Hands-on: SOCOM 4 (with PlayStation Move!)

There are two questions I'll try to answer with this quick hands-on preview. Firstly, is SOCOM 4 the true sequel to the SOCOM franchise we've been waiting for? Secondly, does the PlayStation Move controller work as intended?

It's hard to answer the first question, especially within the constraints of a ten-minute demo. What I can say is that even in this early state, SOCOM 4 looks very good, sporting incredibly detailed environments. While the early code has a noticeably choppy framerate, there was already a large number of objects in the environment. Whether it's a car, a trash can, a thrown-out mattress, there are tons of objects to take cover behind in the world.

Controlling your squad should be familiar to anyone that's played a recent SOCOM game. Holding L1 on the Move allows you to slightly slow down time and direct your team to move to position and await orders. You can even call in an airstrike by holding down the Move button and holding Down on a target. After sneaking down an alley, we were able to catch a large squad of soldiers lounging in an open field. They had no idea what hit them as the bombs dropped.
Considering tactics are an important part of the SOCOM franchise, it's hard to judge the depth of Zipper's return to the series. Still, it's refreshing to finally see a single-player SOCOM adventure on a current generation console. We quizzed a Sony rep if any tech from Slant Six's Confrontation made its way into the game, and he firmly said "no." We're not sure if that will reassure fans burned by the last PS3 SOCOM game, but it seems this effort is a clear departure from before.

PlayStation Move worked exactly as we thought it would, resembling the experience of playing a Wii FPS. Aiming is very fast and responsive on the Move, although I'm still much more skilled with analog sticks than I am with motion controllers. The early demo didn't include any promised enhancements, such as motion-controlled grenade throws, or the ability to tweak the aim "box" that's customizable in most recent Wii games. What SOCOM 4 did effectively prove, though, is that a game as hardcore as SOCOM can feel natural with the Move, as it only took minutes to finally get accustomed to taking cover and shooting baddies.

Interestingly, Zipper Interactive seems to believe that the Move and the SIXAXIS/DualShock controllers can co-exist online. While there's still a lot of work to be done on the game, the end goal is for players using either controller to play against each other online. Obviously, some players will be better with standard controls, while others will be better with motion. It'll be interesting to see if either side manages to gain the "edge" over time. Certainly, an online game of this scale can be an experiment in which controller truly reigns supreme.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.