|Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix|
June 10, 2002 | Andy Largent
Many of the animations were done with motion-capture, and the improvements are visible in many ways. Characters will flip a table in the way to block your fire or even hop over a small obstacle to pursue you (why was that IiI' chair always an impassable barrier before?!).
The sound in the game is excellent, thanks to some very good voice acting and non-obtrusive music. The score gives a movie-like feeling to the game, and the cut scenes are all done in the game engine. This helps the continuity greatly and forwards the story without cutting to a pre-rendered 3D scene.
The sound effects of the weapons and environments are great. Each gun 'feels' heavier thanks to the bass-rattling oopmph they give off when shot. Different surfaces will even sound different when shot or walked over. Sound is very important to the gameplay as well, as it's always critical to listen for the 'tink-tink' of grenades hitting the ground nearby.
Enemies and GameplayWhile we know the bad guys will die properly, how they act while alive is a bigger question. Raven has used what they call a LICH AI system to power the artificial intelligence of your opponents. They enemy does a really nice job of taking cover behind furniture or doorways when possible. If you're being loud in your mission, enemies will react appropriately to your gunfire, either seeking cover or calling for backup. Even on the easier settings, players should feel challenged to make it through each mission with the ammunition and health provided.
The AI combined with some very nice scripting and character animation results in excellent shooter gameplay. For the most part, Raven lets you blast your way through the levels using whatever weapons you may have on hand. There are a few stealth levels mixed in the bunch, as well as some very fun truck levels which will throw you around very realistically.
Beyond the mission-based single-player mode, you also have a training mission and the option of a new Random Scenario Generator. This unique feature promises to help extend the life of the game, even if you happen to be without an internet connection. This mode will randomly create a map for you to play and populate it with baddies to kill and even a mission to complete.
The four modes are escape, infiltration, assassination, and demolition. Escape requires you to get out of a prison and make it successfully to an extraction point and radio for help. Infiltration takes you inside an enemy stronghold to steal an item and bring it out without being killed. Assassination and demolition are pretty straightforward, though each can be fun. Each mode allows you to alter the terrain between jungle, desert, hills or snow, as well as the time of day. You also have the option to choose your own weapons, level of difficulty and time limit.
Multiplayer mode features the standard suite of deathmatch, capture the flag, elimination, and team deathmatch. Infiltration is a very exciting team-based mode in which one team must guard an item while the other tries to steal it away. This goal-oriented play is what many realism fans crave for, though the other modes like team deathmatch can be captivating as well.
The online portion of Soldier of Fortune II also extends the Random Scenario Generator with a Random Map Generator of its own. These levels are not pre-made, and so they usually look similarly large and scattered with cover and powerups. The random idea works well to keep the game fresh and gives newbies a much better chance against the old timers who memorize every crack in a level.
ConclusionsSoldier of Fortune II looks to be a great addition to the Mac shooter library. Those mature enough to handle its content will surely appreciate the time and effort put into the excellent scripting and combat. Thanks to its use of the Quake 3 engine, we're betting the port will be relatively painless compared to that of its predecessor. MacPlay hasn't yet set a date for its release, but stay tuned to IMG for the latest on its status.