Don't expect big improvements in the graphics over the preceding installment. SOCOM II's graphics look a bit sharper, thanks to a better work done on textures and probably slightly more detailed polygon models, but the graphics engine has remained the same. Anyhow, as a whole, the game looks more intriguing, thanks to the brilliant level design.
The environments feature more details than in the preceding game; foliage, instead of disappearing into your soldier's bodies, now moves realistically, even if it reveals its 2D pixellated nature when you move through bushes that, while hiding you from the enemy, entirely obstruct the view.
A new, cool feature is the introduction of pupil lag. For example, during night mission, when you turn off the night vision mode, your character will need a few time to adjust to the changed light conditions - little by little, like it happens in real life, contrast is enhanced, and details become slowly more distinguishable. The same happens when you go from a dark room to a well-lit area: your "virtual eyes" will be temporarily blinded - wait a few seconds, and you'll slowly come back to normal vision.
For the rest, SOCOM II looks like SOCOM. Character models are detailed and animated with great care; framerate stays consistent for good part of the game, even if it occasionally seems to drop below 30fps. A good looking game, but still far away from the best looking Playstation 2 titles.
A solid, classic, heroic, but not too original soundtrack, and high-quality sound effects are back from the preceding game. SOCOM II supports Dolby Surround Pro Logic II, which is enough to make the realistic sound effects sound even more stunning, and to let you figure out the location of a concealed enemy if you have the right equipment connected to your Playstation 2. As I mentioned, also the quality of voice chat has improved when playing online, with a drastic reduction of static sounds and interferences - but didn't all those noises make the experience a bit more realistic?
The offline mode can offer 10-12 hours of high-quality stealth action fun, through 12 missions that, thanks to the great level design, are always intriguing, and surprising. When you think you've seen it all, the next mission introduces new challenges and an entirely different environment to play in. The only thing that can limit the replay value in the offline mode is the lack of checkpoints, which forces you to restart a mission from the beginning if you die - and it will happen, trust me. While many players may accept the challenge, others will be just annoyed.
Anyhow, the online mode is the big part of the game. The game plays marvelously, and the community of online gamers supporting SOCOM II seems made, for the most part, of good players which make use of certain game features that could led to pure chaos - like the headset - with intelligence. Finally, SOCOM II features more playable online missions than the preceding installment: 12 new ones, plus 10 updated maps from the preceding game. Excellent.