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By: Alan "Blackhawk" Hier
We've come a long way since DOOM. Soldier of Fortune is an in your face action game based on a largely improved Quake II engine. Players take on the role of John Mullins, a stereotypical gritty bad-assed mercenary out to blow away the bad guys. Working for "The Shop," a top-secret anti-terrorist department of the UN, players will be whisked around the globe to all sorts of exotic war-torn regions.
For starters, players in search of realism should look elsewhere. Soldier of Fortune is much closer to a hardcore action movie than a strategic sim. Tactical thinking will not get you very far, but fast reflexes and big machine-guns will take down just about every challenge thrown at you in SOF. Enemy AI isn't top notch, for example if two goons are standing next to each other and one drops dead via a sniper bullet to the face, his companion will stand there waiting for you to put him out of his misery as well. Most enemies will charge straight at you while shooting as soon as you're detected.
Small amounts of realism don't translate to small amounts of fun in this game, however. Annihilating terrorist after terrorist with my machine-guns and pistols proved to be a lot more fun than I expected. The game plays like an action movie, and players will find themselves making that heroic guns blazing charge they've seen on the silver screen many times throughout the game. The designers seem to have kept this in mind during level design, as the game is well balanced and moves quickly. Enemy placement is handled very well, and players will have to be especially careful not to let hidden baddies get the best of them. The level design in the bombed out Kosovo city level, watching out for enemy snipers in burnt out buildings, was intriguing.
The standard variety of weapons can be found in John's arsenal. The small arm was to be the most fun to use. There are a few pistols and machine-guns, a shotgun, and a sniper rifle that will compose your arsenal for a good portion of the game. Players can even resort to using some pretty wicked throwing knives. A rocket launcher, large assault rifle, and of course an energy weapon come later, but quickly did I find them to be less fun than the starting weapons. Along with your guns you'll have an assortment of explosives and flash packs at your disposal. Throwing a flash pack into a room then charging in with your shotgun is usually very effective, not to mention fun. Overall though, the weapons and items are pretty standard fare.
The most unique element of SOF is the visuals. The game features levels of gore never before seen in 3D shooters. A well-placed shot will tear off a limb, explode a head, or cause an opponent to drop his weapon and squirm in pain. Gone are the days of one kill animation for each model, you can expect enemies to die differently depending on what weapon you are using, what they are doing as they get shot (running, jumping, etc), and where you hit them. Each enemy has several different hit locations, each of which will cause a satisfying pain or death animation different than the others. Shots to the throat and groin are particularly satisfying for taking down that pesky sniper. Not only do the enemies act well, but also the graphics themselves are top notch. Models are customized to have unique faces, outfits, and accessories, so you don't find yourself running up against an army of clones.
Sound in the game is done very well also. The guns all sound like you would expect them to in any action movie, and there is plenty of ambient noise as well. Ricochets echoes, enemies shouting, even shell casings hitting the floor all sound excellent. Each shell hitting the ground made a noise, which was impressive, and that they would make different noises depending on where they landed. The voice-overs are done well, for the most part. John sounds grizzled and mean, just like you would expect him to. Some of the supporting characters are done fairly weak, but it doesn't detract from the game at all.
Soldier of Fortune is a great game for any fan of the FPS genre. While it doesn't bring any major new innovations or concepts to the table, what it does it does well. Gameplay is fast, furious, and fun, and you will not get bored quickly.
Pros: Great visuals combined with fast and furious gameplay.
Cons: Fairly dumb AI; later weapons are pretty cheesy; too easy on all but the hardest; Two difficulty levels.
<< Rating: 86 >>
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