Title :Soldier of Fortune
Platforms :Sega Dreamcast, Windows
Publisher :Crave Entertainment
ESRB Rating :Mature
Game Rating :7.3
Review by :Ken Gagne

Enough with the demons, the aliens, and the zombies. If you're looking for a realistic first-person shooter, scope out Soldier of Fortune, a Sega Dreamcast and PC game from Crave Entertainment. You're likely to find it's the demons, aliens, and zombies that keep this genre from being mundane. [DC version reviewed here] 

Our soldier of misfortune is John Mullins, former Army Special Forces agent, now a mercenary for a United Nations anti-terrorist group. He's been hired to delve into New York subways and Kosovo sewers to prevent an international incident from occurring. 

The first thing you'll notice about Soldier of Fortune is the loading times. It can take as many as ninety seconds to load a level or a portion of it — enough time to flip through the latest issue of Guns & Ammo. Even restarting a level can induce a similar delay. 

Now, loading times do not a bad game make — but Soldier of Fortune is not worth waiting for. Mullins has an arsenal of authentic, impressive weaponry to mow down enemies who outrank him in firepower, if not smarts. The levels are straightforward, with the occasional backtracking after flipping a switch. Mullins and his enemies have no talents, and the levels no features, you haven't seen elsewhere. 

The game operates at a fast but discontinuous 60 frames per second. Multiple enemies and sudden movements can cause the display to flicker and slow down. It is otherwise capable of producing a smooth and dark environment. 

The enemies populating that world are advertised as having 26 unique points upon which to fire. A well-aimed shot can cause an appendage to go flying, proving that not only does crime not pay — it costs an arm and a leg. Why (or how) a trooper consciously reaches for his throat when his head's been blown off remains unknown. Less fatal blows will leave soldiers writhing in agony, clutching at their destroyed kneecaps – before suddenly standing erect and resuming fire. I guess Mullins' attacks sting more than anything. 

Other voice acting is provided by Todd Susman (Blast from the Past, Newhart) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Planet of the Apes, Green Mile), though they play their parts in a plot that develops at awkward moments. Shame. 

The Dreamcast's limited number of buttons calls for a clever layout. Each button has two functions, with the 'L' trigger determining which one is active. Jump and reload, strafe and lean, cycle item or weapon are all mapped to the same primary buttons. Though learning the controls is easy, using them is not, with some combinations (such as strafing and using an item simultaneously) being impossible. Players more comfortable with the mouse and keyboard may find themselves less constrained in that setup. 

Built into the Dreamcast are a modem and four controller ports; Soldier of Fortune takes advantage of neither, as it is a one-player game only. I can't remember the last time I saw a shooter get away with that; after playing Soldier of Fortune, I still can't. 

Except for the graphic brutality, there's nothing new about Soldier of Fortune. It's an average first-person shooter with realistic weapons and a modern-day plot. Would-be soldiers should consider themselves fortunate to have better, if less realistic, alternatives available to them, such as Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64.

This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 06-Aug-01