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Soldier of Fortune | 2 Double Helix | review | game | Lollipop

Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix

(Activision for the PC)
By Eric Johnson

Americans digest mass amounts of electronic entertainment in which getting shot is a relatively neat affair, dying a quick thing, and anything more than a pint of blood is a shocking sight bordering on the pornographic. Of course, there are films such as Robocop or Saving Private Ryan, and video games like Soldier of Fortune that provide those rare moments of realization where it becomes clear just how sanitized and cartoon-like our usual intake of violent entertainment is. Despite it being a rip-roaring first-person shooter, it's the shocking catalogue of potential injuries that will remain in most people's minds after they take Soldier of Fortune 2 for a test drive.

The game boasts 16 potential types of dismemberment. The result is an action game with the most realistic array of injuries on the market. Far from a cheap voyeuristic gimmick or pornography for potential psychopaths, the gory ballistic accuracy of Soldier of Fortune 2 actually makes it a much better game. Primarily because the enemies react appropriately to being shot and shot at. Guns can be dropped, limping enemies scurry for cover, and a single, properly-placed shot will put a man down faster than a television tossed off a hotel room balcony. Any trace of moral ambiguity is properly squelched early in the game. The bad guys aren't generic thugs, they're first-rate terrorist assholes with a biologically-engineered plague. It's a square-jawed, all-American crusade with Vietnam veteran, mercenary, and Soldier of Fortune magazine founder John Mullins and his mustache cast as the savior of the modern world.

The original Soldier of Fortune came out three years ago. The game boiled down to a spectacular series of white-knuckle firefights. It had the visceral punch, that particular je ne sais quoi that makes first-person shooters addictive and great, but it also featured astonishingly poor artificial intelligence that ruined what should've been a great mindless action game. Three years later, it's clear that the designers of Soldier of Fortune 2 have learned from their past failures. The artificial intelligence is now excellent; evasive, sneaky, and eager to flush you into sight with grenades. Although it takes three or four levels to realize it, this is the best possible type of sequel, one which retains everything good about the original while fixing precisely what kept it's predecessor from being great.

The multi-player mode is excellent, and besides the basic single-player game, there's an ambitious random mission generator. It's a little too random and is unable to generate convincing maps on the fly, but it's a quick way to blow off some steam if you're stuck in the 55 levels of the campaign. It's well worth checking out.

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