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Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:  Raven Software
Publisher:  Activision
# of Players:  1-16
Genre:  FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  Yes
Accessories:  Xbox Live (online play, content DL), HDTV 480p
Date Posted: 

11-9-03

A few years ago, a shooter appeared on the PC market that boasted a “realistic body model” and “realistic blood and gore.” The original Soldier of Fortune claimed to have both of these features, but only really gave the gaming world models that would lose limbs and extreme gore. The game received enough success to insure a sequel, thus the world returns to the series with Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix.

The plot in this game seems almost cliché for first person shooters. You are John Mullins, mercenary, and your task is to prevent a terrorist group from releasing a biological doomsday virus. The game takes you all across the world through over fifty missions to achieve this goal. Sadly, there is very little mission variation in this game. Perhaps I’m spoiled with games like Deus Ex—where you have multiple ways of performing a task—and I’m asking too much. The missions in Soldier of Fortune II can pretty much be summed up with “find person/object X, kill everything else.” Arguably, every FPS falls into this trap, but Soldier of Fortune II could have done so much more. Perhaps they could have worked more of an emphasis on stealth, or provided several ways to complete levels ala Deus Ex. Regardless, I just don’t like the idea of being able to walk through an entire game, guns-a-blazing and have very little problems winning. I want some sort of challenge, be it intelligent enemies or multiple methods of going through levels. This type of gameplay worked fine when First Person Shooters were first emerging, but just simply falls short now.

In all honesty, the single player campaign is a drag to even try to play through. The level design at first seems pretty good, but after a while, people begin to notice that the levels just start to look mediocre. Granted, they aren’t anywhere near the atrocity that was the level design in Oni for the PS2, or the strikingly similar rooms present in Halo, but the levels in Soldier of Fortune II do nothing to really drag you into the world.

Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix is built on a modified Quake engine, and it really shows. Personally, I generally enjoy games built on the Unreal engine, but I do enjoy several games built on the Quake engine. However, instead of modifying the engine and bringing the graphics up-to-date, Soldier of Fortune II looks exactly like what it is: a year old port of a PC game that didn’t look amazing to begin with.

Weapons are this game’s strongpoint. Soldier of Fortune II does what few games do; provide tons of real weapons. Not only can you have standard pistols and assault rifles, you have access to everything from AK-47s to the high-tech OICW to dual wielded Uzis. All pistols can be dual wielded, which is a really cool feature that few games utilize. When talking about this game’s weapons, one cannot forget to talk about the damage they do.

Gore does not even begin to describe this game. Throughout the course of this game, players will see more body parts flying around than in a bad zombie movie. Like its predecessor, Soldier of Fortune II features a character model system that takes damage to individual body parts. Name a body part and you can hit it. Legs, arms, hands, feet, and heads can be taken off the body with enough shots (or a well-placed shotgun blast). Enemies react when they lose body parts, so they don’t keep coming after you like zombies. Hit a guy in the hand, and he’ll stop shooting and grab at it. And yes, I know you’re wondering…you can hit enemies in the groin and they do react. 

My reaction to this type of damage style when I saw it in Soldier of Fortune II is the same as when I saw it in the first game. It’s a cool gimmick, keyword being gimmick. While the pure shock value of the sadistic depictions of people being mutilated in this game will drive you to play it for a little while, this shock value wears off fairly quickly. The story isn’t good enough to hold up on it’s on, like Rainbow 6, and the gameplay just gets boring after a while.

Soldier of Fortune II offers a quick-mission mode featuring a random map generator. I personally loved this feature and feel that it gives the title some sort of redeeming quality. Granted, it basically comes down to killing everyone including a specific person or killing everyone and accomplishing an objective, but it allows you to get a feel for the game and experience the different weapons.

This game is pathetic in the multiplayer department. There are no local Xbox multiplayer options, so that kills any chance for cooperation modes or verses mode. You can support up to 12 players using system link, but considering that system LANs are not really used often at all makes this an empty feature for most players.

Xbox Live multiplayer could make this game worth all of the boredom, but it fails. Sure, you get the various standard modes (deathmatch, teams, objectives), but the online experience is subpar at best. I experienced ungodly amounts of lag that reminded me of trying to play Counterstrike with 20 other people on a 33K modem. Every session I played was littered with massive lag problems, regardless of the time of day. Even if you take my experience into account, the multiplayer options still cannot compete with other first person shooter Xbox Live titles, like Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

Highs:

  • Weapons
  • Shock factor
  • Random map generator/quick missions

Lows:

  • No local multiplayer options
  • Generic, repetitive gameplay style

Final Verdict: 

Unless you have a perverse fascination with gore and gratuitous violence, skip this title. Some may ask, “What about Grand Theft Auto 3? That has gratuitous violence and gore!” Yes, it does, but it also has substance, something this game is severely lacking. This game actually bored me to death. If it would have had local Xbox multiplayer options, it may have been salvageable. However, I could only place this title as a rental-at-best. It isn’t a terrible product overall, it just seems like a generic shooter with a gimmick that wore off after about thirty minutes.

Overall Score: 5.8

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