age and nationality.
But nonetheless, in single- or multiplayer, you need to be a particular type of player will get much from SOCOM – specifically, you need to have the patience of a saint, the digital dexterity of a person with 20 double-jointed fingers, and the memory of someone who never forgets what a load of buttons do.
Which brings us, worryingly, to the scores. Unlike the rest of the internet, I just didn't like it. It didn't click. But, then, I'd sleep with Amy Winehouse. So double some of the scores if you wouldn't.