SOF2 is a revelation ... all PC games should be this enjoyable. A timeless classic FPS ... run and get a copy!
SOF2 Double Helix (Gold Edition) has been the best plain FPS fun I have had in ages! Gameplay, in a word, is EXCELLENT.
While I am relatively a recent recruit to the world of PC games and somewhat older than most, being in the 45+ age group, I have played a range of recently popular FPS and tactical shooters in the last 18 or so months. SOF2 is now considered by many to be an "old game" ... I was told this on another gaming forum. Well, all I can say is "many a good tune played on an old fiddle". Sure graphics-wise this game is "old", when compared with state of the art COD4 or GRAW ... but there's more to a game, a wine or a woman than purely good looks.
By way of background, I only started playing PC games within that last 18 months, commencing with the "older" and now "classic" Call of Duty (COD) and Medal of Honor (MOH) FPS games, before moving on to Nightfire (a Bond-007 based game) and Men of Valor (MOV, a great Vietnam FPS). These games all have great gameplay in common. More recently I have being playing tactical shooters like Rainbow Six and GRAW series games. (I also have a bunch of RTS games as well, like the Total War and LOTR BFME
series games, although my son is immersed in those at present so re-plays and reviews are pending ... in other words I don't see FPS style games as the be all and end all.)
SOF2 is also a "classic", not just because of its vintage but because it is enjoyable in its own right regardless of the currency of its graphics. It wins hands down on gameplay over a number of FPS games I have played recently.
I saw a new copy of SOF2 Gold Edition (Activision Essential Edition) at local store for A$8 and I remembered reading some very positive (if dated) reviews of it. So I bought it. Well, it is without doubt the best "bang for buck" I've experienced in my, relatively short if somewhat intense, PC gaming career.
The single player game has 4 levels of difficulty plus a custom setting. I played through using the "Consultant" difficulty (2nd hardest) with unlimited saves, consultant carrying capacity and weapons inaccuracy active. It's up to individual choice ... I balance difficulty with ability to save as/when required. During the game you can pick up health packs, body armour, ammo and new/alternate weapons. In this regard it is similar to early MOH, COD and Nightfire.
SOF2 also has a "random mission generator" these are fairly bland compared to the single player game/mission. I have (as usual) not ventured into the online /multiplayer aspects of SOF2 but from what I could see the online MP community is still VERY active.
Graphics-wise it's very much like the early MOH series and Nightfire (although rendering of streams, rivers and lakes is average indeed). That said the graphics are good ... my card is a Nvida GeForce 9600 GT and I run all my "old" games at maximum graphical settings so most do look very good. A lot of the action takes place in well-rendered indoor settings or among packing crates and in tunnels. Scenic vistas are limited to rooftop outlooks which you don't have time to appreciate due to enemy aircraft trying to nail you! Sound effects and voice acting are good. Character and weapon "skins" are also quite good.
SOF2 has a few minor glitches here and there (eg I could not drop any of my weapons in the Columbia mission so that I can pick new/alternate ones up and sometimes the bad guys are poking their guns through walls or doors and shooting at me!).
The SOF2 storyline, which is mainly derived from the cut-scenes, is a well constructed narrative, if somewhat impalusable, for the "terrorist-era" FPS genre. Locations are for the most part good though somewhat sparse if outdoors - I really enjoyed the Vergara's mansion mission - very moody. Hong Kong was fun too. But the best mission by far is the Kamchatka ... it's like an Indian Jones movie ... out of the frying pan and into the fire. John Mullins, the hero like Claude what's-his-name in Code of Honor, can carry a virtual armory or weapons with him (depending on the skill setting selected).
Enemy AI is good and reflects the difficulty setting you select at the start of the game. Much has been written about the gore/dismemberment aspects of the game. I am ambivalent about the whole dismemberment/death animations issue. I played the first half of the game with it off and then later with it on. It's not such a big deal to me, but I'd recommend having it off for the younger players, like my son, if/when they want to play it. Unlike a lot of "good" recent games SOF2 does not suffer from "bad language" issues ... something that, I think, detracts more than the gore in recent games.
SOF2 reminds me of Nightfire in terms of gameplay and graphics (not surprising given their vintage). Like Nightfire, SOF2 is usually intuitive ... you don't get a MOH, COD or MOV compass to tell you which way to go and it wasn't until I got to Vergara's wine cellar that I had to refer to a walkthrough/FAQ for the first time. Secret panels to get to the bunker... aha! Hmmm,that was obvious!
As a hint: in any mission, after you have dispatched the various bad-guys in a room/location remember to have a good look around and even smash with your knife or pistol the various carboard boxes ... occassionally you will find some badly needed ammo, health box or body-armour.
You may need to refer to a walkthrough from time to time when there is no obvious way to transition to the next stage, especially during the long Kamchatka mission, which without doubt crams in more pure entertainmant and non-stop action in that one mission than many FPS do in an entire game. I found a new way (well it's not in any of the walkthroughs I have seen) way into the main compound in the Kamcatchka: Perimeter mission ... there's a watchtower collapsed into the frozen river breaking through the ice ... enter through the tower's "window" into the icy cold water and swim towards the dam wall ... you will come out through an ice hole on the far side ... the downside is that you do sacrifice some health swimming through the frozen river. After you penetrate the underground facilities at Kamchatka the FUN really begins ... and the pace doesn't let up until you finally escape. Whew!
BTW, the IGN walkthrough by Ivan Sulic, (http://au.guides.ign.com/guides/16327/) is very well written and comes in handy when intuition fails. It helps to know how to deal with the heavily armed helicopter and Osprey VTOL aircraft.
SUMMARY: So, if you enjoy a game where you can feel a bit like James Bond, battling evil doers in exotic climes, a bit like John Maclean (Bruce Willis) crawling through ducting, and a bit like Jackie Chan (accessing impossible places along extremely narrow ledges) ... then this is THE game for you!
SOF2 IS probably the best A$8 I ever spent on a PC game, or in fact anything! I guess it's fair to say it was underpriced ... but of course no complaints from me!
If you see this game buy it and play it ... you will not regret it ... even if you pay more than I did!
In fact, I enjoyed SOF2 so I won the original SOF on eBay (a Platinum edition in "as new" condition) so John Mullins will ride again (very soon)!