Deathmatch oriented games like Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament are all well and good, but I am a sucker for a good single player romp. So it is with wide-eyed glee that I received Soldier of Fortune into my grubby mitts!
You play John Mullins, a 'consultant' who has been drafted in by the US government to do the chores that they can't! John is actually a real-life 'consultant', and was directly involved with the production of the game. Your mission is simple - track down four stolen nukes, and eliminate the terrorists that were responsible for the theft before they can do some serious damage.
A lone Soldier of Fortune, you will have to be at your most cunning just to survive. The safety of the world is in your hands .. don't screw up now!
Soldier of Fortune is based on a heavily modified version of the engine that powered Quake 2, and those of you who are familiar with the workings of that game will be instantly at home with SoF.
SoF's menu system is very smart looking, and the whole interface assembles itself before your eyes, in a cool mechanical fashion. Individual icons depict the various options, and moving your mouse over them causes a text description to pop up.
An in-game movie sequence introduces you to the game, before you are dumped at the mouth of a subway .. which is where the slaughter begins. Terrorists have taken control of the subway, and are killing innocent people for the kick of it. Along with your companion Aaron "Hawk" Parsons, you must take the subway back and eliminate the enemy threat in the first of the ten missions that make up the game.
Complete this and you will meet secret operative Sam Gladstone, a friend from your service days. He runs an innocent looking bookshop, which hides within an underground mission base. Here you will be briefed, load up with weaponry, and get hints on your up and coming missions.
Once you have read the mission brief, you go to the deployment screen. Here is where you will select your weapons and combat items. You are limited in how much artillery you can carry, but are given recommendations to aid your choice.
Toys For The Boys
To aid you in your quest you have a choice of twelve weapons and seven other combat items to arm yourself with.
By default you always carry the "Pig Sticker", a standard issue combat knife which can be great for sneaking up on the enemy with, or can be thrown at them in secondary mode. Usually this gives an instant kill, but get ready to switch to something with more bite if not!
As you progress through the game, new weapons will be unearthed. You will be particularly happy once you pick up the "M202A2 Flash" rocket launcher. This is always a weapon of choice in any first person shooter, and SoF's version is a cut above the rest. I found the weapon I utilised most though was the "Eagle Eye" sniper rifle.
Additionally you can equip yourself with flash packs, grenades, and plastic explosives. The balance of the weaponry is just right, with all the guns and items having their own use in different situations. Some weapons also have a secondary mode - the flamethrower can also fire a flame grenade for example.
Another nice touch is the ability to look round the corner. This allows you to enter sniper mode, and take out the opposition before they even see you. Another neat thing about this is that if your holding a weapon in your right hand, and look round a corner to the left, John will automatically switch the weapon to that side so that you can shoot.
The animation is absolutely stunning, with each enemy having over 200 motion-captured animations, providing the most realistic body movement possible with a variety of death-throes to view.
Each enemy has 26 different hit locations, allowing you to accurately target a specific area of the body to take your enemy down, and it's great to just sit and watch the animations. An innocent victim may have just got a stray shot to the ankle; he will then proceed to drag his injured leg behind him as he attempts to flee. Also amusing is seeing an enemy lose his or her weapon, and crouch with arms upraised grovelling for their life.
This depiction of violence in the game isn't for the faint of heart, with dismemberment being the order of the day. Thankfully all the gore can be toned down or even switched off completely, if sprays of blood and severed limbs are not your cup of tea.
The violence does have you wondering whether you should be playing this game though. Indeed, you have to question your own ethics when you quite gleefully blow apart an already fallen soldier, just for him having the cheek to shoot back at you! If you thought Kingpin was too violent, then I'm afraid SoF isn't for you...
Sound And Vision
Raven have managed to stretch the Quake 2 engine to the limits. Background graphics sit nicely with the action in the foreground and, particularly in the case of the Iraq levels, look superb.
The locations are varied but all of excellent quality - from the cold and icy Siberian levels through to the New York locations. Effects such as fogging and smoke are excellently done as well, giving items such as the flame-thrower a realistic look. You may wish to lower the detail within the game though - I found that even at 640x480 with default settings the game would slow down in places.
The music in SoF is typical dramatic military style, suiting the mood of the game perfectly, and pumping along with the action. Never once did I think of turning it off.
Sound effects are also good, and you will soon be getting complaints from the neighbours! The weapon effects sound brilliant, giving all the guns their own individual character. The shotgun punches out with ludicrous bass, the Talon magnum .44 makes a monstrous noise, and the Heavy Machine Gun actually caused my empty mug to vibrate on my desk!
Yes, sitting outside you could be forgiven for thinking that World War 3 had broken out in the house of DNM.
It's not tremendously original, and it's certainly not the best looking first person shooter on the market now, but there is still a mountain of fun to be had with Soldier of Fortune.
There were times where due to lack of health, I was forced into playing more stealthily, and these moments also happened to be the most enjoyable. Heart pumping, sneaking round an office building, knowing that the next move could be my last. Awesome!
Due mainly to the pretty poor AI though, I found the game to be pretty easy to beat, even on the harder settings. That's where multiplayer mode comes in, with straight deathmatch, capture the flag, assassin, arsenal and team deathmatch modes all included "out of the box". Once tweaked, SoF plays just as well online as Quake 2 does, and it's one hell of a ride.
Soldier of Fortune is a welcome return to the story driven single player first person shooter. Just don't take it too seriously eh?
Download The Demo
Try before you buy! Download the Soldier of Fortune demo (95Mb).