Review by big_papa_grey

Reviewed: 06/22/10

Broken, Buggy and Just Plain Frustrating

Soldier of Fortune 2 is about an old(ish) moustachioed war dog named John Mullins who has to save the world from a deadly virus. You wont be playing this game for the story so I’ll stop right now.

Graphically as a first person shooter made in 2002 it has aged extremely well, much in the same way as Max Payne or Metal Gear Solid 2. It was made around the time when games were starting to get nice and smooth round the edges but before they started trying to cram too much unnecessary detail or put a brown filter over everything like games of the mid 2000’s. It plays well and is for the most part easy on the eyes.

As a game it is also extremely gory. I mean this level of violence isn’t really found in some of today’s high gore games. Even with gruesome titles such as Ninja Gaiden 2 or Madworld, they don’t capture that same brutality that Soldier of Fortune 2 does. The dismemberment factor here is quite literally……….ridiculous. You can keep shooting a corpse, blow bits of it’s skull off and keep hacking or shooting away until you are left with organs. It is unbelievable and very welcome if you are a gore whore like myself.

And now for the bad.
And there is a lot of bad.

Soldier of Fortune 2 is incredibly difficult, this is apparent right from the start. However after about an hour of playing, when the game starts jacking up the level from difficult to excruciating you begin to realise that it is not your inability that is getting you killed over and over again, it is the game itself. The single biggest flaw with the game is your firing system. Every time you shoot a weapon in quick succession, your accuracy gets worse. This starts becoming a serious handicap with oh, I don’t know, ANY AUTOMATIC WEAPON! I have had an enemy only about 10 feet away from me and I unloaded an entire Uzi clip at him, with the cross hair fixed right on his chest. I think I managed to hit him once, and of course he then killed me. This makes the entire mechanics of the game very broken. And the weird thing is your first shot from any weapon is perfectly accurate. Because of this, if you have to shoot anyone in the distance and you don’t have a sniper rifle you will be relying heavily on the pistol.

The second big problem of the game ties in with the first. Right so we know hitting a target with any efficiency is extremely difficult, but to make to things worse the enemies are very accurate. If you are in sight, just about every shot from an enemy will hit you, even if you are moving and they are at a distance.

Along with these two huge handicaps you also have to deal with grenades. Sure, I know every FPS has their bothersome grenades, but in this game grenades are Satan. Mostly you wont hear them if one lands beside you, during a fire fight against several enemies. You also rarely see one get thrown. And of course because of some very lazy and very unfair AI programming, grenades will land right at your feet. Every. Single. Time. Even if you do hear one land beside you, you wont get out of the way in time. A grenade’s blast radius is huge and if you are any where near one it will sap most or all of you energy. I cant tell you how many times I was in an intense fire fight, doing well and then suddenly just drop dead.

Your health depletes like candy. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that is so cheap. Sometimes you will turn a corner, see a enemy and instantly react. Unfortunately this enemy will already have their gun drawn and can easily take half your energy, even if you react immediately. You can pick up armour, but sometimes I have the feeling that the game can never make up its mind about how the armour works. Sometimes when you’re hit it will take just armour away, sometimes a bit of health and more armour or sometimes a huge chunk of both.

There are so many occasions where you will get held down by enemy gun fire and you will just not have a chance. And this game seems to love throwing five or six enemies at you at any given time. Because of this I found chunks of the games going like this:
Kill enemy, quick save, kill enemy, quick save. And it’s terrible when you have to play a game like that, because it means you never get into a flow.

Now here’s the clincher, for all of my moaning and whining about how hard this game is, you wanna know what’s funny? I was playing on easy. EASY. As the name suggests, easy is not supposed to be challenging. If you’re a seasoned gamer, easy is the mode you play if you just want to have a laugh and piss through a game at lighting speed. This game is sadistic on easy mode.

There are so many things broken about this game, most of which are quite simple that are down to nothing else but lazy design and flippant programming. For instance, you cant jump whilst running. And believe it or not, there are several instances where you have to make a running jump off a roof or whatever. To do this you have to run, then at the last second take your finger off run and press jump. I mean that is pathetic and very difficult to get right and it will more than likely have you plummeting to your demise over and over and over again.

Another weird design flaw is if, say you run out of bullets in a gun, you will automatically switch weapon, that’s grand. Now if you pick up ammo for the wasted gun and go back to it, your clip will still be at zero. The bizarre thing is if you press ‘shoot’, you won’t automatically reload like you normally do you. Instead you will stand there clicking an empty cartridge, usually while getting shot at like a moustached tit bag.

The hit detection in the game is brutal as well. Sometimes you’ll get a coveted head shot, but the game chooses to just ignore it. It also seems to have a problem defining barriers. I was once shooting at an enemy who was beside a pole. Even though I was clearly shooting at an exposed part of the enemy, the bullets were deflecting off something which wasn’t there. Buggy doesn’t even begin to describe this game. I can’t imagine how anyone in testing cleared this as being acceptable for the commercial market with the amount wrong in it.

The level design is average and for the most part linear. Linearity is something I welcome in these type of games because it keeps the focus where it’s supposed to be, on the action. However Soldier of Fortune 2 gives an F you to the gamers by pretending to be linear. There were so many situations where I was lead down a path to a dead end. After 5 minutes of pattering about and trying to figure this dead end out, I realised that there was some very insignificant alcove that I missed 2 minutes back which was where I was really supposed to go.

Balance is something that Soldier of Fortune 2 does not understand. You spend the first half of the game getting F’d in the A and all of a sudden it tries to give you compensation by handing you the most overly complicated yet awesome gun ever. This gun is so amazing in fact that you use it almost exclusively for the latter half of the game. But of course after you acquire this gun of the gods and you get a giddy feeling in stomach that the game is about starting kicking ass, you are dropped into a 4 hour long level called Kamchatka (try pronouncing that) which consists mostly of snowstorms and limited vision. And you just think to yourself, why? Why is the game making me put up with droll crap. When is the simple, bloody thirsty, gory fun going to happen, the stuff promised on the box.

The single worst thing about the game is its consistency. It can never seem to make up its mind about anything. Sometimes enemies will be so unbelievably skilled that they will sneak up behind you during a fire fight and kill you with a single shot. Other times you will have an enemy staring right at you and do nothing, till of course you shoot him in the face.

It is such a pity that this FPS is such a mess in absolutely every way, because there was the potential for a really superb game here. I’m sure if you spent the time to learn about where to go in a level, how to make the weapons not bad and get adjusted to the broken gameplay mechanics you might actually start to have fun with it.

Soldier of Fortune 2 is kind of like a mate that comes over to your house, drinks all your boozes, pisses on your toilet seat and calls your mum fat. I’m sure despite these character flaws he’s a nice guy once you get to know him.
But you have to ask yourself, is it really worth the effort?

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix (US, 05/20/02)

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