Action B-Movies rejoice for bad port
There are violent video games and then there is Soldier of Fortune. As a sleeper hit of 2000 on PC, it helped solidify Raven Software's reputation as the manufacturer of gritty, visceral and absolutely bloodthirsty releases (as would be evident with the more recent X-Men Wolverine Origins Uncaged and Wolfenstein). And Raven Software did it thanks largely to the state-of-the-art damage system known as GHOUL. Take a great array of weapons and variety of gameplay modifiers later and you have any testosterone filled gamer grinning with madness at the addictive playability that is on offer.
Soldier of Fortune has you play as John Mullins, a veteran of US army turned mercenary, as he and his partner Hawk uncover a plot of a mass terrorist production of weapons of mass destruction. Their goal is to silence the terrorists' actions and crucially place the Nuclear weapons in right hands. But by silence, it almost indisputably means kill as many of the freaks as possible, in the most gruesome and repugnant way possible.
Soldier of Fortune has you harm your foes like no other: decapitating them with your trusty desert eagle, delimbing them with few shotgun shells to the arms and legs or even break their manhood with a few pistol rounds to the crotch area.
This Playstation 2 release, titled "Soldier of Fortune Gold" follows the same bloody legacy led by the immortalised PC legend. Yet Soldier of Fortune Gold shows that without a doubt the game has also aged and that the port is a little under-prepared for the console market it is revitalised for. Regardless let's dive right into the positives.
Like explained earlier, Soldier of Fortune is without a doubt one of the most viscerally entertaining shooters ever. Every single gun feels satisfying to use and they fire exactly how you'd expect them to with the correct amount of recoil, noise and damage. Noise especially is an important feature to Soldier of Fortune's gameplay as using the quietest means of killing your enemies without drawing attention elsewhere can be a incredibly wise tactic during play. But what makes Soldier of Fortune a joy is that execution of your foes can always be determined based on how you play an FPS.
Raven Software have catered Soldier of Fortune for the player in mind; whether you have a tactical mindset, run 'n gun approach, or stealth outlook on combat. Raven Software has done this thanks to some ingenious level designs and gameplay modifiers that are user designated before play. Infact, the only thing that stops Soldier of Fortune ultimately is the technical failings of port developer Pipedream's inability to convert the game properly on Playstation 2.
The preliminary complaint is that the controls are in no way judicious enough to prove efficient on the Dual Shock 2 controller. This is immeasurably a failing that cripples the entire contingency of Soldier of Fortune Gold's gameplay. For example commands such as leaning round corners (which allows for taking shots at the enemy with minimal health loss) is far more extrapolated on PS2 than on PC. You have to hold cross while pressing left or right on the default scheme, a feat easier said than done.
And the precision of the thumbsticks is entirely broken. Realising this, the developers have tried implementing a autoaim and lock-on control scheme but this is very uncomfortable also as it locks on entirely, making tactical shooting (i.e. Headshots) nearly impossible. You know you've done badly when you add the keyboard and mouse as a controller option as a last resort, and shamelessly, it is the way to go. But, Soldier of Fortune Gold didn't make the same mistake Quake III Revolution had including a keyboard and mouse option to say the least.
Which, bearing in mind controls make a game, hinders an agonising level of enjoyment from what's to be witnessed from the hours of gorey fun in Soldier of Fortune. Though graphically Soldier of Fortune is somewhat underwhelming with low detailed characters and environments, this is a Quake 2 engine title (an engine that dates as far back as the late 90s) but given the Playstation 2's power it could've been juiced up a little. We've been enticed by the fantastic looks of Red Faction, Timesplitters and our own vamped up version of Half-Life so it doesn't come off as that demanding to ask of some visual overhauls. Yet regardless, Soldier of Fortune still has an erratic frame-rate which deters whatever entertainments worth is left standing from the ghoulish port.
Some last few minor comments. The audio of Soldier of Fortune is solid. It has forgettable music and decent voice acting, hammy and clichéd ("Something big is happening, much bigger than this gang war!") with one liners and doom filled plots, but perfect given its action movie presentation. Soldier of Fortune is actually a sizeable release for a first person shooter. It can be completed within a few weeks of solid play each day and the pacing is suitable due to the variety of locals and level designs throughout the game. There is an obvious lack of online play too, but four player local play is guaranteed instead.
Soldier of Fortune Gold on Playstation 2 is still a damn satisfying shooter even in its weakened console state and had Pipe Dream not buggered the controls and pumped more effort into completing the title for Playstation 2 audiences then it might've been rewarded the attention it deserves. Shame.