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by Crave

wipedout-01.jpg (4602 bytes)You know the drill: You’re the greatest mercenary alive and only you can carry out the ultra top-secret missions that will vanquish an evil terrorist group, out a corrupt government, or quell a national enemy. In Soldier of Fortune, you play John Mullins, a Vietnam vet, and mostly you’ll be taking out terrorist groups for a secret UN group called "The Shop." If nothing else, Soldier of Fortune exudes toughness. Mullins is a trained killing machine, everybody speaks in gruff voices, and the gore flows. This machismo, combined with the locational damage system, made SoF a favorite among PC gamers. Majesco is working on a PS2 version for this fall, but Crave has beat them to the punch with the Dreamcast port. This is a much needed addition to the DC lineup, which is virtually nonexistant these days,

pinned-01.jpg (5379 bytes)First things first, the best part of Soldier of Fortune is the gore. If you’re not into gore, then don’t even bother going any further. If you are into gore, check this out: 26 "gore zones" on each character mean 26 ways to mess a mofo up. Once you get the heavy machine gun, you can mow off both a man’s legs before he falls to the ground, writing in pain. The groin shot to head shot combo is endlessly amusing. This is the kind of gore that you can scare yourself with, because you will find yourself shooting enemies in the most painful and twisted ways.

Other than that, Soldier of Fortune is a pretty stock first-person shooter. You receive a mission at the beginning of each level, select weapons, and head out to shoot bad guys and rescue hostages. Rescuing hostages consists mainly of not shooting them, but sometimes you must also shoot the enemy standing behind them, which is about the extent of the variety. The levels are pretty decent, but typical – sewers, subway, moving train, etc. The weapons are completely expectable, too, consisting of the trusty combat knife, 9mm handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle, machine gun, etc.

outside-01.jpg (5459 bytes)The graphics are not bad, but they aren’t spectacular either. Many of the levels are dark, and doors or hallways are sometimes barely visible, which will cause at least a few headaches. Otherwise, prepare to see lots of perfectly acceptable textures, lighting effects, and character designs, but nothing that will blow you away. The character animations are pretty fun. When a particular limb is shot off, the characters react well and vigorously. The only problem is that when Mullins is shot, nothing happens. It is as if the gore zones apply to the enemies, but not to the protagonist.

The sound is probably a high point in SoF, which is a good and bad thing. The background music is suitably intense and important sounding, but the highlights are the sound effects. Sound plays a role in the game because the more noise you make, the more baddies come looking for you. But in the end, the sounds of guns firing, shells plinking on the concrete, and explosives exploding are only so entertaining.

masks-01.jpg (5595 bytes)SoF’s controls are pretty standard for DC FPS titles. They work OK, but become troublesome in the most hectic firefights. The d-pad is used for several functions, including cycling through weapons and item, and using items. These functions are dilineated by holding down either of the two triggers. They seem simple enough in the tutorial, and even in the earlier levels, but as things get busy, the controls just get more frustrating. Fortunately, the enemy AI isn’t so great, so you can do a lot of ducking for cover to take care of reloading and items management.

SoF really only stands out in the ways it fails. After enough Quake and Unreal to appease the most die hard FPS fan, I had looked forward to a story oriented title. However, SoF doesn’t include any multiplayer mode, which is just sad. It means that I can’t really share this game with my friends, which means it doesn’t spend much time in the old DC.

controller-01.jpg (5638 bytes)Sometimes you find a single player game that is fun in groups. Spectators can enjoy watching the game’s story unfold and trading off controls can be enjoyable. But watching, or playing for that matter, SoF on the DC is an exercise in masochism. The load times are insane. One minute, two minutes, these are not uncommon load times. Add to the fact that it may load as many as eight times throughout one level, sometimes to simply show a cutscene in game graphics, and you’ve got a whole room full of pissed off gamers. It makes finishing the game very difficult, simply because of the massive test of patience.

I would recommend this game as a good, if light, play were it not for the load times. We’ve put up with load times for ages now, but games have gotten better, loading more information in shorter timespans. It’s just silly to take two steps back, as in Soldier of Fortune. Add to the loadtimes tricky controls and the lack of a multiplayer mode, as well as overwhelming mediocrity in most other areas, and you’ll find that the only reason to play SoF is because it’s one of the few, last new things out for the Dreamcast.

Shawn Rider   (09/05/2001)

Snapshot

Ups: Gore; great SFX; did we mention the gore?

Downs: Controls; load times; overwhelming mediocrity.

Platform:
Sega Dreamcast

 


1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine