SOCOM 4 was one of the first action games to confirm compatibility with Playstation Move, but the likes of Killzone 3 and Heavy Rain have managed to eclipse it from the headlines over the last couple of months. Many cynics have doubted whether Sony's new peripheral will really add much to the third person genre or action games in general... but after twenty minutes, my own negative preconceptions came under withering fire.
Much like a fair few Wii games out there, the Playstation Move controller provides 1:1 manipulation of an on-screen reticle that can rotate the point of view when moved to the edges of the screen. Players can zoom in to aim by holding down the central M0ve button and squeeze off shots with the trigger. The circle button allows players to snap into cover- and whilst this is currently a little too stolid and clunky for my liking, the overall principle works like a charm. Popping out of cover and nailing enemies with precise bursts of fire is intensely satisfying- and feels much like a lightgun shooter at times. On the flipside, it takes a little while to get used to the new setup (especially learning that L1 isn't the aim button anymore) and- on a personal note- the reload button is uncomfortably far away from my thumb when I'm holding the Move controller. These are small peeves when compared to how intuitive the experience turned out, and I was honestly surprised at how much fun I was having.
Rotating the POV and player movement in general is nowhere near as tight and responsive as a controller, especially the clumsy sprint that can be deployed by the squeezing the left stick (L3). You won't win any deathmatches or get invited to any clans using the Playstation Move. But frankly, that's missing the point. Grenades can now be quickly aimed and deployed with small precise movements using the HUD aiming assist and L2, and the entire scheme is inherently a little more immersive.
The demo trundled through some mid-range urban arenas that provided plenty of cover to hide behind- though the word generic is a bit of an understatement. Apart from the Move controls themselves, everything from the destroyed urban environments to the grey colour palette and even the action itself is uncomfortably overfamilar to every other third person shooter out there. Duck behind some cover here. Paint that tank with an airstrike laser over there. Duck behind yet more cover and shoot some more anonymous bandana-wearing combatants. Yawn. However, the SOCOM series is known for providing more luscious and green environments than most- so I'll reserve judgement for the time being.
SOCOM 4 will also have another trick up its sleeve. The D-Pad issues simple squad commands to two separate teams. Both two-man squads can be given different waypoints and rules of engagement, managing to nail the sweet spot between being tactically useful and effortless to pull off. Setting up and taking advantage of overlapping lines of fire is the order of the day- and being able to point to the exact point you need backup without changing your viewing angle is actually surprisingly handy in a pinch.
Am I currently convinced that Playstation Move adds anything genuinely new and exciting to the third-person shooting experience? Is it really an essential purchase for core gamers? No, not really. But the fact is that SOCOM 4's Move support works extremely well and is undeniably satisfying- so I'd heartily recommend it to anyone who's picked up the peripheral.