Let’s face it – Soldier of Fortune (2000) was an awesome game due to its ‘Ghoul’ technology. Stuff where you can blow people’s arms / legs or even his head off and yet giggle like a small child. And if I tell you what the storyline is all about, most will forget. Well, about two years later (2002), Soldier of Fortune 2 is finally upon us. Using the enhanced version of this Ghoul technology where this time it has thirty-six ‘damage zones’ and sixteen dismemberment zones, I’m sorry to say, I couldn’t wait to blow people’s head off yet again. About the storyline, it’s another ‘Earth will be infected with a deadly virus yadda yadda yadda’ however for me, it’s all about blowing body parts to bits, and this game does this a little too well.
There are certain parts in the game where there’s absolutely no shooting involved – just play out a scene where you need to walk to an area and gather intelligence. This, I felt, was pretty neat and maybe Raven Software took a feather out of Valve’s cap of playing out cut scenes (a.k.a. the Half Life series). And because of this, adds engagement to the game as it’s like viewing a movie where, this time, you can control the character, as opposed to just viewing a cut scene. Yet, there’s still a fair array of watching cut scenes however the overall experience of shooting, playing out and viewing the cut scenes were well scripted and didn’t fall out of place.
Yet there are some features that did feel out of place, or for the better word, didn’t work well enough. What I’m referring to is the sneaking / stealth aspects. During the training course, Sam (member of the ‘Shop’) stresses to you about being stealthy thus avoiding conflict. He even goes on to say about carrying dead / unconscious bodies away to avoid detection. Well I tried this many time and, to cut a long story short, the stealth aspects are simply broken. Just like the first game where making noise alerts guards, in this game it does the same however, this time you don’t get a hoard of guards pouring through; maybe two or three at most. Take note though that, if you have been alerted, clearing an area does not guarantee a safe passage – it’s just mean some enemies will literally appear out of nowhere because of the ‘alert’. Yet only one mission has it being alerted means game over.
The AI is quite decent as all the enemies will take cover however all is not perfect. The enemies all have a one-track mind meaning once they have spotted you, they will chase you down regardless, in a ‘tactical’ manner – that is, slowly advancing towards you. Some will blindly charge however the net result is like bees to honey. Yet, if you are not careful enough, you can be easily mowed down within a blink of an eye – not matter how much armour you have. So, because the game also plays upon leaning left / right, doing so will protect your body. However, I feel leaning is much overpowered that doing so almost guarantees you not being hit. But as your instructor says (Sam), use this often as it will save your life.
And speaking about the AI, they all arrive by triggering spawn points, meaning just run ahead a little then run back for cover. Use that lean option and simply mow down anyone and everyone. There are missions where you need to save civilians and killing them will end the game and being killed too (?). And about the level design, the first half has interesting locals yet the second half uses the same ole textures – basically it feels like there’s wasn’t much thought went on, especially during the latter half of the game. It felt like the developers want to extend the life of the product by doing more of the same or simply ran out of production time. Whatever the case maybe, the game’s level design do fall out of place from time to time.
Yet the highlight for this game is that every body part can be shot off. Comparing it to SoF1, Soldier of Fortune 2 takes this to another level as shooting off an arm shows the victim looking at their lost limb, scream in terror before collapsing with blood spurting out. Shoot someone’s head off makes that person stumble back a little then fall down backwards with blood spurting out. Shooting a person without successfully dislodging anything can make him limp or simply drop the weapon and run away, cowering in a corner. Yes, there’s a lot of work put into this ensuring that the death sequence is as real as it gets, no matter how gruesome it is. You can turn this off via the settings if you wish however, and for some strange reason, I need to shotgun everyone’s head off – wonderful stuff.
The game also plays along with not attacking civilians and if so, the game will end (thankfully so). So, there are missions where the civilians running about like headless chickens however some actually will fight back if they manage to pick up a weapon from a dead foe. I’m not too sure if this was meant to happen however it does. For example: I shot a sniper from balcony level only for him to drop his sniper rifle (or course). Well a civilian just happen to walk pass and stopped to pick up that dropped sniper rifle. That really cheesed me off as for starters, I want that sniper rifle and secondly, I cannot kill him to retrieve it otherwise game over for me. But the good news is that, if any civilian manages to get hold of a weapon, they will use it on the enemy...sometimes.
Besides the single player campaign, there’s an option called ‘mission generator’ where you can select a variety of missions from assassination to gathering intelligence to escaping a compound and so on. You can also select the location from hills to snow and other features. These missions cannot be saved at any point however it does serve well enough for a short killing spree. Yet I feel the AI is a little stronger during this mode as most are godlike especially when throwing a grenade.
The game is fuelled upon the Quake III: Team Arena engine with Raven’s added customary SDK Ghoul technology. So visually it’s quite pleasing to the eye however there’s less ‘shiny’ elements as the entire colour palette has a lot of dull greys – other words, it can be spiced up a little with a splash of some colour other than 50 shades of grey. But, because it also uses the Ghoul 2 technology, I cannot help myself blowing people up in many different ways. Yet what I also noticed is that everyone has eyeballs! Yes, I can see their eyes move, almost life like and if someone died, their eyes roll back – gruesome to the nth degree. Yet the musical scores are pretty decent however I was a little disappointed to hear that the real John Mullins did not do his own voice over – it was Todd Susman and even Mark Hamill makes a very small cameo appearance.
Being developed by Raven Software, you come to expect this will be one hell of an action game. Well, it’s not exactly that as one of the major criticisms I have from the first game was, it has far too much action, considering it was based on the real-life John Mullins – the Vietnam War veteran that earned three purple hearts and also being a mercenary for hire. So, yet again Raven Software used him as a consultant for SoF2, this time they were targeting a more realistic approach to this game, more akin of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. They did exactly that as you cannot gung-ho everyone you see (as it will ensure you a quick death) and considering its gorier than before, depending upon you taste, for me, it’s a decent FPS – just don’t expect a riveting storyline though.
7.5 / 10 (for the gore)