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‘SOCOM 4’ game honors Navy SEALs

As you know, a group of U.S. Navy SEALs stealthily helicoptered into a Pakistan suburb, burst into Osama bin Laden’s compound and killed that evil rodent with a head shot.

I guarantee you millions of video gamers heard those details and pictured the whole scene, because we have virtually executed similar maneuvers for years — just without the actual courage, skills or dangers of a real Navy SEAL hero.

Even so, I bet my first three kill-Osama questions were the same as many gamers:

1. Since they killed Osama at night, were they looking at him through the green lenses of night vision goggles?

2. Or were they wearing heat-detection goggles so they could poke their guns around a pitch-black corner and aim at the red-orange glow that was bin Laden’s face?

3. Did they think of the military expression, "Don’t bother running — you’ll only die tired"?

As it happens, Sony just released its latest SEALs adventure, "SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs." It isn’t set in the current wars, and Osama isn’t in it.

But "SOCOM 4" does carry extra resonance, since you portray several SEALs wending their way through Southeast Asia, taking out militant revolutionaries by stealthily sneaking up on them, then engaging them in firefights on city streets, bridges, docks, jungles and other leafy locales.

That’s the flimsy plot. Character dialogue tries to dramatize situations with official-sounding commands.

"The C5 will drop you here," a higher-up says in the beginning. "Proceed to Hotel Echo Lima, where you will perform recon on this area. Where the sector is deemed clear, CO will establish a supply base there. Are we clear, Lieutenant?" (Um, I guess.)

As for the action, you control a team of five. As you creep up on pockets of bad guys, you press a few buttons to assign comrades to various hiding spots, then order them to shoot.

In some levels, you portray a female SEAL specialist who goes it alone — sneaking behind militants and quietly knifing them, then carrying their bodies to hide in shadows.

Those two elements (commanding others, and portraying the woman) are the most enjoyable portions of the campaign.

But "SOCOM 4" is a fairly rote if decent third-person, tactical shooter that honors the SEALs, even if the action adequately, not excitedly, satisfies my war-game instincts.

Gun-aiming reticules are so-so. Sniper rifles aren’t awesome. First-Aid barely works. It’s short; you can finish in a day.

There’s an online multiplayer and a new cooperative mode in which you and four online friends can gang up as a five-person unit on six battlefields.

I have been unable to test online modes, because PlayStation Network has been offline because of Sony’s huge security breach.

Many other critics and gamers who got hold of early online testing opined that the cooperative mode is pretty fun, though the competitive mode is just all right.

However, if you’re itching to portray a Navy SEAL in our post-bin Laden era, this is your "Hooyah!"

("SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs" by Sony for PS 3 — Plays adequately fun enough. Looks good. Easy to challenging depending on settings you choose. Rated "M" for blood, strong language, violence. Three stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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