The State of SOCOM
Written by Justin Fleming
I’m writing this article on a day with a lot of meaning to the SOCOM franchise. It was today, 4 years ago, when Zipper Interactive, the creators of SOCOM, officially closed their doors.
I’ve been gaming for as long as I can remember. Like most people my age, I started with an NES, then an SNES, then a PlayStation and so on and so forth. You get the idea. The PlayStation 2 really changed my outlook on gaming. It was the first time I played a Grand Theft Auto game (I didn’t play the original games until after I played GTA 3 and Vice City), I played Crash Bandicoot, but most importantly… I played SOCOM: US Navy Seals.
It’s fair to say that SOCOM changed my life. I remember how it all started. I went to Wal-Mart with my parents. I hated going but they would usually let me play the game demos in the Electronics department while they did their shopping. It was here, at a Wal-Mart, where I first found SOCOM, in the form of a demo on a PlayStation 2. I played through the demo level and enjoyed every moment of it. I had no idea at the time that this game supported online play.
When I got home, I immediately began to count my cash on hand in hopes of buying this game. I handed over what little cash I had to my father who then ordered the game for me on eBay (Wal-Mart was sold out). The wait was the worst part. I waited and waited and during my wait is when I discovered this game was online. Well how in the heck do I play online? I did my research and discovered Linksys made a network adapter that would work with the PlayStation 2. Might as well order that too, right?
When SOCOM arrived, I noticed the box was larger than usual; the reason being it included a headset so I could communicate with my future teammates and friends. I unboxed everything, set it up, and began my love affair with online tactical third person shooters. A few matches in I discovered a clan who welcomed me and my squeaky child voice into their ranks. Over the course of SOCOM’s life, I bounced from clan to clan, keeping in touch with the same people from day one as most would bounce with me. These are people I still talk to today.
When Sony announced SOCOM II, they also announced they would be conducting a closed beta. I did everything imaginable to get into this closed beta and when they shipped the beta disc, I monitored that tracking number like it was the only thing that mattered.
I put even more time into SOCOM II than I did the first game in the series. A friend from school and I would play with every free minute we had. We would wake up way earlier than we needed to for school and play and we’d play as soon as we got home. After my “bedtime”, I would sneak and play, whispering out locations of the enemy through my headset. SOCOM was my life.
I say SOCOM was my life because the years haven’t been to kind to SOCOM. After SOCOM II, Sony released SOCOM III and Combined Assault. To me personally, these were a letdown and abandoned everything that made SOCOM special. The maps were larger but not in a good way, and had vehicles. They overdid it and it didn’t work out. When the PlayStation 3 came out we got SOCOM: Confrontation. It went back to SOCOM II’s roots but just fell flat. It wasn’t executed properly and just wasn’t a lot of fun. The servers were a mess and it just didn’t hold up.
Sony then gave us SOCOM 4. To call this game SOCOM should be a crime. It is not SOCOM; it’s just a third person version of Call of Duty. The timing of this game was horrible, not at any fault of Sony, but it launched right before the infamous PlayStation Network attack that took the service down for over a month. This game died quickly and it may have taken the whole franchise with it.
In July 2013, David Sears, one of the original developers for SOCOM, raised over $250,000 on Kickstarter to release his own game under a new studio, SOF Studios. This game would be called H-Hour: World’s Elite. The hype surrounding this game was real. Promises were made of a PS4 port and there were lofty expectations for this title. Then things fell apart. Sears left the project and when it launched on Steam it was a total disaster (still is). Earlier this month the studio announced it was halting development to acquire more funding (good luck with that).
The SOCOM community lives on through #SOCOMREMASTERED, a social media movement to get Sony to remaster SOCOM II for the PlayStation 4. Sony asked for the fans to participate in #BUILDINGTHELIST, which asked fans which games they wanted to see on PS4. #SOCOMREMASTERED topped this list. For the 20th anniversary of PlayStation, fans overwhelming voted SOCOM II as the best PS2 game. Days before the PlayStation Experience, Sony announced it would be bringing PS2 games to PS4. This was it. It was finally happening. SOCOM was coming back! Except it didn’t. Sony has repeatedly ignored the fans of the game that really propelled online gaming on consoles.
The SOCOM community is still alive though. Even with the failed attempt with H-Hour, players still find a way to get their SOCOM fix. A programmer that goes by Redline completed a SOCOM:GO mod for Counter Strike: GO and then converted it to Insurgency. Unfortunately, SOCOM:Insurgency just came to an end but the maps that were made will be free for anyone to host on their own server. In addition to this, players are able to use the program XLink on their PCs to trick their PS2s into thinking they’re playing SOCOM II via LAN, but still play with people all over the world. In addition to this, a group of developers are working on getting a private server launched so the online component would work without the need for a PC or XLink.
Sony is asking fans what games they want to see come to PS4 via PS2 emulation. Naturally the #SOCOMREMASTERED movement is making their voices heard, but Sony is ignoring them. Will we ever get another SOCOM title or is the tactical third person online shooter genre dead? I don’t think so and #thanksforyourpassion.