SOCOM Confrontation: Sixaxis, Running and Armor Bring Slight ChangesS

It doesn't look like there will be a whole lotta new coming to SOCOM Confrontation when the online-only shooter hits the PlayStation 3 in September. Sure, you're going to get new maps, and lots more detailed graphics, but if you were hoping for some paradigm shift, some major change in the way you play the popular PlayStation shooter, you're going to be disappointed.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. A developer doesn't always have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to hardcore shooters, and SOCOM is about as hardcore as they come.

The team did talk up a few of the changes coming to this latest iteration while they were showing SOCOM Confrontation off during last Friday's SCEA Pre-E3 Judges Day held by Sony in Hollywood.

In SOCOM Confrontation, you can now fully customize your character, tweaking the look of your character head to toe, with the type of special force unit a gamer chooses providing them access to different bits of customizable gear. Customization includes the ability to add armor to your character, though the more body armor you wear the slower they move.

Players can now sprint in game. Running, something that long ago became a mainstay of most shooters, has somehow never shown up in SOCOM titles before. Now that it's in the game, I'm not super impressed with the way it's being implemented, mostly because it doesn't allow you to change directions as you run. It's an odd choice, one that seems to indicates that Slant Six isn't really behind adding sprinting to the game.

The biggest change to actual SOCOM game play would have to be Slant Six Games' use of the Sixaxis motion controls in the game. While you're never forced to use them, you can use tilting and up-and-down motions to go prone, squat or lean. Leaning with the Sixaxis took a little getting used to, but seemed to work well. It was a little unsettling that players don't lock to cover, as with most games that use a cover system, but the end result felt far more organic, and, I suspect, true to life.

These few changes, Sixaxis controls, character customization and running, are so slight that they're not really noticeable. Instead the chief focus of the team, it seems, is to create a next-gen version of the popular PlayStation franchise that emphasizes graphics over any significant shift in gameplay.

And the graphics are a significant step up from the PS2 entries in the series. They don't however leave other PlayStation 3 titles in the dust; instead they seem to be about on par with some of the better titles I've seen hitting the console recently.

The thirty minutes I spent with SOCOM Confrontation was liquid fast, interrupted only occasionally by in-progress bugs. The map I played on, a next-gen version of classic "Crossroads," is as deep as I remember it, with the ability to go through most doors, access most rooftops, and create choke points by blowing select access points. The map is packed with nuance, lots of tiny little details that breath life into it.

But most of the changes I noticed on the map and in the game were cosmetic, changes to the look and, perhaps, the depth of the game, but nothing that really changes the way you play the game, for good or bad.

I think this, coupled with the fact that SOCOM Confrontation is online, multiplayer only, will feel more like a title meant to tide SOCOM fans over until the next full installment hits, rather then quench their thirst for some Playstation 3 SOCOM gaming.