SOCOM 4 Interview

During the SOCOM 4 press event held at Zipper Interactive, we got a chance to speak with Travis Steiner, Lead Designer for SOCOM 4, who answered some of our questions about the new tactical shooter. I also want to thank Alan at for helping with the coverage and conducting the interview.

GVK: What is the background and setting of the game?

TS: The game takes place in SouthEast Asia. You play the role of an elite NATO operations commander who’s been sent into the region as part of a large peacekeeping force and a violent revolution engulfs the area. This poses a major threat because this country in SE Asia is on the straights of Milaka (sp) which is a major world waterway. Allies get decimated in this revolution and now you and your small squad are the only hope to prevent this catastrophe

You start out with two teammates, which are members of the US Navy Seals, and throughout the campaign you’ll encounter members of the 707th South Korean Team and they’ll actually join forces with you, making a total of a five-man squad.

The enemy faction you’re fighting that’s responsible for this revolution is called NAGA. As the campaign goes on you’ll find that there’s more to the agenda than really meets the eye. This is more of a guerilla-style outfit but they have weaponry that seems a little better than what you’d expect from a guerilla outfit so you know there’s something else at play. The faction that I showed off during this demo is a private military corporation is ultimately involved as well.

GVK: Are all of the characters with you throughout the campaign?

TS: Yes, they are all with you throughout the entire campaign.

GVK: What kinds of locales and missions will we get and how are the missions assigned?

TS: We have a wide variety of missions. The first mission takes place in the middle of a major downtown capitol, so you’re on the destroyed streets and freeways. Then we go all the way over on the other side of the spectrum to a more rural jungle-based environment. Densely-populated urban spaces, jungle, and then other types of industrial facilities.
What types of enemies will be features in the game?

You fight NAGA at the beginning, but they have some mysterious weaponry that’s more advanced than what you’d expect. You learn over time that there’s another entity (a private military organization) at play. We’re not giving all the details of the story away yet, but there are two major players in the campaign story.

GVK: How long does it take to get through the single-player campaign?

TS: It depends on your play style, but somewhere within the 8 to 10 hours of gameplay time. That’s spread out over 14 missions.

GVK: How difficult is it to play?

TS: SOCOM 4 features four different skill levels. On Normal mode we have it tuned so that you have to use cover and your teammates. That’s the goal of the game. You don’t want to run out in the middle of the open with guns blazing… you want to play it like a real soldier would.

GVK: Can you tell us how the game works with the Move?

TS: The key with any sort of motion control device is custom options. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but that’s the same as someone using a standards controller for the first time. What we’ve found is that the learning curve for the Move is fairly small and players seem to pick it up, and there’s a great one-to-one corelation between moving the controller and aiming the gun. You can customize how sensitive the movement is, and move players lower the sensitivity at first and then crank it up as they they get better.

In your dominant hand you hold the Playstion Move controller, which is used for aiming and a few other functions, such as shooting. The other hand you’ll hold a standard Dual-Shock or navigation controller, which is what is used to move your character and perform some other actions.

GVK: What can you tell us about the 3D options in the game and what rewards and challenges does this new technology present?

GVK: SOCOM 4 does support 3D televisions, and with the power of the PS3 you can play at full resolution with 3D settings enabled without any noticable slowdownGVK: What kinds of weapons will be available?

TS: We have all sorts of different things from sniper rifles to sub-machine guns, shotguns, heavy machine guns. All totaled there are thirty different weapons in the game.

GVK: What types of multiplay are offered?

TS: SOCOM 4 features both 5-player cooperative as well as 32-player competitive mode. SOCOM is the most team-focued online shooter out there. In many ways it can be looked at like a team sport, where every individual is filling a role, only in this case the weapons and the gear you bring to the battle dictate that role.

All the objectives feature competitive and co-op center around that team-based play. Getting someone to watch your back while you go for the mission objective is really key to this mode of online play.
To summarize competitive multiplayer: 32-player online combat. We have 14 focused game modes, including suppression (basically the SOCOM version of “Team Deathmatch”). We have an Uplink mode in which each team takes turns trying to infiltrate the enemy base to obtain valuable data and return it to their own base, like “Capture the Flag”. We walked through “Last Defense”, and we still have one more game mode that’s still classified and will be unveiled at a later date.

GVK: Which vehicles are in the game?

TS: There are no driveable vehicles in SOCOM 4. We’ve done that in the past but we really wanted to focus on more Special-Forces-style engagements, which doesn’t involve a lot of big battles with vehicles.

GVK: What can you tell us about the AI in the game?

TS: The AI in SOCOM 4 is very advanced. The enemy are set up to use squad tactics, so they work together as a group. You’ll see guys laying down suppressive fire to cover each other then they’re flanking, bounding. This type of behavior makes it feel like authentic combat. On the player’s side of things we’ve tried to find that right balance between your buddies doing smart things on their own but when you want to take command it’s very intuitive and easy to do.

GVK: What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards in crafting SOCOM 4?

TS: We really wanted to build SOCOM from the ground up so we started a whole new engine for the PS3. A lot of effort was spent on these core systems, such as the AI, the cover, camera and movement systems. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge… we obviously had a foundation on the Playstation 2 but we really wanted to harness the power of the PS3.

GVK: What in your opinion is the key to keeping the franchise fresh and where do you see the future of the series heading?

TS: We get a lot of great feedback from the fans after every SOCOM game. In the past there’s always some cool thing that we didn’t have time to get to. We’re focusing on SOCOM 4 right now, and we’ll take in feedback from the gamers for features and improvements to future games.

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