You are John Mullins, a professional consultant with a long combat record and a reputation for getting the job done when the world's governments can't. After a long and distinguished career in the Army's Special Forces, you're now in business for yourself, taking most of your contracts from a secret organization known only as The Shop. Together with your old friend Sam Gladstone and your partner, Madeline Taylor, you combat terrorism around the globe.
You've learned that a bloodthirsty worldwide terrorist organization has developed a deadly genetic virus and is threatening to unleash it on the world unless their demands are met. Your mission: root out the terrorist organization, uncover their secret plans, put a stop to their operation and bring their leader to justice.
Failure is not an option.
First off you start in some sort of "flashback" mission where you have to rescue Doctor Piotr Ivanovich in Prague, spanning 4-5 levels. Once you have successfully completed that mission, you are shown a scenario 10 years into the future, where you get called in from retirement by "The Shop" to be shipped to Columbia because Dr. Ivanovich has come across a bio-terrorism plot.
The maps vary from quick and simple to huge and complicated. In the first level of the Columbian mission, you need to kill a couple of people, jump over a boring truck, swing around the corner, and kill a few more guys. Total mission time: 1-2 minutes. While it seems trivial, this segment offers important information in the briefing prior to the gameplay and more importantly, lets you get familiar with the controls. Fear not, this will NOT be an easy game! The sheer volume of levels makes up for the few short ones that you will encounter, a total of 10 missions spanning a massive 60+ levels.
The game brings you to various locations all over the world such as Prague, Columbian jungle, Hong Kong, New York, and so on. As you move from level to level, the game gets more difficult, and the enemies become more numerous. In that regard, my favorite part of the game would be the Hong Kong missions: enemies all over the place, hiding on balconies ... cars coming out of nowhere, crashing into each other and exploding! As you progress in the maps, you will encounter plenty of challenges, such as jumping on neon signs and billboards in order to cross the street. Needless to say, when you kill the enemies on the balconies, they fall a few floors down and ... splatter all over the sidewalk! Brilliant gore! Whereas most previous missions were either situated indoors (Prague) or outdoors (Columbian jungle) the Hong Kong level has it all ... outside on the docks, inside the warehouse, suburban street fights and even busting yourself out of prison.
In the Columbian jungle, you will actually make part of a 4-man team as you have to go "rescue" some Marines that will follow and help you throughout the rest of the mission. In the Hong Kong level, you are accompanied by a fellow prisoner who gives you cover fire when needed (until he gets killed, of course). In the one of the Prague missions, you get to hitch a ride in a truck shooting down enemies with the fixed M60 on the back, and other maps will have you man an M60 machine gun from a good ol' Huey. Death from above, baby!
The original Soldier Of Fortune was more of a "rambo-style kick'n rush all guns blazing shooter," but in this sequel, Raven Software was determined to add more "stealth" to it. Good stealth weapons are your silenced pistol or simply your combat knife (which you can throw at your enemies). Sometimes part of the objective involves NOT killing people, something you become aware of when you shoot a terrorist or guard, and YOU end up dying, indicating that the character is not supposed to be killed ... yet (you will know what I mean when you encounter such parts in the game).
In the game, you have access to about a dozen weapons ranging, from your simple combat knife, pistol to the pump action shotgun, automatic shotgun, different types of grenades (flash bangs, M15 Smoke grenade, ANM14 Incendiary grenade etc...), MSG90A1 Sniper rifle, M60 Machinegun, Micro Uzi, Twin Micro Uzi, AK47 Assault, M4 Colt Assault (with grenade launcher), Infrared goggles, US Socom pistol, M590 Shotgun, USAS12 Auto Shotgun and plenty more.
The only remark I would have on the single player part is the fact that there aren't any "bosses" that you have to eliminate at the end of each mission. It's more objective-based, but if you are fighting against some terrorist movement or faction, somebody's got to be in charge and run the show.
I don't really know what to say here, apart from the fact that the game uses a heavily-modified Quake III engine (which we already saw Raven put to good use in their recent release, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast). The graphics are ultra realistic, especially with all their own additions like the GHOUL II Technology, TORR Terrain system (allowing you to ride along in trucks, helicopters, etc.). The level of details is sublime, lighting effects are great, and the game performs perfectly in both the large outdoor and indoor maps. SoF2 was played on a medium system (P3 700, Geforce) as well as a high end setup (P4 1.7, Geforce4) and while there was indeed a noticeable difference in amount of detail and load time, the game ran perfectly smooth on both systems, no problems at all in any way.
With all that, it has to be mentioned that the game has an unseen amount of realism. The characters have more point-of-entry bullet holes than ever seen before (36 hit points per model) but also the level of detail in the faces and the way the characters walk, roll over to avoid fire, and the way they fall when being shot to death are some of the best animations I have ever seen. This is where the true power of the GHOUL II Technology is being shown off in an unprecedented level of realism. Of course, with the recent "violence in games" discussion going on, I am not sure if this is good or bad for a title of this calibre. The initial Soldier Of Fortune caused some heavy discussions, and I can tell you (and you can judge for yourself from some of the screens included in this review) that Raven Software has only stepped up the effort to surely make this the bloodiest and goriest game yet. If I have to put in my 2 cents, then all I can and want to say on this subject is that it's simplistic to blame video games for society's ills. The latest set of statistics shows that there is a growing number of adult players (ages 25 and above), so somebody going berserk and shooting up people can hardly be blamed on a game. Where and how do these people obtain their guns to begin with? Shouldn't THAT be a priority instead of blaming games? Sure, some people might get crazy ideas, but you can't convince me that they wouldn't have freaked out sooner or later anyhow and blame it on those pink elephants he saw when he tripped on his shoelaces and hit his head on the curb.
One thing that you will notice right off the bat is the excellent AI in SoF2, no question about it. Lately all quality First Person Shooter (FPS) have implemented the "peek around the corner" option, and SoF2 is no different, apart from the fact that you can crouch, peek, aim and walk around all at the same time (which makes for hilarious views when your team members or enemies walk around like they got beaten so hard they can no longer walk straight), VERY good and oh-so-useful!
The enemy AI is some of the best I have seen so far. Not only do the enemy forces perform well, they also hide for cover when they need to, and use their grenades VERY effectively, making it difficult to hide, since you know they will either flush you out, or you'll be blown to pieces. But the knife cuts both ways, and your enemies will often kill each other by running into each other's line of fire, or blowing each other up with bad grenade throws/landings. This is really something I have never seen in any prior FPSes at all, but it looks very spectacular, with limbs and blood flying all over the place!
The enemies you will encounter also have other "abilities." They do not only act very well, they also REACT on certain situations. The game does not have many specific "stealth" missions, but it is always good advice to approach with caution (even if it's only for the mere fact of having a good clean 1-shot-1-kill). The terrorist forces also "hear" very well, and if you make too much noise, they will act accordingly by either calling for backup, raising the alarm or getting in advantageous cover/shooting position. On top of that, they will also take action when they come across a dead team member you just whacked.
When you engage in a fight with some terrorists, they actually sometimes drop their weapons due to being shot, head for cover, go back to pick up their gun where they dropped it (or another weapon laying around nearby) to continue the fight. MOST EXCELLENT!
One thing that got me frustrated rather quickly was how inaccurate the shooting was at times. It was often easier to shoot enemies from afar with a single head shot than it was spraying bullets at them up close. Sure, the recoil might affect the accuracy, but at times, it was just ridiculous!
Random Map Generator
Personally I would have to say that the random map generator is a very nice addition to the already-impressive game package. Not many games have this kind of extra (recently-reviewed Warlords BattleCry II has this option), which in a way can be compared to the more standard "skirmish" missions but with the major difference that here, each separate mission is and will always be different. As the player, you can choose between quite a few different options and parameters. The RMG gives you a choice of 4 "types" of missions:
- Assassination: locate a predefined target and eliminate him/her.
- Demolition: destroy multiple targets set in your mission objective.
- Jail Escape: escape from jail and get to the extraction point (on higher levels of difficulty you will have to radio for extraction)
- Infiltration: steal a predefined object and get back to the extraction point.
Each type of mission can be set in 4 different landscapes: hills, desert, jungle or snow (none of these maps are included in the single player part of the game). Once again, each of those can either be played during day or night. If all of that isn't enough, then there are 2 more parameters to be set. You can complete each map with a time limit, and also a degree of difficulty can be predefined ranging from amateur, Gun For Hire, Consultant and Soldier Of Fortune. By the time you have tried and finished all of those combinations, I'll be long playing Soldier Of Fortune 3, but the options add an enormous replay value to the game, that's for sure.
Now THIS is the real replay value!!! With the boom of the broadband availability, a solid multiplayer portion can make or break a game. A mediocre game becomes excellent with good net code and good support whilst kick-ass games can plain suck because of the opposite scenario. SoF2 is a kick-ass game with excellent net code, 10 different maps to play on and the all-familiar multiplayer modes Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, Infiltration and Elimination. On top of that, you can also bring in maps you fancy from the Random Map Generator (when creating an RMG map you are provided a "seed" number that identifies that specific setup and you can share it on-line).
Once you start up a multiplayer game, you can choose between what looks like 50 different character skins, basically EVERY single character you come across in the single player part of the game is included in the multiplayer selection. The action is fast and furious ... barely any FPSes can keep my interest for more than a few days (mostly whatever is needed to conclude a review), but this one has got me going as much as Counterstrike does, and THAT means a lot!
Depending on the multiplayer mode you choose to play, weapons are placed in certain spots on the map, including med packs, armor and ammo. In pure Deathmatch, it's a free for all, and whoever reaches a predefined amount of kills wins (once you die, you respawn after a few seconds). Team Deathmatch speaks for itself, the team that kills all of the opponents first wins (no respawns). Infiltration means a team has to find/capture an object and bring it to a secure location in order to win (or wipe out the opposing team).
Of course, in the multiplayer mode the "gore" factor has been reduced to put the focus on the gaming experience, but only slightly. While there are no limbs and blood flying around, you can still shoot off heads, and blood will squirt out of the arteries. You shouldn't spend too much time enjoying these visual treats, or you will also end up dead, there is no time to waste.
There is a spectator mode if you want to explore the maps without participating in the action (first timers might be advised to do so), and once you get killed in the midst of a game, the "ghost" mode allows you to freely roam around, following your team members and enjoying the action.
This will once again be a highly discussed game due to the large gore factor, but it offers everything you could possibly want in a First Person Shooter: extensive single player mode with a very large amount of maps and missions (in different locations so it doesn't get boring), high degree of realism, high blood factor, excellent graphics, and great sound effects. Apart from the lack of bosses at the end of each mission and the (in my personal opinion) somewhat shady accuracy, this game has all it needs to be a VERY good gaming experience with great replay value. Now, let's hope the gaming community gets the chance to go wild with the multiplayer aspect in creating new skins and extra maps, and we'll be set for years to come! If you have not yet purchased this title, then what are you waiting for?! This game is easily the best First Person Shooter to come out this year!!! I'm out for blood ... see you in the ring!
Score : 9/10