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These games follow a SEAL team Twenty Minutes Into the Future (you wouldn't tell, though) consisting of four members (which usually change between, and during, games) combating international terrorism, from your basic Jihadi to a massive international Communist conspiracy to the Albanian Mafia being very naughty.
A large emphasis is on stealth and commands given out to your team (The game used the Play Station 2 headset for voice commands, which, along with a now-forgotten game called Lifeline, were rather revolutionary), and have an effect on your post-mission rating. Running-and-gunning, although you can go that way, can get you killed (and infuriating you, since you have to start aaaaaaallll the way pre-mission).
The series contains:
- Action Girl - In SOCOM 4, you get to play Lt. Park, a.k.a "Forty-Five" in a few missions.
- AKA-47 - Some of the U.S. made weapons are known by their real name (usually because these are military designations rather than trademarks), the names of other weapons... yeah, they're either short versions of the name or in the case of most weapons, have different letters but the same numbers as their real life counterparts.
- America Saves the Day - Well, semi-Averted - often, Special Forces from another country will assist you during missions. You don't do so when you're at the end of SOCOM 4/Special Forces.
- Anyone Can Die - And how! Boomer in Combined Assault as a jab at his constantly getting shot in the first game. Poor Lonestar took one to the chest in Fireteam Bravo III. Oh, and lets not forget about what the terrorists are doing.
- Ascended Extra - Specter in the main Play Station 2 franchise, going from the sniper in the first to squad leader for the remaining games. Same goes to Wraith, who took over Sandman's job after Fireteam Bravo 2.
- Big Damn Heroes - You come to the assistance of United Na... er, Humanitarian forces stuck in a rut in SOCOM II, and you help rebels pinned under fire in SOCOM III.
- Call Back: Later games in the franchise started making references to earlier installments.
- Chekhov's Gun: Gorman's pen in the fourth game.
- Continuity Nod - After SOCOM II, the developers make strong nods towards previous games. SOCOM III saw a certain dictator return as the first antagonist, and Fireteam Bravo 2 saw an unnamed PMC from Combined Assault appear as the main antagonist.
- Cultured Badass - Dion Wells and Forty-Five in the fourth game. They discuss a poem by William Butler Yeats in reference to the Ops Com.
- Demoted to Extra - Kahuna returns as a member of Bravo Element in SOCOM Tactical Strike (Even though he was the protagonist in the first game), while Sandman gets demoted to being under Wraith's command. Let's not forget Lonestar, who gets killed off after being your main ally in the first two Fireteam bravos.
- Dirty Communists - A (rather large) international terrorist organization in SOCOM II. Ironically, despite being based in Russia and led by Russians, a lot of them aren't even Russian.
- Discontinuity Nod - The main character of the first game disappears entirely until Tactical Strike where he now takes orders from an extra in the sequel. Same can be said for Lonestar who apparently left to join a PMC after he spent the previous two games fighting them.
- Escort Mission - Any mission involving a hostage, captured leader, or mole has this. At least you can call down 'copter support in most missions, and your escortee is smart enough to take cover.
- Field Promotion: The new Operations Commander in the fourth game as of the first mission. (An achievement for completing the mission is named as so.)
- Former Regime Personnel - The first terrorist group the SEALs engage in the first game are ex-Spetsnaz troopers engaged in arms dealing and general terrorism for profit.
- Holiday in Cambodia - The Red Sun terror group in SOCOM I based in Indonesia.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy - Lampshaded in SOCOM III, when the team raids a terrorist training camp in an abandoned Polish salt mine:
Spectre: So this is where they learn to miss.
- It's Probably Nothing - In some games, it is literally possible to stare one of the enemies in the face and get absolutely no reaction. Until your teammate accidentally bumps into them and alerts the entire enemy base.
- The Mafia - Albanian ones. The only reason why they're being taken down by the SEALs (and SAS) and not the police is because they started to try and sell arms and nuclear material to terrorists.
- Mission Control: Jennifer Hale playing the Headquarters operator. In SOCOM 4's campaign, it's MI 6 Agent Mackenzie Douglas, otherwise known as Oracle.
- No Name Given: The Operations Commander in the fourth game. He's either referred to as the OpsCom or Commander.
- Not So Different: Done twice.
- SOCOM: Combined Assault
President Karim: What I did was necessary for the future of my country.
Specter: Save it for your hearings.
President Karim: You know, you and I are alike. We do not fear the things we must do.
Specter: You and I... are nothing alike!
- SOCOM 4:'
Razad: You and I are very much alike Commander. We're both pawns in someone else's game.
Operations Commander: You and I are nothing alike!
- Private Military Contractors - The mercenaries holding the Marines hostage in the first game - though, they're not a real company and are visibly less organized than real PMCs...
- ClawHammer in the fourth game counts as well.
- President Evil: In Combined Assault, President Ismail Karim of Adjikistan.
- Qurac - SOCOM II and SOCOM III have you dealing with a brutal dictator, and when you finally arrest him in SOCOM III, it's a thinly veiled reference to Saddam Hussien's capture.
- In the third main game's PSP counterpart, the first Fireteam Bravo, one area of operations tied to where the dictator's forces was heading is Morocco.
- Recursive Import: SOCOM 4 (SOCOM: Special Forces in PAL areas) with the two main characters aside from the PC from special forces of the country of where the game is from. You get the Navy Seals if you got the game from the US/Canada/Southeast Asia/Japan. If from the Netherlands, you have the two guys from the KCT. If from Britain, they're from the British SAS. If from France, they're from the 1MIPR or 1er RPIMa in French. A total of 12 special forces unit are done for the game.
- Red Shirt - If you're a regular grunt, don't expect to last too long in the field.
- Screw the Rules I Have Plot! - Even though you chose Wraith to accompany you for your mission in FTB2, gave him a machinegun and a shotgun for weapons and had him waiting outside, the ending cinematic has him change skin tone, accent, weapon, and uniform into something else. More so in FTB3 as that handgun you gave your guy magically became a rocket launcher so he could blow up an enemy formation prior to disappearing.
- Stealth Based Mission: Although stealth is one of the main focus of the franchise, at least one dedicated "do-not-get-caught" mission is in per game.
- Straw Feminist - The FARC faction leader in South America exclusively uses women as elite troops. Men under her command are stuck doing shit patrol, and gripe about it frequently, especially considering she chews them out. Constantly. For minor things. She's also a lesbian.
- Terrorists Without a Cause - Some. For example: it's not really known what the ex-Spetsnaz are fighting for (except for gunrunning, which is just a side-business), and no one knows why some South African and British mercenaries kidnapped some US Marines.
- Averted in future games, starting with Fireteam Bravo II and Combined Assault where all terrorists turn into PMCs on a quest for either revenge or money.
- The Man Behind the Man: The Naga guerrillas aren't the main bad guy in SOCOM 4. Clawhammer is.
- Universal Driver's License - In SOCOM III, you can drive boats and any vehicle. Except tanks, planes, or choppers. Obviously, this exists in real life, being, you know, the fact that SEALs are trained to do as such?
- War for Fun and Profit - The ex-Spetsnaz terrorists and the African Mercenaries in the first game. The Albanian mafia has its ass-kicked as a result of trying this.
- Western Terrorists - Lots of them. In fact, the original game didn't have your typical Jihadi show up until the last mission.
- Averted by Combined Assault where they are all renamed mercenaries. Because we all know mercenaries have nothing better to do than plot to destroy America.
- You Are in Command Now: In the fourth game, Lieutenant Park is the new Operations Commander by the final mission, after the main Player Character gets fatally wounded by Gorman.