Soldier of Fortune: Pay Back – PS3 – Review

It’s been a long
while since we stepped into the combat boots of the mercenary that first lit up
computer monitors and then released a sequel on a console like the original
Xbox. The Soldier of Fortune franchise stopped dead in its tracks after
the release of Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix – a flawed yet
strangely entertaining first-person shooter that displayed some truly grisly
carnage with limbs flying off bodies and heads popping like champaign corks.
Now, on the PlayStation 3, the mercenary returns with Soldier of Fortune:
, a game that brings back the ultra violence but adds very little
substance worthy of the next-generation console.

doesn’t take
place directly after Double Helix but rather we find gun-for-hire John
Mullins still working for the same agency that has sent him on a number of
dangerous missions. This time around Mullins finds himself in Al Qa’im on an
escort mission with a fellow mercenary named Colonel Miller when things turn
sour quickly. Suddenly, what was supposed to be a difficult but doable escort
mission turns into a fight for survival as Miller betrays Mullins and the
agency. At the end of the first mission, the client is dead and Mullins is
pissed off. Why did Miller betray them? What does the Chinese have to do with
said betrayal? Is the betray mentioned above a real reason to go on a bloody
killing spree that leaves a trail of dismembered bodies?

This gun for

If you’re
looking for a compelling story, you certainly won’t find it here and many fans
of the genre would argue that we don’t really need a reason to fire guns and
blow things up but we should at least have a credible reason for taking on the
enemy. This is the reason we love games like Half-Life 2 or even The
… these games not only have good stories but they immerse you in
its universe. Mullins goes on a quest to discover a connection to the botched
mission but seldom does it feel like his intentions are admirable.

Forgetting the
weak and forgettable plot, Payback will place you in some pretty hairy
situations where your only alternative is to shoot your way out of an area.
Whether you’re shooting at hired thugs in the jungles of Mogaung, securing a
diamond mine in another part of the world or trying to survive a vicious attack
in a Donetsk brothel, you’re in for one seriously bloody and repetitive ride.
This is too bad; really, since there is an assortment of great weapons you can
actually customize to meet your needs depending on the mission. You can change
your boring default weapons and add everything from scopes to laser sights to
give them a better edge in combat.


Like past
Soldier of Fortune
games, Payback handles the level of violence in an
almost cartoon-like fashion. It is here where a mere pistol can blow off an arm
or leg as your enemy drops to the ground clutching a stump that spurts blood all
over the ground. Shotgun blasts just don’t send enemies flying back but rather
they make heads explode. Body parts will fly (and twitch on the ground thanks to
a number of glitches in the game) and so will the blood so this isn’t a game
intended for younger gamers even though you can tone down the level or gore in
the Options menu. The fact is that instead of seeming sickening, the violence is
almost comical.

How sweet it
is to be shot by you

What’s also
comical and frustrating is the fact that the majority of the game’s enemies are
really dumb. It’s funny the first few times you toss a grenade only to find the
enemies running towards it rather than away from it but this gets old quickly.
The enemy can also be great shots but many of them will actually run towards
your line of fire, not caring if their comrade in front of them gets shot to
pieces. You know this is an easy game when an enemy decides to hide behind an
explosive barrel or take cover behind a clay pot. Just about the only
challenging enemies you’ll find in this game is when you play the game online
with real players.

Still, there are
a few moments of fun in the game but these moments are very fleeting. Clearing
snipers off the roof is fun but then the game falls back to the same repetitive
pattern. It’s hard to enjoy the side objectives when you’ll have to go through
mindless enemies in the same fashion over and over again. Payback is also
a very short game and one you can zip through in one sitting; don’t expect much
from this game that adds little variety and a number of first-person shooter
clichés like manning a gun turret that automatically attracts enemies (that seem
to materialize of thin air). Even the controls, which are responsive enough,
just don’t seem comfortable.

Look ma, no

Graphically, the
game looks decent for a Soldier of Fortune game and there are moments
when everything seems to look just right. Then again, there are more times when
the character models don’t look as good as they should on the PS3. We’re talking
bulky torsos and hands with fingers that don’t look like fingers. Speaking of
body parts, arms and legs get blown off but why do most of the dismembered limbs
twitch like a fish out of water? There are some solid visual effects and there
are times when the environments (whether you’re moving through the jungle or
visiting the dusty Arabic villages) look good. Still, there’s nothing here that
really looks like the PS3 graphics were pushed to its limits.


The game’s sound
doesn’t exactly make up for the so-so visuals but at least the sound effects are
done decently enough. Sure, you won’t hear any background noises like wildlife
or even the wind blowing through the desert canyons but at least the gunfire and
explosions sound right. The voice acting is very straight-to-DVD-action-flick
quality and the music just isn’t very dramatic or lovely. 

Soldier of
Fortune: Payback

for the PlayStation 3 does not strive to be unique or interesting
and what fun you will have is interrupted by its recycled gameplay mechanics and
repetitive action. As a fan of the genre, it’s hard for me to recommend
seeing as the PS3 has a few stellar FPS already available; and with
the upcoming Half-Life: The Orange Box for the PS3, I would seriously
recommend skipping this one and buying a much better game than this.

Review Scoring
Details for Soldier of Fortune: Payback

Gameplay: 6.0
Mullins is
back and he’s angry enough to tear through a number of missions in order to
serve up a hot dish of payback. The problem is that what he’s serving up feels
way too familiar to Soldier of Fortune fans and, with not much of a story
or interesting mission scenarios, it’s hard to get into this repetitive action
game with very little to offer fans of the genre.

Graphics: 7.5
Visually, this
is the best-looking Soldier of Fortune game you’ll play and even on the
PS3 the game looks good. Still, there are some unsightly character models and
certain locales and objects look rather bland in different places. The pop-in is
frequent and the flying limbs and extreme gore is more comical than gruesome.
Just in case, you have the option to tone down the violence in the Options menu.

Sound: 6.0
The game’s
music is not bad but it’s not particularly great either. There are some great
sound effects in the game, including the gunfire and explosions but when it
comes to the voice acting this is definitely not where the game’s sound comes
off as good.

Most of the
enemies you’ll face are accurate shots and a few of them will actually take
cover and toss grenades your way. Then again, the majority of them will gladly
run into your line of fire and a few others will not even bother hiding behind

Concept: 6.0
shoot-first-forget-the-questions attitude makes him a one-man army of the Rambo
variety but his quest for bloody revenge just seems like an excuse for him to
blow things (and people) up. The game allows you to disarm your enemy by, well,
shooting off their arms. There’s also an online multiplayer mode but it’s just
as uninspiring as the single-player game.

Another weak
aspect of the game is its lackluster multiplayer mode that allows up to 12
players to take each other on in typical Deathmatch and Capture the Flag game
types. There’s no mode that really stands out here.

Overall: 6.0
Too flawed and
riddled with every first-person shooter cliché out there, Soldier of Fortune:
might look good but this is a crude and uninventive shooter hardly
worth playing. Its few moments of fun are rare events scattered throughout a sea
of uneventful mission scenarios that we have seen and done before. This is
certainly one first-person shooter you should seriously consider skipping