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Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix
June 10, 2002 | Andy Largent

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Soldier of Fortune II
Well it's official, realistic military combat shooters are all the rage and only looking to expand within the FPS genre. What began with a host of third-party modifications, such as StrikeForce and TacOps (and of course the PC-only Counterstrike for popular first-person shooters, is now moving into the mainstream, with even the Army undertaking a title in response.

Raven Software is practically an old-timer in the movement, though, as they released the original Soldier of Fortune over two years ago. This Quake II-based game grabbed a lot of attention with its weaponry, graphics, and ultra-realistic violence. While the game was originally scheduled to come to the Mac as well, difficulties with the company doing the port eventually meant the end of the project.

Barely a month ago, Raven returned with a second installment in the Soldier of Fortune series, subtitled Double Helix. Again they have consulted with famed military man John Mullins to pull together a tightly scripted action-movie storyline and a highly replayable online game into an even more polished package. Raven is easily considered to be one of the experts at scripted shooters, with a growing list of triple-A titles to their name like Elite Force and Jedi Knight II. Also based on the third-generation Quake engine, Soldier of Fortune II is coming to Mac OS X thanks to MacPlay. And this time it's for real.

Soldier of Fortune II puts you in the role of John Mullins, a military specialist trained in a vast assortment of weapons, anti-terrorist strategies, and how to be a badass. Your mission in the game is to hunt down a terrorist group that is using a new bio-weapon called the Gemini Virus. The task will take you across multiple continents and real-world locations, requiring the use of both stealth and full-out assault.

Soldier of Fortune II does not pretend to be an action game with many strategy or RPG elements. Raven instead chose to keep the fighting intense, avoiding too many mind-boggling puzzles. That being said, this action is not for the light-hearted or the kiddies. There are password-enforced parental controls in place, but Soldier of Fortune II is unflinchingly adult in its graphic nature.

Soldier of Fortune features 14 modern weapons and 10 grenade types. Each is meticulously designed and skinned to look and sound authentic. One of the neatest features is that you get to choose which weapons you want to take with you on the mission. The game will always recommend an assortment best suited for the task, but if you have a particular liking for the amazingly powerful shotgun or sniper rifle, you're welcome to bring them along instead.

Maybe more than any other recent Quake 3 based shooter to date, Soldier of Fortune II is going to push your hardware to the limit. The game features photo-realistic textures, which make the characters very lifelike when viewed from close up. The levels themselves are large, but what is more striking than the size is the amazing level of detail. The game features some of the best grass and foliage yet, and your gunfire will interact with almost everything on the screen. If you're taking cover behind a tree, watch closely as the wood splinters after being hit. Smoke and flash grenades also show off some very nice effects in the engine.

The characters are of course where things start to get messy. Raven's in-house GHOULII rendering system ensures that each bullet strikes your enemy in a realistic manner. Limbs and heads can be torn off or sliced up depending on how they're struck with a weapon. This is more than just gore, though, as it also applies to the physics of how the character reacts. Nicking someone in the leg with result in them limping around for help, and the system will be able to tell if you got that headshot off clean or not. It also results in very few dead enemies lying halfway inside a wall or floor. The clipping in Soldier of Fortune II upon death is much cleaner than most all other shooters out there.


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