Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
Activision
Developer
Gratuitous Games
Genre
FPS
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood
 
Grade
The Good

• Lots of missions, including a random mission generator
• System link and online play
• You can do some serious harm to your enemies

The Bad

• Blocky character models
• Noticeably load times
• Single player is fairly standard

 
Grade
C+

As Soldier of Fortune John Mullins, players are given the mission to stop a terrorist organization set on releasing a horrible virus upon the world. The first mission of the game has you rescuing a scientist from Prague. Ten years later, the same scientist becomes advisor in your mission to stop one of his former colleagues.

At the heart of Soldier of Fortune II is your standard FPS, hailing from the Quake days, where you head from beginning to end, usually locating something or someone to extract. Rather than facing a series of smart enemies that use varied and advanced tactics against you, you'll find most enemies are in the same places every time and can be handled with the same heavy-handed tactics of every other standard shooter out. Yeah, you can try and sneak around or just go in guns blazing, but the end result will usually be the same. There will be times that you can employ stealth tactics, but this just boils down to walking up to someone with their back turned to you and hitting them in the back of the head with a knife.

Fortunately, the single player mode comes with over fifty missions taking you to wonderful locations such as Prague, Columbia, Hong Kong, and New York to name a few. Throw in a random mission generator, which gives you a number of choices, including mission type (Escape, Infiltration, etc.) and you can enjoy the game outside of the story mode. Of course, to really get the best out of Soldier of Fortune II, you really need to tap into the multiplayer experience, either with the system link or over Xbox Live. While the multiplayer experience provides nothing new in its various modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc.), it does provide a good time outside of the single player mode.

Controls for Soldier of Fortune II are your standard lot. The Right Trigger fires your weapon, while the Left Trigger employs a secondary fire, like a grenade launcher or sniper sight. At your disposal is the ability to jump, crouch and even crawl across the ground in a prone position. There's a button to quickly access grenades, reload your gun or use items and unlock doors. With the D-pad, you can lean left or right around doors and even fire from cover.

One of the prominent features built into the game is a certain level of violent realism, in which you can inflict some devastating harm on your enemies. Limbs can be blown off and enemies can be wounded. You can take a shotgun and make a bloody mess of some enemies. Unfortunately, though, this kind of realism doesn't carry over to your enemies ability to react intelligently. There are times where you can shoot someone and they won't act in a manner appropriate to a situation. Heck, I've even stabbed someone in the neck, only to have them nonchalantly walk away from me.

The graphics engine is as much good as is it bad. And, not to say that the bad parts are "bad", but merely disappointing. The locations are large and have a fine level of detail that really helps set a specific and palatable ambiance to each stage. While the outdoor stages show some nice touches, including some nicely modeled foliage, the indoor areas look a little stiff and have a lot of repeated aspects and textures. While the character models do have some great animations, they suffer from a blockiness and lack of detail that's only made worse by the low variety of enemy types in each stage.

Sound effects, in their own right, are pretty dead on and feel relatively real in their delivery in the game. The only problem is that many find themselves repeated often because of the nature of the game. About halfway through the game, you'll be begging to hear something different other than the non-stealthy pound of your footsteps. One of the nicer touches is the fact that enemies don't speak in accented English, rather they usually talk to each other in native tongues, making the scenarios feel more true to life.

Unfortunately, what Soldier of Fortune II does right seems to be held back by all that it does wrong. With lengthy load times, rare slowdown, the occasional clipping problem and an imperfect graphics engine, the basic "corridor shooter" feel of the single player mode can be bogged down and even become tedious to some. There doesn't seem to be enough variety to keep most players going and even the stealth elements are lackluster.

If you have Xbox Live, you might want to rent this for the novelty factor, but the single player experience is not as rewarding as it is in other FPS titles. Considering how many loose ends seem unresolved, I wish that the developers had spent some time to polish off what could have been at least an entertaining entry in the genre.

- - Kinderfeld

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