Another day, another FPS. Fortunately, this particular FPS is
made by Raven Software, a company that has long produced
quality games from the Quake engines. Soldier of Fortune has
been billed as the most "ultra-violent" FPS ever, but is there a
quality game behind the violence? I think so.
Graphically, SOF is pretty impressive considering it's using the
venerable Q2 engine and has to compete with the next-gen
engines powering Q3 and UT. Raven has done a pretty
commendable job of hiding the limitations of the Q2 engine and
making some very nice and memorable levels. The gun models
and animations are pretty well done, I especially like the
reloading. The player models are decent, the enemies are all
quite varied thanks to a feature that allows the same model to use
a variety of head textures and clothing textures. I thought it would
be a lot more impressive than it actually is though, all the enemies
still look pretty similar. One player model that I think looks pretty
bad is the person you play. What's with the goofy moustache
buddy? If you're trying to create the image of a cool dangerous
mercenary, why did you create such a chumpy skin? Oh well, you
only ever see yourself in the cinematics. Speaking of cinematics,
they are quite well done; they are all done in-game so they aren't
CGI masterpieces but they progress the game quite well. The
GHOUL system (which separates body parts) allows for realistic
pain animations on the enemies, such as clutching the neck while
blood sprays, hopping in pain from being shot in the leg etc. I
hear you can shoot weapons out the enemies hands which is
pretty cool, but I haven't done it (I aim for the crotch cuz it's fun
watching them double over).
I like the sound in SOF. They did a very good job getting together
all the weapon sounds, reloading sounds, etc. The dynamic music
is a very nice addition, it changes seamlessly depending on what
kind of action you are in. As soon as you encounter an enemy it
becomes a lot faster, more dramatic music, but when you're just
wandering around it's a quiet non-intrusive sound. The
background sounds are pretty nice and complement the level well,
from the quiet railroad sounds on the train mission to the air raid
sirens and explosions in the Kosovo levels.
Gameplay wise, I like SOF but it's not what it claims to be. Raven
hired an ex-mercenary specifically to help them develop a game
that was "as close as players can get to experiencing the dangers
and thrills of authentic mercenary combat." Obviously we've been
playing authentic mercenary combat in all the FPS that have come
out. There is definitely a greater element of stealth and a lot more
"1 shot kills" but the gameplay is NOT radically different. Still, it
combines somewhat realistic gameplay with plain and simple
action which is a mix that I really like. I should point out the guns
are modelled and designed after real guns but due to licensing
issues can't be called by their real names.
The AI in SOF is pretty bad, you can kill an enemy and have his
friend standing 5 feet away not realize anything. The enemies
either hide behind walls and shoot, or run directly at you. They
don't do a combination of the two, or basically anything else.
They're basically just giant blood bags waiting to be burst by your
gun. There is a noise meter which is pretty cool, as soon as you
start firing tons of shots this noise meter goes up and at a certain
point enemy reinforcements will come in. This forces you to take
small, accurate burst shots instead of just running around
The "story" in single player mode is a little sparse, but it ties the
varied mission locales together nicely. No matter what the mission
objective is, basically the real objective is to get to the end of the
level where you will watch a cinematic of you completing the
objective (like blow up a plane or a nuke or something). One thing
I think is pretty funny is on a bunch of the levels they detonate
nuclear weapons, and you can see yourself running away from the
growing explosion behind you. Sorry guys, you can't "outrun" a
nuclear explosion like that. And why would you detonate it in the
first place? Whatever though.
Multiplay is fine, but nothing to write home about. If you want
straight action I'd play Q3 or UT, if you want realism I'd play
Counter-Strike or wait for mods for UT and Q3 to start coming out.
It uses Q2 netplay so it's pretty fast, and you can turn on "1 hit kill"
options to make it a lot more realistic. Buy it for the first person
game if anything though.
Bottom line, this is a fun game that combines a little bit of stealth
and strategy with your classic FPS action. It doesn't break any
new FPS barriers and the "ultra-violence" is nothing to get all
worked up over, you psychotic violent kiddies. Oh and Raven, try
and get your money back from that ex-mercenary.