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Socom 2 US Navy Seals cover story brought to you by Cheatcc.com

The original SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs was a good enough game to warrant a sequel. Although we all know games that shouldn't have warranted a sequel, it does give the developers a second chance to get it right. Gamers can be a forgiving lot, especially when a game gets good word of mouth. The words out of my mouth, or rather, out of my finger since I'm typing, are: SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs Even Better Than Original. That's the headline. The byline reads: Vaughn's Head Stolen by Evil Leprechaun.

Team-based squad games can get a little complex on the PC or turn into mush when the control system is not balanced for the console. SOCOM II strikes a compromise lessening the strategy and increasing the action. In this third-person shooter, commands are issued via the interface menu or with a headset. (Sold separately - batteries not included). There's not a lot of options but there's enough here to get the job done. The relation between the mission objectives and the actual commands is well balanced. You won't find many situations where you need to make other commands, at least not until you play the game over and start getting real creative. The headset will recognize voice patterns so you have to learn the lingo. You have to say exactly what is indicated in the manual otherwise your command won't be understood.

As part of the elite Navy SEALs, your job is to protect your country while out of the country. Your missions will take you all over the world to places such as Brazil, Algeria, Albania and Russia to deal with terrorist organizations and diffuse explosive political situations. The other three members of your team are much more intelligent than before and require a lot less baby-sitting. They'll let you know if they don't understand a command and will even break a command to defend themselves. Ammo is limited but the weapons themselves are plentiful giving you a good cross section of killing tools from which to do your job with. Pistols, sub-machineguns, assault rifles and rockets are available and this time you'll even have a shotgun. Aiming is precise but you'll be more accurate if you stand still although running is encouraged especially in the multi-player online mode.

There are plenty of maps and characters in the single player mode but the replay value is off the map in the multi-player mode. It only supports broadband so it's fast and accurate. Online the game can accommodate up to 16 players and with the improved support system you can restrict matches to players of similar stats. You can even restrict the number and type of weapon used in the game. Modes include Extraction, Suppression, Demolition, Breach and Escort. Suppression now allows you to respawn during the game so you or your online pals don't have to wait around in the event of a death. The headphones come in handy online and add another dimension to the game though they're not entirely necessary to win. If you've played the game before you know darn well what's expected of you.

The maps are huge. There are 12 new online maps as well as 10 from the last game though they are slightly reworked to offer different challenges and visuals. Some of them take place during the evening and with the new night-vision goggles, more depth is added to the game.

Realistic is the effect that the designers are going for and they have certainly come closer with this version. Compared to the original all the graphics and animations have been improved greatly. The environments have great depth to them not only in how large they are but in the rich textures and shading. The music ebbs and flows to belie the onscreen action and the voiceacting is strong with only the slightest hint of cornball.

There's a good possibility this game might get overlooked in the wake of this season's gaming bonanza but keep SOCOM II in mind later in the winter when you've OD'd on everything and are craving for another great game.