Last week I chimed in with a bit about how Sony's recent online shooter, SOCOM: Confrontation, was essentially unplayable. When it first came out, I couldn't even get off of the game's main menu because it wouldn't login properly.
Well, the server issues continue. And Sony's official SOCOM site has updated with news about where the guys and gals of Sony and Slant Six are at with regards to getting it going.
It sounds like most of the issues are server-side, which feels in line with my experience. I still run into issues where I can't get off the main menu, and even when manage to wade through the game's menus to get into a game, I've been getting disconnected pretty regularly.
Though I don't feel like I've been able to play enough of the game to write a full review and score it, there's a larger problem with SOCOM: Confrontation that I certainly noticed after only a few rounds. The developers of the game have painstakingly re-created as much of the old SOCOM stuff as possible. On one hand, that's awesome. I played a ton of SOCOM and SOCOM II, and in a way, the game feels like a throwback to the original games. So if you can muster up nostalgia for a game released in 2002, you'll probably feel the same way.
But it's 2008, and games have changed a great deal since then. I don't think it's too much to say that the SOCOM series greatly benefitted from being in the right place at the right time. There was nothing quite like it on the PlayStation 2 or the Xbox. Meanwhile, PC players probably just sort of sneered in SOCOM's general direction while playing another round of Counter-Strike. By being somewhat unique for console players, SOCOM's clunky server menus and stuff didn't seem like a huge deal. But when you flash-forward to today, those same menus seem completely unnecessary and incredibly cumbersome.
So it's a shame that this practically slavish dedication to the old SOCOM games poured over into the game's menus. To play a game, first you have to select a channel, which is an area where up to 256 players can connect for servers specific to that channel. Most of them have location-based names, like "US WEST 15" or "US EAST 9" or something. Since the entire first page of channels is usually totally full, I don't think anyone ever looks for the first open channel in their region--instead they just look for one they can actually join.
From there, you can get a server list. I don't believe you can actually create your own ranked games, so you're stuck trying to get into the few ranked servers that populate each channel. Usually those servers are either jam-packed to the player limit or, for whatever reason, completely empty. You could also try to jump into any number of unranked, player-created games, or make your own and hope people join. Even with the inclusion of a friends list and some sort of clan support, getting into a game feels like a real chore. The new standards of "ranked game" or "custom match" menu options should have been used here. The entire channels system doesn't make any sense in a modern online shooter.
Add server issues and long wait times before searches and game lists return results and the clunky menus get clunkier. That stuff, I'm sure, will be fixed by Slant Six in the near future. But the part where online games and my tastes in online shooters have continued to evolve since the release of SOCOM II probably aren't things that can be patched. While I'll probably check in on the game from time to time to see it once the server issues have been solved, I don't think I can go home again, and SOCOM's slower, tactical play style doesn't resonate with me the way it once used to. And unless you're an absolute fiend for SOCOM who wants to take a walk down memory lane, Desert Glory style, I can't imagine you'll get much out of the game, either.
The headset that comes with the retail package, however, is awesome. You can sync it with your PS3 via USB, and doing so enables a high-quality audio mode that sounds terrific. It also allows for on-screen feedback concerning your headset's battery life and volume level. It's a great headset that should have been included with the PS3 from day one. Seriously, I've tried a ton of different crappy Jabra headsets, including the one that came with Warhawk, and this one is way superior to that stuff. It's easy to use, and it's the first Bluetooth headset of any kind that's felt comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on, like, the shape of your ears. If there's a silver lining to all this, it's that I now have a great PS3 headset to use once LittleBigPlanet gets up and running.