SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs: Mobile Recon

Jamdat's taken the war on terror to my cell phone in its solid adaptation of Sony's popular PS2 franchise, SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals. This stand alone game, entitled Mobile Recon, thrust me into an international conspiracy chock full of evil doers just waiting to be splattered across the street and I obliged with extreme force. The game's certainly not as deep or involving as the games that the developers have drew inspiration from, but what's here is highly enjoyable, though I'm upset that it's a short-lived experience.

Like the other SOCOM games, you'll lead a fire team into hostile territory and eliminate anyone who looks dangerous. You're limited to two hombres by the names of Wraith and Bronco, and you can tailor each guy's arsenal to your liking. There are a little over five weapons in the game and the list includes the M4A1, the M8, the F90 (from N64 Goldeneye fame and um...real life), the HK5K, the HK36, and M8-M25. All of them are effective in taking out terrorist scum, yet shooting the baddies isn't the only way to kill them. Wraith has a combat knife that can be used to slit throats. The game enables you to hide in the shadows unseen, and as a guy walks past you just place the cursor over them, wait until the knife icon appears, then yank them into the darkness and do the evil deed. This action is represented with a very cool animation that includes a splash of blood as the knife runs along their soft flesh.

As for how the game plays, it's a direct rip of Nokia's Pathway to Glory titles. Played from a NES Metal Gear perspective, you maneuver a cursor around the level, press OK/Home and your team will move to that location. And whenever you want to kill someone, all you have to do is place the cursor over them, wait until the icon changes to a target and press Ok/Home. Your guys will release a short burst with each button press, so don't hit the button once and assume that they'll keep firing.

The killing is a lot more sophisticated than I first assumed it was. It's actually possible to score head shots with some careful aiming and Bronco can toss grenades. However, the most satisfying way to murder people (aside from using the knife) is shooting these red oil drums that once hit will catch fire and explode, leaving a path of destruction in their wake, complete with circular rings that display the blast radius.

Other neat features include using a sniper rifle for one hit kills, riding in a commandeered vehicle and snuffing out enemies, kicking open doors, and placing C4 to blow things up. There's just a nice selection of things to do here as well as a decent layer of depth to the gameplay. Going in guns blazing will get you killed on some of the later missions, so it's important to lurk in the shadows and wait for the best time to strike.

Seriously, this game's just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Jamdat's done a marvelous job on its visuals. A very slight step above NES quality, the environments have been brought to life and enhanced by birds flying over head, laundry billowing in the wind, and trees swaying in the breeze. I'm also giving the designers kudos for the blood effects, explosions, and muzzle fire.

Then there's the music, and Mobile Recon's soundtrack is really something. The heroic tunes are quite inspiring as well as catchy, and I actually retained them in my head long after I put the phone onto the counter. I've never hummed the music from the PS2 SOCOM games as I worked, so this is a major accomplishment.

Unfortunately (and unlike the Pathway to Glory games), Mobile Recon isn't nearly as difficult as its competition. I easily breezed through a few of the missions; disappointing since the game's only about 3-5 hours long and I'm being generous with that time. This is in stark contrast to Doom RPG Mobile which contains five plus hours of adventuring.

I'm also disappointed at the AI, which will occasionally fail to notice that I'm firing at it from a few feet away. There was this one time where I was just unloading on this dude and he just walked away from me. I suppose it's possible that he's deaf, but now I'm just making things up and that's silly.

After playing numerous videogames across a variety of different phones one thing has become crystal clear: Jamdat is the leader in making quality software for these platforms and SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals Mobile Recon is yet another shining example of how this company outperforms the competition. The fine attention to detail as well as the commitment to creating an enjoyable gameplay experience (and following through on both of those points) has become the publisher's pedigree for success and I hope a deal is struck with Sony to produce a sequel. But please, Jamdat, make it longer than Mobile Recon.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.