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SOCOM 4 hands-on multiplayer preview: new mode, beta plans revealed

Back in January, we got what we thought was apretty comprehensive lookat what’s in store for SOCOM 4’s multiplayer. We saw the new additions, like cover, regenerating health and airstrikes; we leveled up our weapons to unlock new mods; and we quickly learned that, regenerating health or no, one or two well-aimed shots are usually enough to make you dead. But as we found out during GDC, there were two things developer Zipper was holding back from us.

The first was Bomb Squad, the final multiplayer mode to be revealed ahead of SOCOM 4’s April 19 release. Sort of a combination of VIP and bomb-planting Demolition match types, it’s a 32-player mode that designates one player as the bomb-defusal technician, which means they get to run around with an armored blast suit and get access to an automatic shotgun and a grenade launcher. It also means every other player on the bomb tech’s team has to watch his back, because he’s the only one who can defuse the three bombs planted throughout each map before the timer runs out.

We played a few Bomb Squad matches during the show, and once we’d gotten used to being insta-killed damn near every time we tried to run between cover points, we had a lot of fun trying to secure the bombs so the technician (whose position shows up onscreen as a distinct, bomb-suit-shaped HUD icon) could disarm them – or, when it was our turn to make sure they exploded, to lay in wait for the opposing team to get close and then drill them full of bullets.

On the rare occasions we were able to blast through the enemy tech’s armor and kill him, we were given the chance to call in an airstrike. Rather than just being awarded for kill streaks, airstrikes in SOCOM 4 are earned whenever you complete a match goal (capturing a control point, for example), so as to avoid constantly giving the best players an additional edge over their opponents. (You also have to target them on-foot with a laser, though, so it’s notlike they make the game too easy.)

While the Bomb Squad reveal was great and all, the real news for SOCOM fans is what Zipper has planned for its public beta. After a small, private beta, the game will be rolled out to PlayStation Plus users on March 22. Then, on March 29, the beta will open up to those who got a multiplayer voucher when they bought Killzone 3. Finally, on April 5 – just two weeks shy of the game’s release – the beta goes live for everyone. Say what you will about Plus users getting priority, but considering that multiplayer’s been the most enduring and popular part of the series, opening up the beta to everyone is practically giving the game away for free. For a while, anyway.

Mar 4, 2011

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.