Soldier of Fortune is a spectacular blend of both action and stealth and seems to be an excellent mixture of Quake and Rainbow Six. As more and more developers join the First Person Shooter genre, the games that stand out will need to be special; something that will get noticed. Soldier of Fortune has been noticed...from the over-the-top gore and hit detection system to the multitude of weapons; SoF is one of those games that everyone should at least try.
When I first heard about SoF and wrote the preview (which you can check out here) I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I mean, who would have thought that with all the latest debates over violence in video games, a company would go out and make one of the most violent games I have ever seen. There is no doubt that this is one of the most horrific and bloodiest games, and although I am not a huge fan of those extra violent games, I really enjoyed SoF. Just to tell you now, if violence offends you can easily tone it down, using Raven's integrated violence lock.
In the game, you take the role of a retired army veteran named John Mullins. The story is quite decent and beautifully integrated into the gameplay, however many will find the story kind of clichéd. The US government hires you to do a special mission for the military. You have to hunt down 4 stolen nuclear missiles (surprise, surprise =P) and stop the terrorists that stole them. This difficult task takes you all over the world including places like Japan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the US, South Africa, Russia and Siberia. SoF requires problem solving and thinking and combines an amazing story along with excellent multiplayer capabilities. The intense storyline and features combine to create an amazing game, hailed as the "most realistic, covert-operative themed shooter ever created. "
Where this game falters is its graphics. I'm not saying that they are horrible; it's just that they could be better. This game is based on the Quake 2 engine, which despite its huge success has recently become outdated (albeit a modified version). The character models are quite beautiful and the level design is also great, however, the overall feeling I got was that this game could look so much better. Especially when you focus on certain things like the wheels of vehicles, you notice that they are more square than round. Despite saying that, their textures and animations give the game a great look. In addition, I must point out that Raven did a fabulous job with their GHOUL system, which allows for better lighting, animation, and location based damage. This means that if you shoot someone in the arm with a pistol, they will grab their arm in pain. Also, let's say you shoot their arm with a shotgun; the whole limb will fly right off. This is really amazing and is a major part in the amount of gore in the game. This also means you can shoot guns out of enemy hands, hats off their heads, sunglasses off their face, and dismember a multitude of body parts, which by the way, can make the game even more fun.
The sound in SoF stands out. Imagine the sound of a dying soldier in the background, while you take out another guard with you 9mm silenced submachine gun. The sound weapons are quite satifying and even the languages in different parts of the world are different. For example, the Russians speak a different language than the people in Iraq, and I've been told that they are actually speaking their native language. The amount of effort taken to integrate this shows you the commitment of the Raven team to producing a good, solid game that people will enjoy.
Ok, so the main thing in a game is the gameplay right? Well, when it comes to gameplay SoF excels. As I mentioned, it is very similar to Quake. However, it also requires strategy and stealth, especially the greater the difficulty (by the way, there are 4 difficulties). While being careful not to be seen by enemies is important, it is also important to watch the sound gauge. This detects the amount of sound you are making, and if you end up making to much noise, a flood of enemies will come running towards you. In each level, there are numerous objectives that you must complete, with help from some of your friends. The way that both tactics and action were mixed results in a great overall experience. The "cut-scenes" advance the plot and are blended very nicely and do not interrupt the gameplay at all. The game's puzzles were never too hard that somebody would get stuck, but they offered a nice challenge. The AI was quite decent and reacted to sound and visuals almost all the time. I say almost because some of the time they just didn't react. This however did not occur very often and did not take away from the overall effect. I mean, hey...I don't mind if another group of guards "forget" to come running towards me when I make too much noise =).
· throwable hunting knife
· 9mm pistol
· .44 magnum
· sniper rifle
· heavy machine gun
· submachine gun
· silenced 9mm submachine gun
· rocket launcher
· microwave gun
On to the multiplayer. The way this game plays on the net seemed very stable to me and the lag was not of great concern. It is extremely fun to play, especially if you learn to use the C4 and flashbangs correctly. The multiplayer package includes four different modes to frag your friends. The maps are all very nicely designed with beautiful lighting and textures. The models also look very realistic and well...cool. I found myself playing the multiplayer demo for hours upon hours, being unable to stop. Here is a description of the 4 basic modes:
Standard DM. You all know this one.
Kill other players with each one of your weapons to get points. After you kill players with your full cycle of weapons (from combat knife through your ultimate weapon you get a point and the player who's the most skilled with all of the weapons in the game wins.
Hunt down and kill a specific player while other specific players try to kill you. The higher you kill score, the more players will be assigned to kill you.
Capture the Flag
Despite all these great options, I must warn you that as I am writing this article, there are not too many servers running SoF (about 80). However, a few days ago, GameSpy released their newest version with SoF support, so you can likely expect the multiplayer games to pick up.
So is this game good? Definitely. Is it worth the money? For sure. The single player missions are all very rewarding and I found it really enjoyable. Even though the shortfall in graphics and long load times, this game is definitely very fun and the GHOUL system is an amazing feature.