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Soldier of Fortune: Payback

Score: 68%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Headgate Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

I was a huge fan of Soldier of Fortune II when it came out in 2002. It is now almost 2008, and we finally get a highly anticipated rendition - Soldier of Fortune: Payback. At the time, the game was on the front lines of the battle against violence in videogames due to the graphic nature of the game. With Hot Coffee behind us and other companies still in the crosshairs of the Anti-gaming movements, how can SOF return to its glory of being a viable target?

Easy, they are like two colors in contrast. Nothing shows off red like sand. If the first game was known for looking bloody, how do you get the attention? I guess you make it bloodier. There is blood everywhere. Apparently the human body is also a giant red paint can just waiting for you to wield a 9mm brush. The actual mutilation the game was known for is in no way muted down, but the blood has been really massively increased. There is a point of ridiculousness that is often reached in games, better known as the if some is good, more is better. I point to the bounce physics of DOA: Beach Volleyball 2, a secondary example of good gone so, so wrong.

As expected, and well executed, are the sound effects in the game. And as expected, the voiceovers have all of the range and diversity of static. I take that back, as that is a genre problem with FPS's that I am not sure they can be blamed for. Except, maybe, for continuing the stereotype.


In Soldier of Fortune: Payback, you play a mercenary, go figure, who has been double-crossed by the group that has hired you. You would never guess it, but after that you pay them back. Use various weapons to blast your way through droves of funneled enemies as you march a narrow and linear gameplay path. That is about it.

You have the opportunity to take on the standard single player mission or multiplayer. The original, or should I say latest SOF, had a single player mission that was about the same - very linear, but extremely interesting play. As a sign of the times thing, I remember loving how well the game looked and felt. The problem is it felt the same years later where it doesn't hold up as well. Now here is where my hopes were torn asunder. I was looking forward to an awesome multiplayer experience like I had with SOF II. Now we have to temper the difference between platforms. Of course, the version of SOF II I speak of was PC-based. Here we are on the XBOX 360. There is a well documented delineation between FPS's on the PC and on console. I do happen to lean towards those who argue that mouse and keyboard is faster. I am quickly snapped back by games where the multiplayer is fast-paced and well done. All of this being said, I was extremely disappointed in the multiplayer gameplay. I have stewed over this for a long time to make sure that I am not just being unfair, and the more I tried to play it, the worse I felt.

The focus of a console game is usually either towards the multiplayer game or the single player game. Rarely are both extremely successful, so when you have a game with a long and glorious history that has waited a long time to get an update, you have high hopes and expectations. They simply were not met.


Soldier of Fortune: Payback is an extremely easy game to get through. It felt like you were playing whack-a-mole more than an intense FPS experience. The A.I. will purposely leave themselves in position for fantastic ways to die. Enemy attack positions are predictable. One thing that usually adds to the intensity of a game is ever-mounting waves of difficulty. I couldn't put my finger on it until now, but you really just shoot your way down the same battles all of the way through, so there is no intensity built even though you have a ton of people shooting at you. It has the same feeling from the level start to the level end. It only takes about 6 hours to get all of the way through.

Game Mechanics:

Soldier of Fortune: II was a unique game when it came out due to the way you were able to move, combined with the way you interacted with the environment. You could perform all of the same moves, but there was really no reason to apply them to the environment unless you are actually forced to execute crouched or prone positions by the game's design.

If you were just going for the "cool" factor of the game and the actual gameplay meant nothing to you as long as you were able to get the wow factor, then you may get more from the game than I did. You can blow people's heads off and dismember them with critical hits. And, again, if this is all you are looking for then you will get all you want, but I was looking for more.

I went into Soldier of Fortune: Payback with high expectations and had them doused. It is no different than going to see the movie of a book you loved. It can never be the same. The game was just painfully linear and uninteresting. Again, I go back to the top that it is a hard thing to say that a game has all of the right pieces, but they just do not add up to a good game.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

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