Review by KChang

Reviewed: 07/31/06

2002 Shooter is all about the shooting, 'nough said

NOTE: Gold Edition of SoF2 is reviewed here.

Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix is sequel to Raven's highly popular Soldier of Fortune. The first game casts you as a mercenary on contract to the government for some ultra-secret stuff, with some over-the-top villainy. The sequel brings it more down to earth, with a premise of biological warfare and links to terrorism. So, how does it rate? Pretty good, I think, but not the greatest.

SoF2 has a variety of weapons, but nothing really special here, as all the weapons are what you'd already expect, from pistol (dual wield possible!) to Uzi (dual wield possible) to shotgun (and assault shotgun), assault rifle (M16 or AK74), sniper rifle, heavy weapon such as M60 or chain grenade thrower, plus variety of grenades and vision gear. The only weapon futuristic here is the OICW, and it is rather clunky, and sometimes, too good, as it can act as a sniper rifle, assault rifle, AND grenade thrower all in one. However, it's not the weapons that are the stars here, but rather what the weapons do to a human body. You see, SoF2 features the most graphic depiction of gunshot wound ever on computer screen.

We are talking Hollywood reality here, of course. Shoot someone with a shotgun and he flies back 6 ft and land in a heap. Drop a grenade in enemies midst and body parts fly out for dozens of yards. Shoot a shotgun low enough and fast enough, and you'll saw the guy's legs right off. The stump even spurts some blood before the body goes rigid. Headshots are gory as expected. You can even shoot the body AFTER it's dead. Ragdoll physics is a bit primitive here, but this is a 2002 game. And sometimes, even headless guy can still scream in agony before dying, but that just adds to the "charm" of this game. Fortunately, gore can be turned off or limited under a parental filter, and the bodies disappear after a while as not to take up too much CPU power.

For a 2002 game the graphics is quite good, as it pushes the Quake engine to its limits. The cinematics are all rendered with the game engine, which is a nice touch, but it also gave them a bit of a "rigid" unnatural feel. Sound is similarly good, with the proper ambient noises and such, and the weapons sounds good (if a bit Hollywood-ish). Dialog is good, but some of the voice-casting is questionable, esp. Taylor. On the other hand, there really COULD be a few more viarieties of hostiles. While each area has their own, there are only X types available (usualy 3 or so) and after a while you start to wonder if you ran into an army of clones, and I'm not talking about Star Wars.

The AI in the game can be quite vicious. They will vault tables and such to get under cover, use cover effectively and pop out to shoot, cover each other's advance, and so on. The best part is they make proper use of grenades, though sometimes they did not take into account the bounces, as it just deploys... too close. But they sure use a lot of grenades, and that is quite different from all the other AIs in similar shooters.

Multiplayer really shines as this is a Quake-based game after all. Action is fast, guns are fast, and pace is fast. Good level design, plus support for Punkbuster keeps players coming back and cheaters out.

The SP campaign is LONG, easily 20 hours, which is a LOT longer than most shooters. Many levels are MASSIVE, and some require serious stealth, where one mis-step means mission compromised. However, much of the action later involves "finding the path", as not all the paths were obvious, and frequently a hint guide is needed. Then there are the "bosses", 2 choppers, which are WAY overpowered, but I guess that's why they are the bosses. There are a few "rail-shooter" sequences that are rather interesting as well.

The Gold Edition also adds a random mission generator, which can randomly generate a map for you to play on. You choose the mission, the weapons (or let the game randomly assign them) and the time / location. If you like the map, save the seed number and let others play the same map. Variety is endless, and this extends the game life significantly.

This can be seen as a stress reliever of sorts, and spare me the psycho-babble about repressed rage and all that. :)

All in all, SoF2 is a solid sequel that builds on the original, with a more realistic scenario, but doesn't really add much to the plate. It's a solid title, but not much else. The Gold Edition's Random Mission Generator, on the other hand, is something that hasn't been seen since, and is sorely missed.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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