Soldier of Fortune: Payback Review

Soldier of Fortune has been a cult title from the minute its first installment hit store shelves. Played more for the intense action and gore than the actual gameplay, people knew what they’d get. Soldier of Fortune II came along and was essentially more of the same, but ultimately not quite up to the original’s status. Now, we have Soldier of Fortune: Payback, and it continues the downward trend the series took from its initial release.

As you probably already know, Soldier of Fortune: Payback is 100% entirely without question a game you will love or hate because of the violence and gore. As a shooter, it doesn’t come close to other recent titles; it kicks their ass when it comes to kicking ass, though.

You have a limited number of weapons to choose from at the beginning of each level, coming in categories such as shotgun, pistol and assault rifle. As you blast your way through the enemies and what some people will think counts for a plot, you’ll probably end up (more often than not) picking up the weapons of your mutilated foes to keep your bullet supply in stock and ready for shipment.

In the beginning, everything can be played as a run ‘n gun shooter; the phrase “balls to the wall” comes to mind. Eventually, you’ll have to be more tactical in your playing, as the enemies increase. Their AI never quite gets above Neanderthal, but they do get more numerous and the situations and firefights become more dangerous.

That’s where most people will be split. Do you enjoy the quick, “I’m just going to run by and cut that guy’s head off with my knife” gameplay, or the “I’m going to pick that guy off back there, then sneak around and take out those guys with a well-placed grenade” gameplay? Both can find their preference throughout Payback, but obviously the former is going to have much more of it.

My biggest complaints are the gore and the price. When I say gore, it’s not what you think. I love over-the-top violence. Hell, I saw Shoot ’em Up at least three times. What I don’t like, is that it’s so often and overblown in Payback that it loses all entertainment value. You can only get excited about shooting someones legs off with a single shot from a pistol so often before it just becomes mundane. (That has to win the award for “Sentence I never thought I would type.”) I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Australian version — with its toned down violence and less frequent limb ejections — ended up being more fun to play.

As for the price, that’s an issue that goes above and beyond the gameplay mechanics. Soldier of Fortune has always been associated with budget titles, and Payback is even developed by one of Activision’s budget studios. Why, then, is the budget game $60? At $30 Payback would have been a steal for the action aficionados who wanted to laugh and smile creepily while dismembering terrorists as your family looked on in worry. At $60, you’re forced to compare it to other recent shooters, and it just doesn’t stand up.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback is a fun game, but it just doesn’t offer much beyond the initial 30 minute playing experience. It started becoming a chore to play before the first hour was up, there’s no real reason to play through the short single-player campaign again, the multiplayer is fun in the sense that watching a crappy movie with friends is more fun than watching it alone (but it will be barren before long), and the best element of the game (the violence) it is overused so often it becomes boring. It’s very obvious Raven had nothing to do with this game, and longtime fans of the series will notice in the first 20 minutes this isn’t close to what the first Soldier of Fortune was. Who knew that gratuitous violence could be made boring?


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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