Military game offers action, gore

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Bullets fly and so does the blood and gore in a new and ultimately disappointing Xbox title, "Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix."

You play as John Mullins, a military "consultant" hired by a covert agency known as The Shop to combat evildoers around the world.

This time, Mullins is out to stamp out a terrorist organization threatening to unleash a deadly virus on the world.

I'd recommend playing the tutorial first, to get a feel for the controls. "Soldier" isn't a terribly hard game to pick up, but there's a lot to do and learning from experts -- the developers -- can't hurt.

What does hurt is the AI, which sends waves of stupid soldiers after you, and the environments, some parts of which can be affected by Mullins and others which can't.

Gratuitous Games and Activision have placed boxes all over the place. Shoot them open and you sometimes find health, ammo or other needed items inside. But try and shoot out a light illuminating a place you need to hide, and nothing happens.

This first-person shooter is ported over from a highly rated PC title, but it seems to have lost something in the translation.

It does allow plenty of gore, so much that in the Options menu there's a switch to turn it off.

Leave it on and the blood flies as you target limbs, punch numerous holes in enemy bodies and even blow a baddie's head clean off with a shotgun.

The game has plenty to do in dozens of missions, leading you from your first job in Prague to the jungles of Colombia to Switzerland and Texas, among other hot spots in your hunt for terrorists.

Tactics? Forget it. Stealth? Not in this game. Firepower is what you want, and a quick trigger finger.

Campaign mode is the main attraction, but you can play online or try out the "Random Mission Generator." You set the parameters and the game produces a new mission just for you.

The problem comes when you start comparing it to similar games which are far better in every way, such as the new "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" or recent Tom Clancey titles such as "Ghost Recon." All have better graphics and a far more engaging story line.

Irritation sets in right from the beginning, in a hotel in Prague. You have no map and no idea where you're going. It took forever, aggravation mounting at doors that wouldn't open and being forced to retrace my steps over and over, until I stumbled on the right door leading to the solution of that mission.

A simple map feature would have made life so much easier.

Control gets a B. There are no real surprises here, except for all those blasted doors that are marked for action but don't do anything. Mullins follows your commands and I found no glitches in the control scheme.

Graphics gets a C. Backgrounds are blah and usually colorless, people are jerky and oddly shaped and there are people and weapons constantly appearing through solid objects. Not a shining moment in videogame graphic design.

Sound is another C. Weapons effects are good. There's not much music of note. Replacing the orchestra is the incredible racket made as Mullins walks around. He must be wearing steel boots, and how the clomping commotion doesn't rouse every guard within a mile is beyond me.

"Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix" gets a C for being a very average game. There's nothing here that screams out "play me" and you won't lose anything if you don't.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: