Soldier of Fortune promises "action movie" gameplay and delivers.
Soldier of Fortune is a first-person shooter in its most straightforward form, and it will remind you more of id Software's nonstop fragfest Doom than recent shooters such as Half-Life and Red Faction, which employ complex puzzle and story elements. Levels consist of one fun, frenetic firefight after another. Scores of enemy terrorists, skinheads, and soldiers stand between you and each mission goal, and for the most part, your only concern is how best to obliterate them without wasting precious ammunition. Soldier of Fortune's simplistic puzzle design, which relies heavily on having you locate door mechanisms, leaves more room for its intense action. Soldier of Fortune may not rack your brain, but be prepared to give your controller a punishing workout.
You assume the role of John Mullins, a mercenary hired by the United States government for a series of covert mission assignments. Four nuclear warheads have been stolen. It's your job, along with the aid of a demolitions expert bearing a fitting action-movie name, Hawk (effectively voiced by Planet of the Apes and The Green Mile star Michael Clarke Duncan), to track down and stop the terrorist organization responsible for the theft before the nukes can be put to horrible use. Raven Software, the developer of the original PC version, based the game's lead character on and even received consultation from the real John Mullins, a mercenary and decorated Vietnam War veteran.
The biggest complaint about Soldier of Fortune on the Dreamcast was its ridiculously long load times. Thankfully, the PlayStation 2 version doesn't take nearly as long to load. Although there are 10 missions in the game, there are nearly 30 separate levels, which means the load screen becomes a frequent and often unwelcome visitor. Understandably, the game's frenzied action screeches to an abrupt halt each time a load screen appears, but the delays are noticeably shorter than those in the Dreamcast game.
No review would be complete without mentioning Soldier of Fortune's most notorious feature: its frighteningly realistic gore. There's no doubt about it: Soldier of Fortune is gruesome and rightfully earns its "Mature" ESRB rating. Enemy models feature 26 different hit locations, referred to as gore zones, and many hit locations offer unique reactions. Shooting a leg causes the enemy to limp, blasting the upper body sends an enemy flying backward, and pummeling an enemy in the arm, leg, or head can knock the appendage right off. Throat shots, nether-region shots, head shots, and gibs are tallied at the end of each mission, which further emphasizes the over-the-top gore but reduces Soldier of Fortune from its promise of mission realism to just another action game.