Soldier of Fortune
Want to take part in a quick experiment? Yeah? Good. All you have to do is read the following words and monitor your reactions carefully.
Ready? Okay. Here we go: Guns. War. Bullets. Muzzle flare. Zapruder footage. Heavy recoil action. Trigger finger. Empty casings rattling round your feet like hollow cockroach shells. Charlton Heston. Dirty Harry. Hunting. Crossbows. Guns. Guns. Guns, guns and more guns.
Right. Experiment over. Did you find yourself getting sexually aroused? If the answer's yes, then congratulations - you're probably just the sort of person who reads Soldier Of Fortune magazine, the right-to-bear-arms bible of gung-ho gun nuts everywhere.
Even if you haven't seen Soldier Of Fortune magazine itself, you know the kind of thing: you sometimes see gun porn mags lurking guiltily on newsagents' shelves in the UK, where they're imported from the US. A typical issue has a cover peppered with 'product shots' of phallic-looking semi-automatics, a feature on the National Rifle Association, some survivalist tips, and a wipe-clean centrefold of some trailer park jailbait deep-throating a muzzle. Probably.
Soldier Of Fortune is one of the most established ones. And now it's been turned into a game. A first-person shoot 'em up game. And, surprisingly, it looks like it might just turn out to be really really, good. Soldier Of Fortune the game is being developed by Raven Software, the people responsible for politically neutral actioneers such as Hexen 2 and Mageslayer. The company's track record is a befuddling mixture of peaks and troughs in which robust and imaginative 3D shooters (such as the aforementioned Hexen 2) feature prominently. Soldier Of Fortune is the latest addition to the fold. Unlike the other Raven tides, it's based very much on the real world - a gritty, contemporary setting that's a welcome departure from the first-person fantasy/sci-fi norm.
Soldier Of Fortune utilises the Quake II engine, and as you can see from the screenshots here the game looks disturbingly realistic. It should play realistically too, thanks to the 'GHOUL' modelling system created by Raven boffin Gil Gribb. This provides more believable object physics in the game, for both wounded victims and pieces of architecture. Furthermore, as you'd expect from a game based on a magazine for gun fetishists, the weapons are designed to look and behave just like the real thing - nail-biting reload times and all. It should be enough to have regular Soldier Of Fortune readers breaking into a sweat before the end of the first level.
The missions sound exciting too: enough gnarled, earthy realism to indulge all your Rambo lll/Death Wish fantasies in one go. To this end, we're promised plenty of 'over the top violence' coupled with authentic strategic elements, support for all leading 3D cards, and thrill-a-minute multiplayer support bunged in for good measure.
The licence is neither here nor there - this game should turn heads on its own merit. Whatever. We'll be reviewing SOF in a forthcoming issue. Now shut up, put the magazine down, and back away slowly. Or I'll shoot your forehead off.
Download Soldier of Fortune
On a normal day just like any other, a call goes out to a man of action. A man named John Mullins wakes up to an ordinary life filled with dilemmas, the same as any other man. However, this man may just save your life. Yes, John Mullins is a combat specialist meant to handle any possible terrorist scenario imaginable. He occasionally works as a freelance operative for a U.N. anti-terrorist group code-named The Shop. John doesn’t mind it that much even though he works irregular hours and the customers are a little hostile. His current objective is to deal with a secret terrorist organization that is bent on murder and destruction. Generally, John hates to stick his neck out, but the paycheck is outstanding and he gets all the free ammo he can carry. If he’s lucky he’ll be able to defeat the bad guy before lunchtime. There shouldn’t be a problem that can’t be solved with a satchel full of grenades.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
You may never hear me say this again, but before you start shooting it up with a terrorist you should go through the tutorial. If you’re like me and skip reading the instructions, you’re in for a world of hurt once you’re on the battlefield trying to figure where the trigger is. Luckily the tutorial is actually interesting since it allows you to shoot all the guns you start with, including the sniper rifle. Once you’ve gotten through all that you’ll be ready to start the game and be thrown right into your first mission.
Keep in mind that the controls are a bit complicated to master; be patient and you’ll get it in time. Of course you could just fake it, but it may not be to your advantage later in the game. If you own the Keyboard for the Dreamcast, it may be useful to those of you who are veterans of games like Quake. Another useful tip: you can adjust the controls to fit your playing style. As soon as you read the instructions and become familiar with the feel of the controller you’ll be able to dice up your opponents before they even have a chance to scream.
Another setting option is the difficulty rating. You may choose either easy, medium or challenging; whatever you feel comfortable with. As a note, the only things that these difficulty levels determine is how many additional saves you have in the beginning of the game. Not to worry -- if you last until the end of the mission it will save automatically without using the additional saves. You should only save if you think the level you’re on is too difficult for you.
Once you start the game there are a number of icons that you should be familiar with. The first one is the health meter, located at the bottom of your screen. You don’t have to worry that much about it since your character is smart enough to wear armor into a gunfight, thank god! If you want to know the amount of armor you are wearing, it is the gray line above the health meter. Now we can’t forget about your stash of goodies -- your guns and ammo. Oh boy! You can tell what guns you’re carrying and how much ammo you have by filtering through the box in the bottom right corner. If you’re the type of person who likes to use explosives (and I don’t blame you) you can find that located in the bottom left corner. Another feature in the game is the meter that determines how much noise your character is making. Usually I would say to run in guns a-blazing, but there is an advantage to sneaking up behind enemy lines and then taking no prisoners. You’ve just got to have your priorities straight.
One of the most important things in the game is learning how to shoot your target. I know you just have to aim and shoot, but there are features that will aid you in doing it. As usual you have an icon that helps you aim, but if you move it over certain things it will change color. If the icon is over a hostage it will appear green to let you know not to shoot. If it runs over an enemy it will appear red, giving you free rein to eliminate your opponent. Depending on where you shoot your opponent, you may kill your enemy or merely wound him. There are over twenty-six different locations on an enemy that can be hit. You may want to dispatch your opponent by shooting him in the head or chest if you’re surrounded. If you want a good laugh you can watch your enemy hop around after you shoot him in the foot. I had loads of fun trying to find all the possible hit locations.
Finally, remember that after each game you’ll be scored by how well you did on the mission. The overall score you receive determines how much money you get to purchase more equipment in the next mission. You are scored by how many people you kill and how many hostages are saved. Yes, that means unless you want to be dead broke you can’t kill the hostages. You also get a better score by hitting various hit locations like the head or the groin. You’ll have to stay on your toes if you want to get the best score.
What’s not to like about the whole package? Okay, I know what you may think about the game being run off the Quake 2 engine, but don’t worry. You’ll be absorbed by some of the realistic events that unfold before your very eyes. Since things seem so real, especially when the hostages are executed right in front of you, it is hard not to get into the feel of the game. It isn’t all blood and guts, though. You’ll laugh at some of the comical reactions to some of the places you can hit your enemies. I dare you to hit your enemy in the groin; you’ll never stop laughing.
Are you asking me what’s not to like about a hostage pleading for his life? Or maybe you think it’s not funny that the boy you’re working for tells you not to shoot the hostages? I don’t know about you, but if I couldn’t hear the terrorists giving me idle threats about killing the hostages, I just don’t think the game would be any fun. After all, it helps you get into the game so that you feel that you’re actually John Mullins, out to save the world for a reasonable price. What else could you possibly want?
I could barely put this game down! It has basically the same qualities that you would expect from a first-person shooter game, but with personality. The ability to shoot your opponent in numerous locations, making the combat seem more realistic, brings a sort of flair to the game. However, those of you with weak stomachs may wish to pass on this particular choice. On the other hand, for those of you up to the challenge, Soldier of Fortune will keep you on the edge of your seat and ready for anything the enemy can throw at you.