Soldier of Fortune II Double Helix
Let me start off by saying that I didn’t play the Soldier of Fortune 2 single player campaign before the 1.01 patch. I played the game in its current state, and several issues in the 1.0 SP campaign have been removed already so I might lack some complaints you can find in reviews from a month or two ago.
Right, I believe it has been about 2 years since the first Soldier of Fortune offered us a previously unseen amount of blood and gore. The game set some kind of new standard and is definitely on the shelf next to Quake and Half-Life. The combination of brainless shooting and brains all over the place gave this game the little extra touch. Behind it all was a thing called the GHOUL engine. Now okay, I could talk about the storyline, the sound effects, the weapons etc, but most people have to admit it was mainly the gore that did it. The first SoF was built on the Quake 2 engine, a fine choice at that time. Firmly believing in the 3d capabilities of id software, a nice expensive license of the Quake 3 engine was bought for the second installment of John Mullins’ adventures.
Good choice, as the graphics this game offers are quite stunning at times. I’d only be kidding myself if I thought you – the reader – hadn’t heard or read anything about SoF 2 yet, so I’m fairly sure you’ve heard about the famous Columbia levels. And yes, I can only concur what most world-wide reviewers say: these are the best jungle levels we’ve seen so far. Yes, the graphics really are that good, yes indeed, the system requirements really are that high also.
A mere P III 450 with 128 MB RAM and 16 MB 3D card should do the trick (according to the booklet). Now, I’d seriously like to see someone running this game on that configuration.
You most likely can’t play it in 640×480 with some decent detail! To play in a resolution of 1024×768 with all options on you need 3D card of the current generation, unless you’d like 3 frames per second of course. Lucky for us, there’s quite a big difference between the single player and the multiplayer game, even in graphics. The single player campaign has a lot more options and visual stuff in it (like many many a dead body :p), and so requires a lot from your computer also. The multiplayer I can play with several more fps in the same resolution, but with more detail. Never fear if you’re only in it for the MP (which really isn’t such a bad idea).
Right, I’m just rambling about, suffice it to say the gfx r0xx0r and the sound effects are really good too (though, not as impressive as I had hoped for). I almost forget to mention, YES the GHOUL II engine is better, YES it is a lot more detailed, YES it lost part of its charm… I don’t know, somehow it’s not much fun anymore. Either it’s the fact that I’ve gotten older (naah), or maybe it’s just because there isn’t as much gore as there used to be (yeps, that would be it). Don’t get me wrong, there’re still limbs aplenty, just not enough to my very evil taste .
Okay, moving to the more important stuff like gameplay! Simple enough: SP campaign is quite good, but we’ve seen several nice SP campaigns over the past few years and this one just isn’t cutting it for me. It didn’t seem to offer anything new in anyway. Not enough interaction, way too many baddies at times (3 soldiers standing nicely in a row shooting at you honestly is a laughable sight Raven), pretty linear maps and storyline… the usual deal. I must admit, the storyline is quite good, intriguing at times, and some maps really add to the general atmosphere of the game. But to me some of the ‘glue’ is missing.
The bad guys seemed fairly boring and not active enough, even though the AI is quite good. Enemies will jump behind crates, try to pick up a weapon if they haven’t got one anymore, come at you from behind (*not* in that way), nothing really to complain about (although I’ve seen a few abnormalities like guys jumping over crates that are not there). I guess there’s just some interaction missing. I prefer the combination of the Return to Castle Wolfenstein and the Medal of Honour: Allied Assault single player campaigns. If you want something easy going, lots of fun with nice graphics: go for the Wolfenstein campaign. If you want a game with loads of atmosphere, some superb levels, and also great graphics: pick the MOH:AA campaign.
Then again if you’re really looking for a SP campaign where you can blast your way through with an AK-47, SoF 2 is your only option I believe. Right, to conclude: SP good, not THAT good.
Heading over to multiplayer, let’s start with some negative points. I’m an avid RtCW player (at least I was), and the first thing I noticed about SoF 2 is how the netcode seems worse than the one used in Wolfenstein (both Q3A engine though). Of course I might have had bad luck every single time, and I must say there appear to be less SoF2 servers in the Benelux, but I managed to play on a really lag-free server only once or twice. Several times I actually stopped because of lag (not necessarily from me, but from several other players), something I must say I have never done in all my Wolfenstein hours. Coincidence or not, I can’t say.
In LAN of course, the game plays fine (where would we be if a 100 Mbit network wouldn’t suffice anymore ;p). To me this was minor issue a, minor issue b was the fact that at times the weapons can seem ridiculous. Ok, they are supposed to be realistic, but I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t need to shoot 30 bullets with an M4 to hurt a guy in real life, if I’m aiming from a distance of 1 meter. The whole weapon spread/damage system seems a little less reliable to me. Right, those where the minor issues, big issues: none.
Multiplayer: excellent game! SoF 2 MP is not as fast-paced as Wolfenstein or Unreal Tournament, but it isn’t as slow as MOH:AA either. The MP offers several gametypes, which are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Elimination, Demolition and Infiltration (let me know if I forgot one here).
DM, TDM, Elimination (one team kills other) and CTF are pretty traditional values in our business, but they still manage to stay alive. Finding a SoF 2 server running one of these gametypes really is no problem. Infiltration and Demolition make this game (to me) the best Counterstrike competitor I’ve seen so far (I have very little experience with Tactical Ops so I won’t judge about that one). It has much more the look and feel of CS than for example RtCW or MOH:AA do. The objective based gametypes (demolition: arm/defuse bomb, infiltration: get stuff from point b to point a) offer the same kind of gameplay, so what more do you want ?
The SoF 2 modding community is heading full speed, so expect even more CS like mods to show up, and they’ll most likely kick some serious arse. Really, the whole SoF 2 MP package is worth buying the game (that’s actually why I wanted the game so badly for reviewing). And since there’s a lot of mod support coming from Raven, and custom maps are breeding like rabbits, you won’t get bored very quickly.
Oh, final note, SoF 2 offers an automatic map generator for short singleplayer games. It’s really nice, not great, blabla, nifty thing, not interested though.
That’s it, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix is a big big hit (as was to be expected) and will make many people happy, but will also leave several avid gamers with a tiny unexplainable feeling of disappointment. Right, let’s keep going until SoF 3 now, shall we ?