Fans of the SOCOM series need look no further

The release of SOCOM: Special Forces reminds us that Sony has a set strategy in mind when it comes to marketing its first-party titles. It's either user-generated content that seems to be the focus or, in the case of SOCOM: Special Forces, it is 3D and Playstation Move support (Killzone 3 and Gran Turismo 5 sported similar features). However, since few people would actually go through the trouble of playing a hardcore shooter like SOCOM with the less-than-adequate Move controller and fewer people own 3D displays, it isn't worth paying much attention to (unless you're a die-hard Move fan and own a 3D display, of course). Other notable features include a much improved single player experience, online multiplayer with several added game modes, co-operative play and a custom mission creator. But do the added features make SOCOM: Special Forces better than its predecessors?

Without doubt, the best feature in SOCOM: Special Forces is support for co-operative play, and now that the Playstation Network is back online, you along with four others can play through several sections from the story mode. The co-op component of the game doesn't have a narrative structure like the single player campaign, nor does it require you to finish complex objectives. It's all very 'run-and-gun' with the game asking you to push the odd button, but it's fun nonetheless. Co-op play requires teamwork, planning and a fair bit of tolerance for players with lower skill level (but you knew that already). However, human players (no matter what their skill level) will always be infinitely better than the AI squad mates that accompany you during the single player campaign — more on this a little later. Multiplayer modes have always been important to the SOCOM series and SOCOM: Special Forces' competitive multiplayer modes does not disappoint. There are three types of matches: classic, standard and custom, with round duration and respawn (there is no respawn in classic) being the core differentiators. There are several game types that can be played varying from 'Suppression' (a take on deathmatch), 'Uplink' (similar to capture-the-flag) and 'Last Defence' (akin to victory point control) while other modes tweak damage done by weapons while at times removing some weapons altogether. A levelling-up system along with a large collection of upgradeable weaponry is also present, giving the player another reason to invest some quality hours in SOCOM's multiplayer. The modes themselves are fun, but the matchmaking (there are no game lobbies) is average and online play itself is prone to lag (particularly when there are a lot of players on a server).

SOCOM: Special Forces' single player campaign is set in Malaysia with the the player being put in the shoes of Ops Commander Cullen Gray and his motley crew of efficient killers, Wells, Schweitzer, Chung and Lt.Park. The story is a significant improvement of previous SOCOM titles, with the squad fighting their way through different terrain, fighting off native 'Naga' rebel forces and 'ClawHammer' mercenaries. The campaign missions have a fair bit of variety in them thanks to a healthy mix of stealth missions and open engagements. Unfortunately, terrible AI (who frequently either disobey squad commands or irrationally follow them to the T) and ridiculous difficulty spikes (particularly in the stealth missions) make the campaign less enjoyable than it could have been.

SOCOM: Special Forces is available for the Playstation 3.