Friday, 6 April 2012

Soldier of Fortune (PC) - Guest Post

Let's get as far away from The Sniper 2 as possible.

I've heard good things about this one.

You can click the images to make them slightly bigger (800x600)!

The setting: New York, New York.

A vicious, well-armed criminal gang has taken hostages in the city subway! A desperate situation, requiring the attention of the most talented and highly trained troubleshooters in the world. Enter ace mercenaries John Mullins, his moustache and Hawk. I don't know if our guys have a hotline like International Rescue or what, or maybe they were just passing by and volunteered for the mission.

Except the cops won't let them in. Great start.

Oh no! Saber and his goons have started executing hostages! The goons hold their guns gangsta style of course and the muzzle flashes don't quite match up to the guns, so they look like they're all trying to shake icky spiders off their guns or something.

If innocents are in immediate danger, this is no place for a police officer. Send in the Mullins!

So, we're in the subway. Let's try and be stealthy. I've got a Glock and a shotgun. Okay, no stealth. I'll advance with caution anyway.

HOLY HELL, this man runs fast!

Before I know what's what, I find myself on a collision course with two well-armed goons who were expecting me. The man on the left tosses over the vending machine while I turn and fire a shotgun blast at the man on the right, instantly severing his head and sending his body flying across the room. I weave behind the second man and shoot him point blank in the chest, detaching both his legs and leaving him screaming on the floor.

Okay then.

From a distance, it appears that the subway control room appears to be held by a group of thugs. I calmly approach the desk and ring the bell to get their attention.

There's civilians being held by perps dotted all around the tunnels. You can tell from a mile away from the constant yells of "JUST STOP SCREAMING!" from the goons. (That's how you get hostages to calm down, see. They learn that in perp school.). Magic Mullins darts about the room like a moth and with a wave of his precision shotgun solves everybody's problems with the maximum possible bloodshed.

Although they're always waiting just ahead, the enemies never expect me to run at them, weaving from side to side until I'm behind them, which gives me plenty of time to shoot them in the back while they're turning on the spot uselessly.

I press the Use button on any glowing boxes and try my luck down a randomly picked corridor. Just off the left of the screen, I think I see a door opening as I pass it.

Not a chance, mate.

For extra 'ridiculously flash idiot' points. There are two 'weapon special' keys that don't seem to do anything except make Mullins spin his current weapon around and toss it from hand to hand.

I rush to the platform just in time to fail to save a civilian from being shot in the head and pushed in the way of a moving train.

Bizarrely, the track to the right is a dead end. There's even a guy standing down there waiting to shoot you. I guess Soldier of Fortune runs off Wacky Races physics (YouTube link).

In the staff room, a glowing monitor demands my attention. "He's in there!", they yell.

They're not wrong!

The music is apt dramatic stuff. There's dynamic music, which changes to be even more dramatic when you're under attack. It sounds like a horror film of sorts, with Mullins as a soulless invincible super-sonic hovering shotgun robotic killing machine.

It's not every day that a multiple hostage situation can be resolved by bouncing and running overzealously. Today must be special. What's more, the hostages don't collapse like a house of cards if you somehow clip them with a single pellet and you don't lose if you accidentally kill one!

Not that I'm unprofessional enough to let that happen!

On Medium difficulty there's a maximum of five saves per level and I haven't used one yet. I don't know how far this is; I get the feeling I'm playing this somewhat faster than the level designer intended, but it's working for now.

There's some foolhardy cops in here in here with me, but they're all destined to die as soon as I arrive. One goon thinks it's a good idea to leap directly towards me. Not a good idea.

Up onto the other platform and up the stairs, I can hear my partner Hawk's voice: "John! It's Saber! Get him!"

BANG

Well, that's just great. Thanks a bloody lot, you idiot. I shot my best friend in the back.

Now I have to play the whole level again from the start because he was standing directly in front of me waving a gun about, yelling at me on the radio to shoot someone.

And where's the real Saber, anyway?

One very, very fast replay of the level later and we find that he's getting away on the top of a train.

Mission over.

Saber got away. We killed dozens of bad guys and the civilians are mostly safe. Hawk suspects that there was something deeper going on here than simple gang violence but he's bored now and we're going home.

Where is home? A quasi-official private military corporation agency cell known only as 'The Shop'.

This is not The Shop, though. This is Russia.

Mullins tells us a story of a cache of nuclear weapons stolen by a synchronised armed task force (sadly I couldn't make this a gif), and The Shop has tasked Mullins and Hawk to track them all down bring the perpetrators to justice. In a bucket.

The weapons are currently being moved by train to Bad People. Somehow, Mullins finds himself calmly standing on a tiny ledge on the very far back of the very same train.

On this mission, Mullins is on his own. (Not that we saw much of Hawk in the last mission.)

It's a helicopter! Aaargh!

Must be incredibly difficult to slide along in straight lines like that next to a moving train carriage to hit a lone man in the dark. Takes guts. A worthy opponent for Mullins.

Wait! My pistol isn't doing anything!

Sniper rifle time! I don't remember picking this thing up, but I'm sure glad I have it now.

Holding the alternate fire button starts the zoom, it increases zoom until you let go. I don't think I've seen controls like that before; most sniper rifles have a single zoom level or a couple of discrete zooms. The 'weapon trick' keys change the zoom manually as well.

I shoot the man in the rear seat in the head and the windows become splattered with blood. The helicopter starts spinning violently and all too late I realise that it's going to crash IN MY FACE.

There's an explosion so intense it almost sears Mullins' moustache right off his face.

Never mind. All's well that ends well. A couple of short train carriages later and Mullins has successfully disabled the weapon. But, alas, only one of them was there!

Here we are at The Shop, cleverly disguised as... well... a shop. A bookshop, to be exact. Mullins bounds up to the counter and says the secret code out loud so all the customers know he's doing secret stuff and no, they can't come with.

Down the dark, dark stairs, we find the dark, dark gun rack. Further stuff, we finally reach the entrance to The Shop itself: a gigantic, gleaming chrome wall much like a bank vault. Inside The Shop, three skeletons live. And Hawk, too.

I get to pick my loadout for the next mission? Cool!

I'll take the sniper rifle again, please. Swap the Glock for a Desert Eagle and I'll take the new submachine gun I've not yet seen. I've also got a choice of additional inventory items, so I take all the different types of explosive they've got.

Strangely, you do get awarded money for killing enemies and completing objectives, but the loadout items don't cost anything. I guess the money is just... a score? How old fashioned is that!

We're going after the other nukes! Hooray! We're in a sewer! Blast.

Hawk and Mullins split up.

You've seen an FPS sewer before, right?

It looks like this. Woo.

This submachine gun's the business. It hits at distance and it does respectable damage. I can run into a room and spray bullets all over the place like an 80s action hero and walk out unscathed. There's even enough ammo dropped by the enemies (YES) to do this regularly if you want.

The worst thing about it is that the firing noise and the ammo counter don't sync up. GRR.

Hawk does show up every now and then on this mission. He's having a whale of a time planting 'surprises' and 'distractions' everywhere he goes. It's a rare occasion that I enter a room and something doesn't immediately explode.

I'm still running around like a maniac, shooting wildly and gliding vast spirals across the floor while the enemies are unable to fire back. The hard part comes when the level seems to come to a dead end. Usually the solution is 'shoot the bit of cracked pipe with the steam coming out of it' or 'turn the valve and then find the cracked bit of wall that looks like the other cracked bit of wall that has an invisible wall in front of it but this one doesn't'.

I feel sorry for this guy. I think I shot the weapon out of his hand with the Desert Eagle and he's started cowering and saying stuff in a language I don't understand.

I decided that from this point on I would try to shoot the guns out of the enemies hands where possible. And then I got stuck. The level only ended after I killed everyone in the area, including him.

We've been drafted.

The local armed forces want us to help destroy some AA guns, so... we can... I have no idea. It's got something to do with finding a stealth bomber, which apparently has one of the stolen nukes on it.

Kosovo looks like some kind of post-apocalyptic future hell.

Everything seems to spontaneously explode as I move.

The regular enemies here seem to be flamethrower troops, so shooting their gas tanks makes them suddenly go up in flames too.

I've lost track of where I am and where I'm going. The interiors of the buildings look like a dungeon. The distant, dying howls of the dismembered foes I've scooted past make the whole place seem like some kind of nightmare. I'm going forwards and if I find people that aren't flaming piles of mush on the floor, I know I'm going in the right direction.

You probably won't be surprised (if you've seen the game) to hear that this game runs on the same engine as Kingpin. Though the 3D models don't pulse and ripple here like they did there.

"Stay away from the truck, John."

What truck? And how come you get a suppressed Micro Uzi and I don't?

There's two types of soldiers on this level. There's the green ones which are mostly flamethrower troops that burst into flames when I shoot them, and there's the blue ones which still shoot me but make the caption 'Check your fire!' appear on the screen when I return fire.

Hawk apparently has no qualms about blowing up soldiers of either side if this very lengthy explosion montage is anything to go by.

Aaargh! THAT truck?

This section of the game is pretty frustrating. The linear trail seems to go dead. You're told once what the button you have to press does, but the buttons aren't identified by any kind of sign. You have an objectives screen but that doesn't tell you anything beyond 'You're in Kosovo. Kill people.'. After finding the button, you have to then run around trying to find which one of a dozen identical doors you've opened.

And so, having disabled another nuclear device, John Mullins heads to Siberia to continue his pursuit of the remaining devices.

What awaits him there...? Who can say!

I definitely think I picked the wrong difficulty for this. Super AIG rules (and my laziness) dictate that I play only on Medium difficulty, but Soldier of Fortune's Medium is any other game's Easy. I didn't die once, apart from when I shot Hawk in the back in the subway, or when I fell off a ladder, or when I got stuck on a flaming barrel and slowly burned to death. You get five saves per level, but that's plenty considering the length of the levels. I'd have restarted one of the later levels on a higher difficulty if the game had a level select.

This game has something you don't see very often: individually selectable difficulty sliders! You can play with resilient, clever enemies with infinite saves and inventory space, or you can play with ridiculously weak enemies but no saves and only enough space to carry one weapon. GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark have very similar difficulty sliders... as a reward for completing the entire game on the hardest difficulty. The Nameless Mod for Deus Ex also has sliders for enemy health and item generosity, I think.

I could only guess how I'd play the game on higher difficulties. Probably exactly the same. I'd maybe use the sniper rifle and the lean controls more. I'd be perfectly able to do that because, unlike idiotic modern games, Mullins is perfectly capable of carrying several hundred sniper rounds at once (croud gasps). For all I know, it could turn into a Contract J.A.C.K.-style constant personal space invasion on higher difficulties. With finite saves.

What does Soldier of Fortune do wrong?

Nothing. Nothing at all. No stupid controls. No useless weapons. Runs on anything. I'd have liked the sniper rifle to be accurate outside of the zoom mode, but that's all I can think of.

There's nothing super unusual or exciting the game does, either. It's not likely to go bonkers and start having sci-fi or fantasy elements in it. It's a violent FPS. Play the subway level in the demo. You run around and blow peoples' limbs off with a shotgun. It's not rocket science. There's a sound meter at the bottom of the screen, so you can supposedly play as a sneaky sort if you want. Or you can play as Mullins the Crazy Submachinegun-wielding Rabbit like I did.

And if you don't like violent, you can even try the Tactical Low-Violence Version, which appears to me to be code for 'censored'. I wonder if there's a Tactical High-Violence Version of the Kirby series?. Now that would be a sight to see.

4 comments:

  1. "It's not likely to go bonkers and start having sci-fi or fantasy elements in it."

    Though it does actually give you a sci-fi microwave pulse gun near the end. Plus the main boss (voiced by LeChuck!) takes so many hits to kill he's probably some kind of cyborg.

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  2. You should play Aliens vs Predator, the one from 1999! I remember playing that long ago. It's an FPS so I figured I'd ask you instead of Ray!

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  3. Thanks man. This was hillarious to read :)

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  4. Honestly the SoF games are your average FPS with nothing innovative or special about them. Except the ghoul engine!

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