Ultimate Games UK (Game Review - Soldier Of Fortune)
Soldier Of Fortune Games Review Page
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Soldier of Fortune
PC Games > Action
Publisher > Activision
Developer > Raven

Dangerous Games
Well, it's that time again. No, I'm not talking about spring, when
winter-dormant plants spring forth, and the TV schedules are filled with a
variety of soul-crushingly dull repeats. I am referring to the coming of
this year's "controversial" game, a role filled in previous years by the
likes of Mortal Kombat and Carmageddon 2. It's a grand old tradition where a
random games producer puts out a title, usually a rather bloody one. It's a
tradition, particularly one upheld in America, that enables the moral
minority and various politicians to whip themselves up into a frenzy--who
then proceed to blame games (yep, it's games now, not video nasties or rock
and roll) for everything from school shootings through to bad weather.

One million dollars

Violence: the taste of a new generation.

But somewhat strangely, Soldier of Fortune, the new and bloody, if rather
good, shoot-em-up from Raven hasn't attracted that much attention outside of
the gaming community. Perhaps the media has its hands full bashing Pokemon.
The game shares its name with the Soldier of Fortune magazine: a mercenaries
and guns style publication read by a small number of mercenaries and a hell
of a lot of deer-blasting gun-loving Americans. It's the former camp that
this game allows you to emulate. Soldier of Fortune casts you as a mercenary
working for a quasi-secret organisation called "The Shop," which rather
handily pays your wages and makes sure you get enough work to keep you in
bullets and beer. You are called in to aid in the retrieval of four stolen

nuclear warheads which have been half-inched by an eeeeeevil terrorist
organisation. This neatly side-steps the issue of the perceived amorality of
mercenaries, people who are apparently willing to fight for anyone who pays
them. Although, when you think about it, the "official" army is at the beck
and call of politicians (particularly the US President) with its own
self-serving political agendas and interests, and so is not exactly
guaranteed to be acting in the best interests of humanity. But whatever your
moral position, remember: it's still only a game.

Guns guns guns

The Night Santa Went Crazy..

As Soldier of Fortune starts, you're helping the police clear out a
thug-filled subway, which introduces you fairly gently (in an ultra-violent
kind of way) to the game. Wandering around the corridors and gloomy tunnels
of the subway, you must blow away any thugs you come across, flick the odd
switch, and generally causing mayhem and terminating your foes with extreme
prejudice. This level is actually a little unusual in that this is one of
the few levels in the games where you can't shoot everyone on sight, as
there are hostages being held prisoner in the subway. Should you shoot more
than two by accident then you'll be pulled out of the mission and have to
redo the whole thing again. But once you finish the level by taking out the
final thug you are given your new orders to aid in the retrieval of said
warheads and pretty much everyone is a legitimate target. Still, any excuse
for a economy sized firefight... and firefights there are a plenty, since
gunplay is featured pretty heavily. There is no negotiation here. What there
is is a mixture of action and stealthiness. In terms of sheer shoot-em-up
action, Soldier of Fortune is pitched mid-way between Quake 2 and Thief.

Blam Giblethead

They've fallen and they can't get up.

Soldier of Fortune's blasting takes place across a large number of levels,
each set in real locations such as Kosovo, New York, Iraq, and so on. Each
of these places is filled with a variety of baddies, punks in the
underground, soldiers in pretty much every other location, and the odd

hostile vehicle (which you can blow up but not commandeer). You'll be up
against baddies with flame-throwers, shotguns, rockets and a whole variety
of other weapons, all set upon shooting you repeatedly until you're feeling
really rather ill. But even if these odds sound insurmountable, don't
despair. Because in the grand style of most 3D combat games, barring Hidden
and Dangerous, you can take far more damage than your foes can. It wouldn't
be much fun if you just dropped to the ground the moment you took a couple
of bullets in the chest. Nope, it's far more fun when your opponents drop to
the ground after taking a couple of bullets in the chest. Or the head. Or
the vulnerables. Or any other part of their bodies, for that matter.

Yes, this is the bit you really want to hear about: Soldier of Fortune's
hit-sensitive damage system. This means that your opponents react and take
damage differently depending upon which part of their body you hit. This
kind of thing has been promised before in other games but never quite
materialised, and I'm blood-spurtingly happy to say that Soldier of Fortune
pulls this off perfectly. Each baddie has twenty-four or so hit-sensitive
locations on their bodies, which means that you effectively get one of
twelve reactions when you shoot a baddy. Should you shoot them in the head,
they usually die instantly. Alternatively, if you shoot them in the arm,
they will usually scream and grab their arms for a bit, usually shooting at
you after about five seconds of blubbering. Shoot them in the leg and
they'll blubber again, but grab their leg and move more slowly, dragging
their feet when they come after you. Naturally, each hit is accompanied by a
suitable amount of blood, and should you blast one of your foe's parts with
sufficient force, with the shotgun, magnum, or any weapon used at really
close range, they may end up with bits blown off altogether. This also
results in instant death and quite a lot of blood and gore. Apparently the
people paid to clean up each battlefield get paid overtime at ten times the
usual rate.

Your choice

Say "giblets."

How you decide to play Soldier of Fortune is entirely up to you. Unusually,
altering the game's difficulty affects not only how hard Soldier of Fortune
is, but the approach you need to take to succeed. On the easy difficulty
level, or on the appropriate custom difficulty level, you can quite happily
run along, guns blazing, blowing away all the baddies, making as much noise
as you like, as you can in Quake 2. On the other hand, if you play the game
on the medium or harder difficulty levels, things get a bit trickier since
the more noise you make the more enemies turn up. You can tell how much
noise you make by watching the noise meter at the bottom of your screen, and
it's well worth keeping an eye on this. Otherwise, as you're blowing away
one enemy you may find another one coming up behind you and introducing you
to the business end of his or her shotgun.

However, there is one significant difference between this game and Thief.
The difference being that Soldier of Fortune cheats. How? Because whereas in
Thief your foes patrolled each level freely, in Soldier of Fortune the
positions of your enemies are largely scripted. So in the first subway
level, when you head down the stairs, a baddy is always there, always
jumping out to shoot at you. And on one of the Kosovo missions, at a certain
point on the level, a pair of soldiers will always rush out towards you,
guns blazing. And on another level, a tank will always roll along a bridge
the moment you step onto the bridge opposite. This works fine in a
shoot-em-up context, but when a stealth element is introduced, this makes
things a little trickier. So rather than go the Thief route, Raven the
designers of Soldier of Fortune make it so that when you make enough noise,
enemies are effectively teleported into the level at some point out of your
range of vision and sent over to your position. This works sometimes when
you're in a fairly open area, but on other occasions it can be somewhat
annoying to find that an enemy has appeared from an area that you just
cleared out and that could not conceal another foe. It's a bit of a cheap
compromise but you can always turn spawning off if you want to so it's not a
massive loss. But for a sequel, perhaps a better system could be

Gun Happy

"Don't mind me-- I'm fine."

While sneaking around may be helpful some of the time, when it comes to
taking down the enemy you need some good hardware at your disposal and given
that you'll spend sixty or so percent of your in-game time blowing people to
oblivion, it's lucky that Soldier of Fortune includes a bucket-load of
reality based weaponry. You get to play with a knife (which can be thrown as
well as wielded), a 44 handgun, a magnum, a shotgun, a machine gun, a
sub-machine gun, a rocket launcher, flame thrower, and others. You even get
to wield a microwave gun which can be used to fry or explode your foes; of
course, this weapon is completely fictional. Unless, that is, you count the
government's rumoured HAARP microwave programme... but that only lives in
the mind of conspiracy theorists, doesn't it?

Plus, if sniping is your thing, you can pull out your sniper rifle and using
the zoom facility blow the head off any baddies who come into view. You can
choose your weapons at the beginning of each mission by spending the cash
you earned in the previous mission (disturbingly, you get money for each
kill you make) on the available weapons. You can pick up weapons off dead
baddies as you go along so you can gather a full complement of weapons as
you traverse each level. Unless, that is, if you're playing on the medium or
hard difficulty levels where you can only carry a certain number of weapons,
so you may need to drop one before picking up another. This does add a
certain element of strategy to the game, in between blowing your opponents'
heads off their shoulders that is.


Multiple giblets ahoy...
Your opponents are actually quite a stupid lot for a bunch of supposedly
battle ready soldiers. They will come after you if they see you but their AI
is strangely flawed. Their ability to see you seems to be completely
unaffected by the distance between you and them. For example, if you stick
your head round a corner you can see your foes and get a shot in first.

However, even if you stick your head and shoulders round a corner, two feet
in front of your foe, they won't see you at all. Similarly, if you shoot at
them but miss, either by shooting round a corner or by missing with another
weapon such as the sniper rifle, the enemy will fail to react completely. A
little more improved AI, on par with Thief's or Half Life's, would have made
the baddies more convincing. Fortunately, Soldier of Fortune's single player
levels are so well designed, complete with battle scarred buildings, sniping
positions, sewers, dark corners and other atmospheric features, that they go
some way towards overshadowing the AI flaws.

The same can be said of the multiplayer levels as well, which include car
parks, bunkers, warehouse style levels, streets and others, suitable
locations to blow the brains out of a human foe. And Soldier of Fortune
features a variety of multiplayer games, amongst them standard deathmatch
(with a slightly fiddly teamplay facility), Capture the Flag, Assassins
(which is basically tag with guns), and realistic deathmatch. The latter is
probably the best deathmatch mode I've seen in ages, even being superior to
the standard blast-em-up jumping all over the place standard deathmatch,
which is still damn entertaining. Why? Because it encourages stealthier
play, making you subject to the same damage restrictions as the AI
controlled baddies in single player mode. So if you're shot in the head, you
die; if you're shot in the leg you limp, taking visible damage; if your arms
are hit, you have problems aiming; and you only need to be shot a couple of
times in the chest to die. So you end up sneaking about, looking around
corners, taking potshots and then backing off, rather than going around guns
blazing, making the game more like a real-life shoot-out than a John Woo
film. (Although if you prefer John Woo style action, you can go back to
standard deathmatch.) Unfortunately, while it's easy to get a relatively lag
free Soldier of Fortune game going on the
registration-required-we-know-where-you-live-big-brother-style Won system
(there's no Gamespy support for the game yet), realistic deathmatch games
were far and few between. It's a shame too, as realistic deathmatch really
does have a hell of a lot of potential.

From gibland with love
Graphically and sonically Soldier of Fortune is flawless, boasting as it
does superb character animations and excellent sound effects and plenty of
pyrotechnics. The gore effects themselves are unbelievable gory, not that
Raven went out of their way to make the game gratuitously violent. At all.
Ahem. As a whole, Soldier of Fortune is a highly entertaining but not
perfect game that should keep you going for a good week or two, and is
sufficiently different with its real world environment to other shoot-em-ups
about. And if realistic deathmatching ever takes off, you could be playing
it for ages to come. It has a few flaws, particularly in that stealth isn't
always rewarded as you'd expect it to be (given the fact so much of the game
is scripted), but it's still strangely addictive and gratuitously gory. If
you're looking for a totally realistic stealth-based softly softly action
game a la Hidden and Dangerous, you're best off looking elsewhere. If, on
the other hand, you want a highly entertaining shoot-em-up set in a modern
environment and with a bit of stealth thrown in, then Soldier of Fortune
should fit the bill nicely and deserves a place on your gaming shelf.
Oh Ouch
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The Main Bad Guy
Bless you
Eany Meany Minie Mo
Shoot em up
Steady Steady
Re-decorating your room? rent a gatling Gun today. (Available at most diy stores)
Typical day as a Soldier Of Fortune
You want to see a real gun Mate!
Who wants to eat led!!!
Nice Hair Style Mate!!!
Evil Terrrorist finds train door locked so he takes a lift on the roof!!!
Nothing a few asprins shouldn't sort out!!!
Video Clip
Front Door to my house that is!!!
Snowed Under
One of the many levels on SOF