SOCOM: Special Forces on PlayStation 3 Hands-On Impressions.

But SOCOM: Special Forces is surprising in that regard. All credit to Zipper Interactive, they've crafted something technically stunning with their latest title. This is a different kind of SOCOM game. It conforms somewhat to the requirements of a modern-day third-person shooter, and as such the campaign might get under fans' skin.However, underneath the regenerating health and Uncharted-inspired character models, there's a game that we think is going to surprise a lot of people. Mainly because it's rad.

Our demo starts with us facing a large glass window in a towering Asian building. A helicopter falls from the sky and crashes into the glass window. Yep, this a new kind of SOCOM. It looks brilliant too. The game's obviously still quite early, and as such the image is still a little rough around the edges. Facial animation and lip sync is still off, while the texture quality is also a little shoddy in places. But otherwise, the game's visually stunning. Some brick and wood textures are incredible as the camera gets close up while taking cover. Likewise, there's a really detailed style to the environments. The game is quite linear in the segments we played - but Zipper's created some large, detailed environments.

The shooting feels largely how you'd expect it to. It's tight and punchy, with enemies falling after just a few shots. Zipper's introduced a neat twist on the standard cover mechanic where you're forced to lean around objects, but it works largely as you'd expect it to. When targetting, a first-person viewpoint can be activated by popping in the R3 button; frustratingly this viewpoint returns when you let go of the L1 button and re-press it.

The demo takes us up a large towering road. From here we get the advantage over a group of enemies and an armoured tank. Our weapons are useless so we're prompted to call in an air-strike with the R2 button. The game also informs us we can instruct our team-mates with the D-Pad, so there's definitely some sense of the original SOCOM in there.

What struck us most about the SOCOM demo is the pacing. Zipper's managed to get just the right amount of combat and bog-standard environment exploration right. There are peaks and troughs in the way the demo unfolds. There's a set-piece followed by a bit of shooting. Then there's quiet, exploration and a set-piece again. It all works nicely. You never feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic, but you sense danger ahead. And while it's not really playing into the ethos of SOCOM as a lite military-sim, there's certainly the impression that the campaign will head in that direction.

Which is important, because Zipper will want to please their fans. But they'll also want to invite newcomers. And since the last Zipper developed SOCOM game, the third-person shooter landscape has changed. It seems like SOCOM: Special Forces embraces the changes to the genre. It feels fresh and modern but with its own spin. If Zipper can find a way of introducing the franchise's tactical elements too, this may be a sleeper hit.

Either way, we expect people to be surprised by what Zipper's done here. Our attention's certainly been piqued.