Review by falsehead
"Ta rah rah boom de ay, I blew some guy away. His brains turned into spray. I was paid well that day."
Now you've probably read the tagline for the review and though maybe ''eugh, that's in rather poor taste.'' But I think that it sums up the nature of the game rather well. Soldier of Fortune is game full of sickening and sadistic violence but treats it in a rather light hearted and cartoony fashion.
This is both a good and bad part of the game. But before I analyse the nature of the game in detail I'll give you some idea of what the game is like and how it plays. Then I'll address some of the moral issues that arise from it's somewhat controversial subject matter and presentation.
Soldier of Fortune is a DC First Person Shooter (FPS). You play a mercenary soldier sent to chase down a terrorist called Sabre. This FPS is a mission based single player game like the N64 game Goldeneye. As one mission is completed, more treacherous plots need to be uncovered and you find yourself travelling the world foiling kidnaps, recapturing stolen nukes and moving towards the final showdown with the evil mastermind behind the usual plot to take over the world.
The gameplay see you use a mixture of stealth and all-out shooting as you attempt to clear levels of bad guys, rescue hostages and keep yourself alive. You have a sophisticated amoury of more realistic weapons - Shot guns, Pistols, Machine Guns etc. Also included are secondary items such as Flash paks (for blinding rooms of enemies), grenades, plastic explosive and night vision goggles.
It has been a big hit on the PC and the port over to the DC is in general very good, with one major exception. The awful loading times. Each level takes approx 2 minutes to load up, and loading points also appear in the middle of the missions themselves. These act as restart points for the DC version as there is no save anywhere function. Unfortunately, the flow of the action is seriously disrupted by a technical issue I am surprised wasn't sorted out before release. There is also no multi player mode included. So this does smack of a rushed release. But after losing Half Life on the DC, I guess we should be grateful it came out at all.
However, the graphics and speed are excellent. The levels are well designed for the solo gunner. Plenty of corners to hide behind means you don't ever get overwhelmed by enemies. The varied missions also add something new all the time as you move from a dingy US underground stations, to a battle on a moving train in Uganda and further down the line you fight in Iraq, Sudan and Germany.
Now I liked this game a lot, and part of me is a bit ashamed that I did. The one selling point Soldier of Fortune has over other FPS games is the way the enemy bodies are segmented into gore zones. If you hit an enemy in the foot he will hop in agony, disable his arm and you can then leisurely start blowing off his limbs. I was shocked when I played this game that I found myself standing over a corpse and deliberately blowing off each and every limb until it was nothing but a squishy lump. The fact I was getting a perverse pleasure from this virtual dismemberment really disturbed me for a moment.
But sometimes I think its OK to explore our baser instincts, I felt a tremendous catharsis playing this game. I began torturing my victims. Taking off their feet and hands, shooting them in the crotch then as they fell still twitching, slashing them with my knife. But I never lost sight of the fact that these were just polygonal representations of humans.
I figure that the pleasure you get from this kind of sick and OTT violence is comparable to that of pornography. You feel guilty for liking it, when your done you feel kind of dirty. But the monster from your Id can now go back inside your mind sated on horror leaving you clear and fresh and relaxed.
The developers seem to encourage this mindset. At the end of each mission you are awarded points for the amount of head, throat, crotch and gibs you pull off during a mission. Now sure that sounds sick as hell, but actually they are just being more up front about the kind of things many of us do anyway in games like these. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who played Goldeneye and deliberately shot men in the crotches or feet to watch them squirm. Its the darkside of human nature and its better to be doing to virtual people than real ones.
The overall mission structure and adventure keeps you wanting to play to the end. A variety of difficulty levels keeps up a challenging replay options. I personally never got tired of finding new ways to torment the bad guys with my arsenal of weaponry. The real big shame is those damn awful loading times. With those sorted out this could have been a mission based console FPS to match Goldeneye (N64). But the lack of even a multi player mode, means that its close, but too flawed to be considered a classic.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/17/01, Updated 09/17/01
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