The original Soldier of Fortune shocked all with its gruesome brand of FPS action back in 2000. While many screamed that its sheer existence acted to the detriment of a games industry still seemingly obsessed with violence by the mass media, it somehow managed to be a solid, if unspectacular shooter.
With its basis focusing on the brutal reality of a gun for hire, it was the ability to blast off limbs of enemies, even as they lay bullet ridden on the ground, that encouraged many young gamers to seek out the 18 rated classic. With its early success, a full sequel followed 2 years later, but failed to gain similar success in an industry, as well as a genre, that had moved swiftly on.
It seems strange then that the series has been resurrected at a time when we’re still all enthralled by the likes of The Orange Box, Halo 3, and Call of Duty 4. Especially as all three posses phenomenal multiplayer modes that have every FPS addict gripped by the short and curlies.
But it is indeed back, and in much the same manner as before. Again it’s all about the brutal combat, with the dismemberment of enemy bodies again placed higher on the agenda than the likes of story and enemy intelligence.
Again you star as a mercenary, but not the moustachioed John Mullins of the previous games. The story, unsurprisingly, descends into the kind of bland terrorist style that far too many games seem to be eager to cram in, with a semblance of real world political commentary slipped in to try and give the game ideas above its station.
The lazily produced dialogue is tedious at best, and pathetically bad at its worst. The story negates all semblances of realism and intrigue with its continuous encouragement to simply plod forward and cut down yet another wave of idiotic enemies as they lay down their lives for your enjoyment.
Almost all brand of terrorist organisation is included, with all packing in the kind of intelligence you’d usually find at a party chock-a-block with supermodels. It almost makes you wonder just why we’re so terrified of imminent terror attacks when they can do little more than run straight at you as you aim down your machine gun's sights, just waiting to be mown down.
And annihilate you will, as every level is populated with massive numbers of these terribly lacking enemies. Other than the handful of scripted confrontations that populate the games mediocre length, they fall into either standing dead still under no cover allowing you to pick them off with relative ease, or running right at you in the style of Serious Sam. That being a game that was built upon the idea that its enemies had zero intelligence.
Yes, Soldier of Fortune: Payback does indeed show signs of some fantastic visual polish. The HD visuals show off some gloriously detailed levels, especially as you tear them to shreds with your wickedly high powered weaponry.
Then there’s the gore. Firing at an enemy at just the right angle and a leg may blast clean off, with blood spurting like a proverbial fountain in the kind of visual show you’d only expect from the most violent of film offerings.
To the younger gamers, the ones Soldier of Fortune: Payback seems to be geared towards despite its 18 rating, all this blood and guts may seem like all their dreams being fulfilled. But those are the brand of gamers that due to age will more than likely be utilising their parent’s broadband to simply download a title like this. But to the more discerning gamer, all this over the top gore only acts as yet another minus point to be levelled towards this dull title.
Sadly, mediocrity seems to be Paybacks byword. From the sub-par dialogue, to the linear level structure, everything outside the impressive visuals screams of a game quickly rushed out.
At a budget price, this could entertain for a few hours if you leave your morals at the door. At full price, this one is about as essential as gout.