Here comes trouble. Soldier of Fortune has been a mediocre series at best and with this one announced fifteen minutes before it arrived on shelves, we had the lowest possible expectations. Having been denied a preview copy, our review copy comes from a US games shop, such is the low priority of the game in Activision's packed Christmas roster.
Sure enough, it's not especially good, but nor is it the disaster you might be expecting. Knowing you, our readers, as we do, we know you've already snuck a look at the final score and have probably been surprised to see it scoring higher than the semi-hyped Blacksite.
It's not good because of any clever level design or varied missions, and it's certainly nothing special because of the tough guy voice acting and bog-standard presentation.
Nope, Soldier of Fortune 3 is fun because it's so astonishingly and preposterously violent - not Manhunt-level sadistically violent or glossy Mortal Kombat violent, but a very basic, zero-fuss micro-budget bloodbath. Every enemy has limbs that seem to detach at will and around sixteen pints of blood crammed into their fragile bodies at such high pressure that, upon removing a leg, arm or head, blood jets out as if blasted from a fire hose.
In Payback, you're a seven-foot-tall 'roided-up one-man war, soaking up enemy rounds like a sponge; and sure, you can squeeze the left trigger to pull up your ironsights, but why do that when you're just as capable of tearing through half a dozen enemies with an M249 SAW fired from the hip? Why let a little thing like reality get in the way of a muscleman's machine gun? It's an action movie from 1985, some mystery villains are getting up to some rad shit, your name is John Rambo and everyone has to die. You provide the witty one-liners, Payback will provide the guns.
Favours the LOL'd
Not since Cauldron's Conan have we played a game so overwhelmingly aggressive and masculine. Where Conan dismembers by blade, Soldier of Fortune's hero (so forgettable we can't remember his name) uses all the firepower today's modern military can muster; not since Black have we played a game with a more ferociously explosive armoury.
There's a story about how film director Sergio Leone used to play a rifle sound effect for a pistol, a shotgun sound for a rifle, and a cannon in place of the shotgun's blast. Taking a leaf from Sergio's book, SOF's pistols sound like a hand grenade, rifles sound like an atomic bomb and the shotguns sound like the end of the world. These are movie guns, tearing off limbs with a single shot and exploding heads from a quarter mile away.
Soldier of Fortune isn't Rainbow Six, then. It's more the dumbest action movie you've ever seen, yet for how joyously stupid it is, every level is the same, every fight is a one-sided killing spree, and once you've diced a hundred bodies in a hundred different ways you'll have had your fill.
It takes an army to bring your super-resilient soldier down and you learn not to fear encounters against two or three enemies. The game is a stroll, and there's only so many times you can dissect your foes and still enjoy the never-ending victory parade.
In movie form, Soldier of Fortune's level of violence and idiocy would be a welcome break from PG-rated action tosh and more cerebral fare, and sure enough, we'll be awaiting Rambo 4 with reasonably bated breath. As a videogame it's an unrewarding linear shooting gallery gorestravaganza, and only worthwhile if you're wealthy enough to drop forty pounds on a day's worth of dumb irony.
As bog-standard a shooter as we've ever played, marinated in a gallon of blood.
- Every level the same
- You're harder than Superman