If you played any of the Full Spectrum Warrior titles, you probably have a good idea of what to expect from the awkwardly titled SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike. That is to say, this isn't a typical shooter in the vein of most SOCOM titles. Rather, it's a strategy game in which you stealthily maneuver a team of four Navy SEALs through sprawling, labyrinthine levels. You don't control any of the squadmates directly; rather, you issue abstract commands to shoot, throw grenades, snipe, move, and more--and the artificial intelligence handles the rest with surprising efficiency. It's a tight, satisfying gameplay model that's fundamentally enjoyable. You will have to overcome some obstacles to fully enjoy it, though, in the form of a cumbersome camera, lengthy loading times, and often unbearably laggy online play. These aren't ruinous factors by any stretch, but they do impact the overall experience.
The finely paced campaign is the game's best facet, though the political narrative that holds it together is far from intriguing. In its defense, the simple setup concerning a kidnapped ambassador does get a bit more involved in the later missions, but it's really just an excuse to throw your team into expansive, cluttered environments littered with evildoing gunmen. Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities to hide and sneak, since Tactical Strike requires as much stealth as it does strategy. You'll spend a good deal of the game moving your team behind various objects and taking potshots at enemies from behind them.
You can move your team as a whole, or separate it into two squads of two SEALs each. Either way, you hold down the circle button to bring up a movement reticle, move it to the desired location with the analog button, and your squad sneakily makes its way to its destination. This works pretty well, but in corridors and tighter areas, it takes some maneuvering. Sometimes, aiming your main view at a relatively distant location and pressing the move button will cause the movement indicator to appear more or less where you wanted it to. When it doesn't, you need to position it manually. Since the targeting reticle is glued to the ground, you'll sometimes need to push it around corners or down a flight of steps. That's not a big deal in theory, but since the game camera is always pointed at any given squadmate, it takes a bit of micromanagement to move around twisty, confined spaces. It's a particular nuisance when turning corners, since you may not know if there is an enemy hiding there, nor can you tell if there's any cover to hide behind. In the end, you'll often be commanding your squad around corners blindly, which is a shame, since the rest of the stealth mechanics are quite good.
Those mechanics will have you sniping distant foes, throwing grenades, firing weapons, breaching doors, and more. Regardless of which choice you make, you select your action from a menu and the artificial intelligence takes care of the rest. The friendly AI does a bang-up job for the most part, and the game nicely walks that tightrope between player involvement and automated actions. You can command your squadmates, but they'll also follow your lead, and intelligently respond to enemy attacks. They'll duck when fired upon, run away from grenades, wait for enemies to emerge from cover before firing, and, when breaching, will take appropriate cover whenever possible.
Enemy AI does a semidecent job of keeping up. Adversaries will reposition themselves for better shots, duck behind cover, and take other actions to avoid slaughter. It does some dumb things here and there, however. Foes will sometimes run out into the open for no obvious reason, get stuck in one spot and jitter around, or pay no attention when a teammate falls over dead right in front of them. There are also some annoying escort operations in which civilians will accompany you. The game apparently classifies them as squadmates when they join you, so the weaponless friendlies will often move ahead of your team and right into harm's way. Luckily, you can order them to stay put.