Good news for SOCOM fans. Today, Sony and Zipper Interactive announced that they're working on the next installment in the franchise, SOCOM III: U.S. Navy SEALs for the PlayStation 2, which will go on sale sometime in autumn 2005.
This new game will boast more weapons, larger levels, improved CPU intelligence, and — a first for the franchise — vehicular combat. Of course, online play using the Network Adapter device will also be supported, although Sony hasn't revealed how many simultaneous players the game will support or what features will be available in online matches.
The main locales for SOCOM III are said to be Morocco, Poland, and Bangladesh. Zipper is using an all-new streaming technology, which has enabled the company to devise maps that are six times larger than those seen in the previous SOCOM game. Due to the size of these new levels, multiple missions paths will be included that will let the player choose a different set of objectives each time a level is played.
CPU behavior is being improved on both sides–so that friendlies do a better job of assisting and hostiles actually work together to out-flank the Navy attack squad. Representatives from Zipper made it clear that players will no longer have to worry about one of their team-mates just taking a walk to nowhere in particular at random times.
Gun-heds will be pleased to learn that SOCOM III will include 31 different weapons and 20+ different add-on accessories. Weapons and accessories can be combined and customized to come up with hundreds of unique armament combinations.
Swimming is being put into the game as an optional ability–which isn't really a surprise. The surprise is that it took them three games to implement one of the SEALs most common infiltration tactics.
Perhaps the most significant upgrade to SOCOM III is the addition of vehicles. The game will include a dozen different vehicles, including tanks, assault boats, personnel carriers, jeeps, and helicopters. Some vehicles will only provide room for a driver and a gunner, making them useful for quick ambush missions. Other vehicles will let you carry the whole squad to a destination. On a tank, for example, you'll be able to tell your team to ride along on the armored skirt, which will enable them to take pot-shots at the enemy while you handle the driving and main cannon duties.
A brief video demonstration of the game was shown at the press conference today. It showed two squads fighting it out inside a bombed-out city for control of a central square. From the looks of things, the graphics are sharper this time around and they've tweaked the graphics engine to allow more people, bullets, and shrapnel to be displayed without much in the way of slow-down or jitters. We were impressed to see that the SEALs and terrorists can now duck behind objects and aim around corners. The demonstration also showed how three different vehicles–a tank, an armored strike vehicle, and an attack shopper–can be put to use. The framerate didn't seem to drop significantly when vehicles were in motion, but the graphics did slow to a crawl every time a large explosion went off. Considering how early the game is right now, those hiccups will likely be ironed out long before the game's eventual release.
We'll have more on SOCOM III in the weeks ahead. Until then, feel free to take a peek at some images from today's demonstration .