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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Raven Software / Gratuitous Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Great Xbox Live multiplayer setup
- Wide selection of weaponry, including some nifty sniper rifles
- Plausible storyline

 

 

- Numbskulled enemy A.I.
- Very dated graphics
- Nonsensical, no-action “missions”

 

 

Review: Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix (PC)

Review: Soldier of Fortune: Platinum Edition (PC)

Review: Return to Castle Wolfenstein - Tides of War (XB)

 

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Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

soldier of fortune 2 double helix xbox review         soldier of fortune 2 double helix xbox review

 

Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, Brute Force, Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War, and Ghost Recon are some of the most notable Xbox games featuring clandestine soldiers of fortune/mercenaries/ultra-secretive military strike forces as their lead characters. Joining their ranks is the first-person shooter Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix (SoFII), a port of the well-received PC game from last year. Unfortunately, SoFII on the Xbox comes up shooting blanks with a very mediocre adaptation that has few redeemable features outside its strong multiplayer Xbox Live presence.

High-fiving worthy features imported over from SoFII’s PC version start with the credible storyline. You get to lace up the combat boots as mercenary-for-hire John Mullins, another in the long line of gruff and tough Duke Nukem-type characters.

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Mullins gets most of his work from The Shop, an underground operation inconspicuously hidden beneath the depths of a city bookshop that does all the “dirty” work that the CIA and other worldwide governmental agencies can’t handle. Mullins is signed on to trace the insidious path of a deadly germ-warfare virus and those involved in its creation and planning to use it all around the globe.

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Mullins’ pursuit of the virus gives the developers an opportunity to include many varied levels for gamers to play including city streets, cargo ships, South American jungles, and snow-covered regions.

But while all those exotic locales add up to 50-odd missions for the single-player story campaign, SoFII starts to have some of the vulnerable chinks in its gameplay armor exposed within its single-player experience. Yes, it’s true there are plenty of missions to occupy you, but it’s a real stretch calling some of these “missions.” SoFII has some of the absolutely worst gameplay mission levels ever designed since video games have been around. Get this for an enthralling action-packed “mission”: you must walk the halls of The Shop searching for the right elevator and door to get you to the office for your meeting with the head honchos and to learn your assignment details. Just wandering the halls looking for the right elevator and door to enter. No enemies to fight. No time-clock to race against. Nothing. Just looking for an elevator and door.

Too exciting for you? How about the “mission” that has you walking through a germ-proof plastic tunnel in the unlucky town that was actually used as an experiment for the deadly virus. Again, no enemies, no threats to your well-being. Just walking leisurely through the tunnel to the field laboratory. No wait, it gets more exciting.

There’s the mission that requires you to walk across the street and ring the doorbell of the bookstore that acts as the cover for The Shop. There was a individual walking around that I wasn’t sure about. He looked like he most likely was a Shop lookout, but since I wasn’t sure, I shot him dead. I wasn’t penalized for shooting him, still gaining admission to The Shop without incident or mention of my homicidal tendencies.

Mixed with these action-packed “missions” are ones that are just plain annoying. After buddying up with a separated elite military unit, you must do the required mission objectives in the exact order needed or the unit commander will actually shoot you. There’s no direction as to what you need to do first, and it takes more than a few attempts trying to complete it before you actually get a clue as to what needs to be done in what order, but until you figure it out, your reward for helping the military unit search and rescue their captured teammates is a bullet in the back of the head.

I even tried to shoot the three members of the unit, thinking that would alleviate the bullet headache I was being inflicted with, but even though there was no one around to shoot me, the game actually killed me because I hadn’t played the mission correctly. I was literally left to ponder out loud: if these missions were actually in the PC version of SoFII, then how could it get such high review scores? There are more than a few missions like in the jungles of Columbia and the surprisingly enjoyable mission that places you at the helm of the gun in an attack chopper attacking enemies below, that are smartly designed and do actually compensate for, in the words of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, the “Worst. Videogame missions. Ever.”

 

soldier of fortune 2 double helix xbox review


Making matters worse is the bad graphics that strain your eyes. The Xbox is capable of some great graphics and SoFII on the PC was commended for its visuals, but it’s clear that there is an aging graphic engine behind the looks of SoFII, because they aren’t up to today’s standards.

On top of a shoddy appearance, the enemy artificial intelligence comes up 12 inches short of a foot in a lot of areas. While the enemy will hide behind objects, too many times they’ll display bad judgment when trying to eliminate your hide from the face of the earth. Some apparently suicidal chaps will rush at you despite your gunfire at them. In other areas of the game, some enemies, usually in the distance posted as a sentry, are obviously looking right at you, but do nothing. You can take all day lining up a headshot with your sniper rifle, but yet they will still never move until they crumple dead after you shoot them.

Speaking of headshots, the only good graphical touch is the gore that occurs when you shoot enemies square in the head, especially when zoomed in at 20%. The head explodes away from the body in a realistically bloody mess and at that magnification, you get the full visual effect.

SoFII does have a few more saving graces that rescue it from being a total disaster. It has one of the most impressive collection of weaponry in any shooter game, with more than 25 items to help Mullins complete his task. Featured are numerous pistols, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, and a vast selection of incendiary devices. Although the rifles and machine guns are the more effective weapons, the ability to use two pistols at one time packs a pretty impressively powerful punch.

What really raises SoFII from the ashes of mediocrity is its magnificent multiplayer gaming via Live. A worthy rival to Ghost Recon and Castle Wolfenstein in Xbox Live play, SoFII not only has a myriad of multiplayer online modes immediately familiar to Counter-Strike veterans such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Elimination, Infiltration, and Demolition, it also features incredibly large maps.

There’s so many areas of a map to explore it’s easy to get lost, especially after getting fragged and re-spawning in an unfamiliar area in the map. But it also allows for better ambushing of unsuspecting enemies and also increased effective team-based combat with plenty of take-cover quarters for prolonged firefights. The voice communication function through the walkie-talkie takes some configuring to get it to work properly in-game, but other than that, SoFII’s multiplayer gaming is solid.

SoFII’s single-player mode has little to offer Xbox gamers that they can’t get better in other titles. There are just too many other good games to buy instead of the flawed SoFII. Its multiplayer mode offers all those Castle Wolfenstein and Ghost Recon players an alternative similarly designed title to hit the online battlefield with, so only those with Xbox Live should really consider adding SoFII to their game brigade.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(August 10, 2003)
 

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