Bullet In The Head. And Groin.

A little late with this, but we’ll post it as it reminds me of the time I interviewed Comics/Novel/Games/Whatever Writer and drinker of fine Whiskeys, Warren Ellis, and he idly tossed out the quote “No-one’s playing Soldier of Fortune for the story. They’re playing Soldier of Fortune so they can throw knives in people’s dicks”. Wise words.

A little commentary beneath the cut.

It’s Soldier of Fortune: Payback the sequel to Raven’s famous Mercenary-cum-Sadist simulator. It, clearly, doesn’t exactly look innovative or unique, except for a return to the multiple gore-zone dismemberment of lore. SoF2 sits in an interesting position in gaming history, as the high (or low, depending on your response to gore in shooters) water mark in terms of how much a developer modeled physical hurtage. Since then, the entire industry has openly bottled it – you can almost imagine them looking at SoF and thinking “You know – trouble will follow if we continue on this road”. In fact, you even had a sense Raven knew they were pushing their luck – while I never played pre-release code of SoF2, reports from friends who did describe it in even more brutal than the release version, with people being turned pretty much to paint on walls with the application of a grenade.

But now, after five years, we return. Now, you might argue that with Manhunt and Postal 2 and other “offensive” games we’ve gone further since. You’ll be wrong. Postal aimed to offend not by its technology, but by its setting and content. While the acts you perform in Manhunt are brutal, there’s a total disconnect between you ordering the action and it being performed. You’ve just set off a horrific cut-scene which you watch rather than participate in. What Soldier of Fortune does is simulate what happens when you takes bits of flesh away from people. In Manhunt, you tell them to drive the blade in. In Soldier of Fortune, you choose the spot and do it yourself. It’s horrible or horribly compelling, depending on your moral temperament. For me – a monster to the core – I’ve missed it a lot.

Already denied certification in Australia, the proper site’s in a vestigial state, so keep an eye on the fansites. Alternatively, go steal a Action Man/GI Joe, dismember it, cover it with Ketchup and cackle.


  1. roBurky says:

    I remember being excited by the original Soldier of Fortune when I was younger. I bought it and enjoyed it, for pretty much the reasons Warren Ellis mentions.
    Whereas now, I can’t stand gore in films or games. Seeing a youtube clip of Gears of War which featured the chainsaw kill animation confirmed it as a game I’m never going to play, for example.
    I’m not quite sure how or when the change came about.

  2. Dan says:

    It looks faintly ridiculous.

  3. drunkymonkey says:

    If what sets it apart is “there’s loads and loads of gore in it”, then I’m not really too interested. It looks far too similar to recent games (Call of Duty 4 being the best example) to warrant any sort of enthusiasm. If I want buckets of the red stuff, I’ll nip on Dawn of War.

  4. Nuyan says:

    Hmm. I’ve played both SoF1 and SoF2. Never completed SoF2’s long-long singleplayer and I remember being annoyed by lots of friends I knew back then playing the (quite popular) multiplayer part of the game, which I always hated.

    SoF1 gives me lots of good memories though. Think it was the first multiplayer fps I played. On LAN with some friend. Singleplayer was fun too.

    And you know. I don’t know what I think of all the gore. I really hate horror-movies, not only because it scares the hell out of me, but because of the gore too. When a movie has a torture scene or something like that, I close my eyes and skip it. I can’t watch those surgery tv series. But in games it’s a bit different, I dislike shooters without blood really. Something like Manhunt goes a bit too far me, but in shooters I prefer to have it realistic.

    This trailer however doesn’t excite me at all. It looks silly. Too much ‘scripted’ animations and and it seems to be just a rambo-style shooter which we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

  5. Andrew says:

    I actually found that video really jarring where a massive fuck-off rocket is fired at a man on a rooftop, blowing the limbs off the man but leaving the shoddy mud-brick building without a mark on it.

  6. Ghiest says:

    As Andrew says, I’d be more impressed by structure destruction than shooting small parts of bodies apart. Which is why I proffered Red faction as a overall game rather than any of the SoF series.

    Personally it never really impressed me as a shooter, and from the vid’s it still doesn’t. CoD4 seems allot more developed as a proper FPS.

  7. Willem says:

    Didn’t one of the pillars lose a small bit of stone in the video? Y’know, after being hit by 4 grenades?

  8. SwiftRanger says:

    Too bad Raven isn’t doing this.

  9. Bozzley says:

    Can’t wait for this to be the next game that Jack Thompson gets his teeth into. All together kids – “murder simulator!”

  10. Mr. Brand says:

    Since I never grew up, I think I’m going to enjoy this game.

  11. Cigol says:

    Wait. The original Soldier of Fortune was a pretty entertaining romp that I played for more than just visually impressive (and for its time) ‘cutting’ edge damage models. In fact I can remember the missions quite clearly even so long after playing it – the game was a genuinely fun experience and I think it did quite a few novel things for its time (and I’m not just talking about the gore).

  12. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Never completed SoF2’s long-long singleplayer

    Taylor dies. I doubt any gamer cared. You fight some asian hacker. The traitor is a bland CIA bigwig. The endgame boss is a helicopter. And John refuses to whore himself to the President. It was bad all around. Only good thing about it was the random mission generator, which turned all maps into awfully empty and sickly green or brown areas.

    I never got a kick out of the gore in SoF. It just felt off. Sure, there’s some potential in targetting specific body parts to quickly bring foes down, but being able to cut off someone’s face in twenty some different ways until they looked like the guy next to Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ during the first minutes didn’t do much for me. In part, that was one of the reasons didn’t really do anything for me – here lies a game running on good, Quake3 tech but squanders the technology and gameplay in favour of completely sadistic and pointless cruelty.

    Hey, Ellis was right. Testicular damage was fun. Although I also enjoyed shooting enemy’s balls. I think I still have a pic or two of that around here, with the soldier doing a very comprimised look and grabbing his two ‘gravity cores’.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Recent gore memory: In Scarface, when you shoot baddies, it tells you where you’ve shot people. So the word KIDNEY! KIDNEY! KIDNEY! kept filling the screen when you open up with an UZI.


  14. Kareem says:

    Speaking of killing players by shooting the penis… the end boss in Far Cry had this entertaining weak point. He presented a fairly difficult challenge if you fought him conventially, but if you fired at his crotch he dies after a few quick rounds.

  15. Kid Amnesiac says:

    Heh, not used to seeing giblets outside of Valve games.

  16. Tellurian says:

    Oh yeah. SoF2. One of the games which got “germanized” for our market, meaning they went down the road of C&C and Half Life where human opponents were just switched with cyborgs and the background story butchered up a bit so we poor fragile Germans don’t have to shoot “real people”.
    I can perfectly picture the above footage in one of our public broadcasters’ “news and current topics” formats, telling the populace that this is what kids play while they’re not looking…
    Don’t get me wrong, I love gory games. I’ve just developed this kind of “instant BS adding reflex” when it comes to footage from new FPS.
    And SoF grade violence? Let me be frank, I don’t think we really need this in the current state of affairs. Especially not over here where “violence driven games” (yes, the phrasing is THIS accurate) could well be outlawed if the policymakers decide to make the move this way within the next half year.
    Games like this are currently really not what I want to see in the spotlight given the circumstance.

  17. Thelps says:

    Too many people taking the high moral ground here for my liking…

    I would play this game purely as a means to slaughter people in the slowest most sadistic way possible, and I make no apologies about that. My particular favourite method (honed during Goldeneye, improved in SoF) is the slow, bullet by bullet dissection of a still living opponent. Fire at the shoulder, they reel off balanc e, watch as they regain their footing then go for the knees/legs so they’re largely crippled, or staggering, and then get creative from there. Shooting people in the groin is fun and all, but ultimately a cliche for the true connoisseur of the sadistic arts. You do it once or twice to see the result, but it’s really a cop out compared to the gradual, clinical disassembly of a person’s motor functions.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you can’t glory in the act of killing a meaningless set of polygons that has clearly had a huge amount of work put into its reactions, then you quite possibly are suppressing an aspect of what I consider to be a healthy person’s psyche: the distinction between reality and fiction.

  18. MrLipid says:

    On a somewhat lighter note, anyone remember Chasm: The Rift? One could blow off the arms of opponents, leaving them no recourse but endlessly kicking. Or endlessly kicking butt.

  19. Roman Levin says:

    That, that was… slightly disturbing.

  20. Thiefsie says:

    Wow, I used to laugh SoF and remember sadiscticaly mutilating every coprse I could into many many pieces when I was playing it… but… that video made me realise I don’t want to do that now. I don’t know why, it doesn’t horrify me, it just seems pointless.

    Maybe I’ve grown up? The idea of young kids playing that slightly worries me as well which is also entirely a first for me. Colour me surprised!

  21. drunkymonkey says:

    “As far as I’m concerned, if you can’t glory in the act of killing a meaningless set of polygons that has clearly had a huge amount of work put into its reactions, then you quite possibly are suppressing an aspect of what I consider to be a healthy person’s psyche: the distinction between reality and fiction.”

    I think you’re mistaking “moral high ground” for “not giving a toss if the game itself isn’t up to scratch and adds nothing new.”

    As a penis-shooting aside (which is the worrying turn this comments thread is taking), it’s always fun to aim at the crotches of people once you have the precision ability in the Stanglehold demo. It’s the looks on their little faces…

  22. malkav11 says:

    I think that’s what the commentary I read on Stranglehold missed…they said “why would you ever use the ‘shoot one person precisely’ power (except for snipers) when you can spin in a dove-based orgy of invulnerable death?”. The answer, of course, is so that you can place a bullet in a man’s testicles with a pistol from 300 feet away. (Or their neck, watching them stagger and choke on their own blood, or…)

  23. Chis says:

    All the reasons why I’d take Prey, Half-Life or Unreal Tourney 2004 over this murder-porn nonsense. Although I do remember the first SoF being a pretty solid FPS overall, I much preferred Sin at the time (okay, that may have been because of Elexis. I have no shame ;P).

  24. Simon says:

    All races are present in the trailers of this game. There’s black, latino, asian and arab. There’s even a caucasian presence through the hands on the floating gun the player is controlling.

  25. Radiant says:

    To be honest it’s a waste of time making death animations that gory.
    In 99 percent of First Person Shooters the guy you shot was an inch tall.

    And does everyone in that game die and cum at the same time?


  26. Nick says:

    I found the SoF games to be rather boring. The only good thing was that I believe the engine had something to do with Stromtroopers hands/arms being cuttable off in Jedi Knight (or was it JK2? I can’t remember).

  27. Kast says:

    All I can really say is… “meh”. So what if you can do commit all these gruesome gory acts? Doesn’t make it any more fun to play necessarily. In fact I imagine it will detract.

    I can’t shake the image of a toy dismantling itself when it’s chest is pressed.

  28. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    I always had fun with the SoF games. Especially grabbing the shotty in the first one, running right up to people, ducking, and firing upwards…..messy.

    The sequel wasn’t anywhere as near as gory from what i can recall. sure you could put holes in more places, but you didn’t have crazy one legged guys chasing you around with laser guns, or kidneys falling out all over the place. just lots of little bleeding holes. unless you went to town with the assault shotgun, of course.

  29. Schadenfreude says:

    The over the top gore added an immense level to the funnies when playing over a LAN. Used to bunk off class in college and slink along to the Engineering computer room where you’d always find at least ten other people playing SoF2. It’s half the reason I flunked out. Good times; good times.

  30. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Okay, so in hindsight it sounds like i was just into the gory bits, it would seem. But really, when your just playing the game, you never really notice. whether your playing through a mission, or messing around with some deathmatch, theres not really time to be noticing most of it. It’s only when you get bored later that you mess around with the damage model and go ‘oooh….i think i’ll take a leg and an arm’

  31. Thelps says:

    @Drunkymonkey: I don’t really see your point. There are plenty of FPSs that come out that add a lot less to the genre than improved death animations. If SoF2 can achieve fairly realistic (if somewhat caricatured) death animations at a level that no other FPS has touched then it has carved out its own space. Granted, from a gameplay point of view it’s still a matter of point crosshairs, press left mouse button, but the impact on the player is altered, and one is given the option of actually killing a target in more ways than just a body shot or a head shot. That’s a gameplay dynamic not present in the vast majority of other FPS games, and certainly not present in anything like as much care or detail.

    It’s not ground breaking, and SoF/Goldeneye and a few others have done it before, but the mechanic has been refined to an almost artistic extent. If a game sets itself apart from the crowd (within its own genre) then it’s arguably innovating, even if the innovation itself is minor.

  32. Thelps says:

    P.S. Can I have points for controversy?

  33. John Walker says:

    Ah, the racism of SoF. Hey, do you think they’ll remember to include that this time too?

  34. Simon says:

    It’s odd though. In the first game from the first mission you were fighting white supremasists.

  35. Kieron Gillen says:

    I honestly believe the actual famous racism think was just a really unfortunate bug.


  36. Iain says:

    I’ve not played SoF in a very long while, but I do remember it being very enjoyable. Some of the mission design was pretty interesting and I didn’t find the tone particularly grotesque at all – the violence was so over the top (a Microwave Gun, FFS) that it never felt “real”. And shooting people in the crotch *was* funny.

    SoF2, on the other hand – I remember trying the demo at the time, and it was tiresome. Just a run of the mill Quake III engine shooter with “realistic” damage that actually didn’t do anything to enhance the gameplay at all.

    I’m in two minds about which direction we should take FPS games in – you’ve either got to go the route where everything is so overblown that you’re on the verge of not being able to suspend your disbelief (i.e. this is fun because it’s palpably not even remotely real), or you’ve got to make them so realistic that you show shooting people with guns off as the ugly, brutal, nasty thing that it is, where the effects will make a player almost feel physically sick.

    The whole concept of a “murder simulator” isn’t such a bad one if you ask me – if you stop making games that glorify killing in a way that makes kids think “killing = fun”, perhaps then they’ll be less inclined to go out and try it in real-life.

  37. madhaha says:

    I’m was probably far too late to the SoF party since I only got it when it became a bargin bin guilty pleasure. I never touched the multiplayer and the single player was pretty meh. The enemies weren’t too interesting although the cutscenes were enjoyably camp. The level designs were terrible. I only really played around with the gore because I got stuck and the enemies kept on respawning so I ended up farming them. Maybe this sequel will be fun.

  38. Andrew says:

    I seem to remember the Soldier of Fortune demos had the gore disabled, which meant that they lost their one selling point.

    Quite amusing, really. It highlighted how standard SoF2 was in particular.

  39. Ferrous Buller says:

    Considering how much sick joy I derived from Stranglehold’s slomo zoom-cam single-groin-shot kills, I’m clearly (still) the sort of lad who enjoys over-the-top FPS violence. Still, what made SoF2 so sweet was its great MP; the SP side was pretty perfunctory, once the novelty of dismemberment violence wore off. Cartoonish gore is the extra cherries on top of a good FPS sundae, not its raison d’etre.

  40. drunkymonkey says:

    @Thelps: I wasn’t making out that SOF3 was the worst game ever and if it does come out it’ll be the end of all things sacred, but rather that it’s just another in a long line of FPSs that bring little to the table.

    Indeed, you could say the whole point of SOF, or the whole niche, is that there’s tonnes of gore, but how much does that really change the experience? Yes, it’s unsettling, but aside from the anatomy of the human body and what harm a shotgun round can do to it, you still don’t get a sense of empathy with the characters. As most have said in this comments thread, it’s mostly for the laffs.

  41. KBKarma says:

    Surprisingly, I was a bit put off by the gore. Only a bit, mind.

    I was more interested in how the game looked: not so very good. The blood was unrealistic, the level destruction, as has been said, wasn’t the best, and the weapons… seemed a bit overpowered, imo.

    @Keiron (cause I don’t know how this thing handles quotes): Always “KIDNEY!”? No “GROIN!” or “HEAD!” or, I dunno, “METACARPAL!”?

  42. soldier pleads says:

    […] on ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra's wealth, otherwise the country could plunge into lawlessness.Bullet In The Head. And Groin. | Rock, Paper, ShotgunA little late with this, but we'll post it as it reminds me of the time I interviewed […]