Soldier of Fortune II Double Helix

Published by Activision
Designed by Raven Software
Platform: PC CD-ROM
Price £34.99
Released: Out Now

Soldier of Fortune was released in a cloud of controversy. Playing the role of John Mullins you had to wipe-out the terrorist threat. Nothing unusual there then but what made the game different was it's realistic damage model. Shooting someone in the arm didn't kill them like in other games at the time, you had to shoot them in the head or in the vital organs. A touch of realism was added to the proceedings with realistic tissue damage and dismemberment. Of course you could turn off realistic gore but the fact that it was there was enough to cause concern in the media. Several years later and we have Soldier of Fortune 2. The game builds up on all what I've just mentioned and is even gorier.

You again play the role of John Mullins. A bio-terrorist organisation is threatening to unleash the Gemini Virus unless all their demands are met. You have been called upon to put an end to the threat and wipe out this organisation. To aid you in this quest you will have access to over 25 weapons that range from the Commando Knife to multiple types of grenades to ultra powerful OICW.

The one thing that surprised me is just how difficult the game can be on the higher difficulty settings. The AI gives you no margin for error and it can be a struggle to complete a level. To make matters worse on the higher difficulty settings you are restricted on the amount of saves you can make. Playing on Consultant difficulty or higher is extremely difficult. On the whole the game is enjoyable but the irritating stealth elements do their level best to ruin the experience. If you are caught or raise an alarm you have to keep retrying until you succeed. To aid you in your attempts at stealth there is a sound detector on the HUD that shows you how much noise you are making, like in the Thief games. Silent movement is more or less impossible unless you are in the prone position.

When you've completed the game you'll be pleased to know that there is a random mission generator that you can take advantage of. You select the type of mission you want, the location, difficulty, time limit and a mission is generated for you. The missions are OK and offer a decent amount of replay value to the game for the single player.

When you are through with the single player side of the game you can head online to take advantage of the multiplayer portion of the game. There's Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, Elimination and Infiltration. All of these modes are variations of modes seen in other FPS games and work well.

Visually the game looks fantastic. SoF 2 uses an enhanced Quake 3 engine. The system requirements for the game claim to be a Pentium III 450 as the minimum CPU. This is just plain wrong and if you have less than a 800MHz Athlon/Duron or Pentium III then you won't get the game to work well at all. We reviewed the game on a 900MHz Athlon and had to opt for the 640x480 resolution and only then was the frame rate what it should be. Thanks to the Ghoul II Technology, the mutilation and tissue damage look far gorier in SoF2 than they did in the original. You can opt not to install the gore elements, or password protect them, if you so wish.

SoF 2 isn't bad at all for deaf gamers. All conversations are subtitled and your objectives can be accessed at any time by pressing the TAB key. The size of the text and the font that is used is excellent. Occasionally it goes a little quick and you don't get to recall it either. The text is white and sometimes it is a little awkward to see. It would have been better if the text had been placed in a black box so as to aid the clarity. One real niggle that I do have though is when you install the game. As the game installs you are verbally given the background to the game and there are no subtitles at all for this. It is not even mentioned in the manual.

Overall SoF 2 is a solid FPS. There aren't many problems for deaf gamers and text provision is, on the whole, very good. Thanks to the random map generator you also have a FPS that offers extensive replay value. Just make sure you have a beefy PC if you like to play at the higher resolutions.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10 Soldier of Fortune 2 is a worthy sequel. Challenging difficulty levels and a random map generator mean that you will get value from this FPS.

Deaf Gamers comment: The game is fully subtitled, apart from the information whilst you are installing, and overall the game is OK for deaf gamers.