Soldier of Fortune: Payback Review

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Soldier of Fortune: Payback Publisher: Activision
Developer: Cauldron


Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

A lot of people need killing. As a mercenary for "The Shop," attempting to stop some flimsy terrorist plot, you have the opportunity to execute a seemingly endless supply of nearly identical enemies whose limbs fly off when grazed by a bullet. Hopefully that's enough to save the world.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


We haven't seen a Soldier of Fortune game since 2002 and Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix. For those of you awaiting a third Soldier of Fortune game, Soldier of Fortune: Payback is going to be a grave disappointment.

Soldier of Fortune: PaybackAfter a few missions in the single-player campaign, it feels like the campaign must have been an afterthought tacked on to the multiplayer game. Then, after attempting the ghost-town-like multiplayer (I never found enough players for a match), it becomes clear that the entirety of Soldier of Fortune: Payback is half-assed. The single-player levels look adequate, but hardly stretch the power of the Xbox 360. Each linear level railroads the player through a series of "gotcha!" moments that force repeated replays and painful returns to long-past checkpoints, with minimal reward or entertainment other than mowing down hundreds of similar foes.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback does offer a prolific selection of weapons, with slightly different capabilities and customizable attachments, but since the game's play involves following a predetermined course and gunning everyone down while taking unbelievable amounts of damage, the tiny added realism is lost in the caricature of combat. Glitches only make matters worse. I was occasionally caught in the geometry of the scenery, saw debris sucked into explosions and was frozen out of the game entirely. When you add to that the fact that the screen becomes impenetrably red when wounded and that nearby melee attacks spun me around (but my own knife was useless), the game was just crystallized frustration.

The back of the box bears a brazen red stripe screaming "WARNING!!! Violent Subject Matter," and a focus on the graphic violence of the game appears to have been a major selling point. Despite plenty of blood and mediocre rag-doll deaths, the violence that presumably merits the warning is simply the ability to knock off limbs. If you're impressed by having your occasional off-center shot comically lop off an arm, then the violence might work for you, but it's gruesome in the low-budget monster-movie sense rather than actually evoking violence.

Ordinarily, I don't dwell on achievements in games, but I was annoyed that completing the entire single-player campaign on the "Normal" difficulty setting netted me a total of 70 points out of a possible thousand. You can get a few more points for specific feats, and a bunch more for completing missions on "Hard," but no sane person should bother. The game's bosses are only difficult because their awful accents seem to grant them immunity to bullet fire, and the last few levels of the game had me facing off against hordes of soldiers with weapons that could kill me in one shot, as well as plenty of explosives. To make matters worse, in a parking-garage level, they were hiding behind cover in near complete darkness. These final segments of the game were so painful to play that the game's designers must have brainstormed for months on how to make the game less playable. On Hard, I never saw anything but long loading screens.

So, what is there to recommend Soldier of Fortune: Payback? The soundtrack's not always bad.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 12, 2007 6:55 PM.

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