Soldier of Fortune: Payback Hands-On

The limbs are still flying in Activision's new follow-up to this ultraviolent first-person shooter series.

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If you've been fiending for a new Soldier of Fortune game since the release of 2002's disturbingly violent Double Helix, Activision is finally here with more gore. The company just recently announced the next Soldier of Fortune, Payback, and surprisingly, the game is already planned for release in November. Veterans of the previous two games may also be surprised that franchise creator Raven Software isn't making Payback, at least not directly; that duty has fallen to an Activision Value studio located in Slovakia. But Raven and a number of other internal Activision studios, including Treyarch and Call of Duty maker Infinity Ward, are said to be contributing some technology and input to the game's development.

Regardless of who's making Payback, it has all the hallmarks of the Soldier of Fortune series. You've got your real-world weaponry, your story of international turmoil and intrigue, and, of course, an ultradetailed dismemberment model that lets you blow the arms, legs, and heads off of your scores of opponents with deadly aplomb. In fact, the new engine can model the break points on enemies' bodies with greater detail than Raven's old GHOUL system used in Double Helix. A leg, for instance, is now broken up into a foot, ankle, lower leg, and two sections of thigh. Headshots don't just kill an enemy, they cause the head to burst in a fount of blood and cranial matter. If you don't believe us, the game is so violent it just received ade facto ban in Australia. Then again, you can also watch our new gameplay movies to see for yourself.

See? It's a bit bloody. Totally not kidding.

If all this sounds a bit sadistic, well, that's just how Soldier of Fortune rolls. You might be surprised to find out that when members of the development team viewed some real-life dismemberment footage as part of their research early in production, they were actually quite disturbed by the horrific nature of the video. We'll spare you the specific examples we heard about, but in short, this inspired the team to ratchet Pay Back's violence into stylized, exaggerated territory, rather than grounding the combat in stark realism. Like the previous games in the series, it's sort of gruesomely comical to see the combat in action here; it's just that over the top.

Payback's story goes that you are, in fact, a soldier of fortune--a mercenary--and you and your partner have been contracted to head to the Middle East, retrieve a Chinese government official in possession of sensitive intel, and escort him to safety. But no sooner do you complete this mission than your "partner" turns on you, kills your ward, and sets off a whole string of international incidents. You'll spend the rest of the game fighting through more fictionalized Middle Eastern locations, as well as levels in places like Burma and Russia, as you track down the bad guy (or guys--you know there are always more of them) and try to restore global order. Let's hope somebody is paying you handsomely for going to all this trouble.

Still not kidding. At least that guy got to keep his arms.

In practice, Payback plays like a typical run-and-gun shooter, emphasis on the gun. Before each mission you can select a primary and secondary weapon, a sidearm, and a grenade type. There will be around 40 guns in the final game, and you can customize them with add-on grips, scopes, grenade launchers, and other gear that you'll unlock more of as you progress through the game's 12 missions. We got to try out some of the first mission in the dusty streets of the Middle East and found that the controls will be very familiar to shooter fans, especially those who have played the Call of Duty 4 beta (or will have played COD 4 itself by the time Payback ships). You can sprint from point to point by clicking the analog stick, raise your weapon to aim down its sights with the left trigger, and so on--with the focus here squarely on the deadly efficient elimination of everyone standing between you and your objective.

If you're looking for extreme amounts of gore couched in straightforward first-person shooter gameplay, Soldier of Fortune: Payback looks like it will satisfy that particular itch. The game doesn't look half bad, either. It's not up to the level of a Call of Duty 4, say, but the environments and character models look surprisingly good coming from a developer with "Value" in its name. The game is planned for release in mid-November, so we'll be back with a full review at that time.

Discussion

235 comments
SamFreez1982
SamFreez1982

I was a huge SoF fan, but after trying out Payback, I'm sadly going to hang up my hat on this series. Payback looks cool (not top-end, but nowhere near dated) and could have been awesome, until you get to the first level, get lost trying to find that alley that seemed to unblock itself after a predetermined time... all the while getting blown up by "random" explosions. Then you'll notice the canned way in which enemies are unleashed. You can spot each "ambush" site so easily you may as well wear a blindfold. Also, the enemies love to stream from around a corner, and you can just unload on the first one, with each successive enemy blindly running into your hail of bullets. Tip: aim for the first guy's head. I've nailed 5 or 6 guys in a row with headshots, which does look funny when they all just vanish in a red mist. It has so much potential, but the horrible flaws and tired ways of doing things make this a frustrating trip at best.

ConstantinNC
ConstantinNC

I am a fan of SOF, sure I will have Payback.

ecyoral
ecyoral

This game is niccee. I played a few online matches last night an was not disappointed. The run feature got me out of a tough situation fast and the weapons are top notch. I know a few titles were released on the 13th , but SOF Payback is a must have for any collection. The beautiful multiplayer is back and if we had a few more multiplayer maps this game would be a 10. Check it out and see the bloody goodness for yourself.

pidow
pidow

I liked the other SOF games and with this one being brought into todays world, it should make this game a good one.

The_Godfather_
The_Godfather_

soldier of fortune 1 and 2 were beautiful. I hope payback will be beautiful , too. and i certainly hope the main character will be John Mullins ...

person2
person2

to be honest, i think this game looks...well...bad. It would have been cool a little while ago, but there are much better games coming out also, any weapon you use seems to dismember people, what are they made of? paper? it should be a bit more limited to stronger weapons

redeemer_spawn
redeemer_spawn

I like this game and probably I'll get a copy of this one.,I'm on this game

mikek9988
mikek9988

A must game for gore cravers!!!!!!!

sellardwellar
sellardwellar

this game was my all time fav back in the day... and now here comes the new one.. who here is not siked to blow some arab heads off....

bashcash007
bashcash007

@emptycow Tell me about it. I feel exactly the same.

chuflito
chuflito

As long as it has local co-op

jblaze5000
jblaze5000

must buy.best lookin shooter game out maybe better than cod4.

crippla87
crippla87

The trailer is so funny. The last sentence made it worth it.

sw_and_wet
sw_and_wet

I hope we can pick up a lot of ammo throughout the level, coz I will dismember every single enemy I killed. I will blood wash the street!!!

sw_and_wet
sw_and_wet

Although the game is banned in AUS, but the game is still available for preorder at some AUS web store..

t3hKEG
t3hKEG

First thing that came to my mind was a kick-ass zombie mod. Anyone?

jaredrichards3
jaredrichards3

This game will rock!!! lets hope it has a wicked multiplayer as well

waveddiamond
waveddiamond

now that gamespot under appreciated COD 4 :| maybe SOF payback will make the difference it looks hot though, but its almost looks like COD 4 twin brother John

Enforcer84
Enforcer84

This should be interesting, considering its a "value" game.

felshs
felshs

wow.....i hope the head flew off if you shoot them in the neck

dan216
dan216

Never played any of the other sof but this one looks good crazy graphics and lots of blood.

FAcorp
FAcorp

Hey I am really like this new SoF 3. Although it's looks vary bloody, but isn't that a good thing?;)

firebreathing
firebreathing

IF you find blood revolting why would you play SoF in the first place??? :|

Keyser_So_So
Keyser_So_So

This looks so fun, none of this ridiculous over complicated HUD bollocks.

Donnyp
Donnyp

YAY! thats all i gotta say

xatman911
xatman911

Hey, something realistic for once - eg it has blood that we can actually see getting spilled. I hope it has blood on/off option for people who find blood revolting.

agustbestur
agustbestur

I own sof 1 and 2 so im gonna get 3!!!

dutch777
dutch777

very bloody, very bloody good i think.

Holysapyn
Holysapyn

I enjoyed the very first SoF, but I wait to be impressed

ocdog45
ocdog45

i cna't seee my self playing this game

supra2jzgte
supra2jzgte

I am sure that after 196+ postings someone has already said this, but Ill say it again. SoF2 had insane blood on the PC. Why would this one be any different? :) -dad

Bavoke
Bavoke

a lot of blood, look damn awesome XD i first online shooter ever was SOF (the first XP) and i was totally addicted to it, this game doesn't looks as good as the top shooters of today but still, gotta love the blood XP Bavoke 8)

P0T
P0T

I loved SOF2 multi-player!!!!!!! It was so freaking great and every patch they released included new maps or weapons. They added like 5 weapons post release, the mp5 was one of my favorites. I also loved the Columbia map, man that was a map I always kicked ass on. Oh yeah, the one game type was awesome, teh one where you had to plant the bomb or defend it from being planted. That was the shyt! I hope this new Soldier of Fortunes MP is as fun as SOF2s was!!!!!!

JackBurton
JackBurton

Man, you just gotta love the GHOUL damage model. I've been looking forward to a sequel (or other game developers to implement GHOUL into another Franchise) for years. I'll take GHOUL over the "Halo-Health system" in ANY game until eternity. Must. Have. This. Game. NOW!!!

ColdGen
ColdGen

Wasn't this game banned from release in Oz?

ssratt
ssratt

What did you play this on? It is in the PC section, but from your description you played this with a gamepad so it is a bit confusing.

AFWorm
AFWorm

Question: Why doesn't Gamespot have any videos and IGN has about 8? To me this is unsatisfactory. I shouldn't have to go to another sight for information. Gamespot ought to have it all! I love Gamespot- but I wish it was so good that I never leave for anything.

elguino3
elguino3

this looks freakin sick!!!!!!!

Poodlejumper
Poodlejumper

Well, Jack Thompson's gonna b***h about this one. If it's a good game I'll put up with his worthless b***hing. Double Helix was okay. I hope this is better.