Have You Played… Soldier Of Fortune 2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Have I played Soldier of Fortune 2? To be honest, I don’t think I lasted longer than the first mission in the full game’s singleplayer campaign. But the demo! The demo and its capture-the-suitcase multiplayer mode and a level set in Matrix-aping high-rise offices and rooftops – I played that for dozens of hours.

In multiplayer, Soldier of Fortune’s defining feature was toned down. Bullets still left gaping wounds upon their targets, but the mutilation wasn’t quite so granular. Faces would explode into perhaps three distinct pieces instead of twelve. Yet the system – called GHOUL 2.0, which makes me cringe now – felt oddly much more meaningful in multiplayer in ways I’m not sure I can explain without sounding ghoulish myself. In brief, I liked that I could fire at someone from far away, be uncertain as to what exactly happened, and then amble over to the grim tableau to find out. ‘Oh, I hit him in the leg twice, then the shoulder.’

The singleplayer felt like grotesquely deleting parts of 3D models, but the multiplayer felt like the firefights mattered. Or at least, your bullets and throwing knives did. The result was a lot of tension when it came to defending or capturing that suitcase and making a sprint to escape.

As far as I can tell, there’s no way to buy a digital copy of Soldier of Fortune 2 anymore, and even the grotty, budget sequel Payback is nowhere to be found. Maybe I’ll just run around the demo again, alone.


  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    But maybe you didn’t hit him twice in the leg and then the shoulder. Maybe you hit him in the shoulder first. Maybe it went leg – shoulder – leg. Maybe you only hit him in the leg once and it suffered a texturing glitch. These are the things you will never know!

    • Ross Angus says:

      Are you suggesting that the game required killcams?

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        phuzz says:

        Instead of kill cams, when you die and/or the round ends, all players are moved to a nursing home level set 50 years in the future where they can chat about how their knee hasn’t been the same since xxXXBONGKILLARXXxx4312 shot them, and how it aches when the weather changes.

  2. Baltech says:

    What I remember most about this game, being from Austria, were the extraordinary lenghts to which they went to censor the game for the german speaking market. They set it in a parallel universe so they could turn all people into robots. Robots which bled oil and had rivets on their faces! Also the (for the time) giant patch one had to download to replace all that with ghoulish goodness (I was 17 at the time damnit!).

  3. Glow says:

    My SOF2 multiplayer career is still the defining moment of my personal gaming history – there was a fantastic clanbase community and the game itself was the only thing around that offered anything comparable to Counter-Strike … in fact most players I knew there were CS players who wanted something new…of course we all went back to CS eventually

    • Radiant says:

      Completely agree.
      The multi player I believe was stuck into the game over a long weekend by one of the producers and a new hire.
      But it was a perfect mid point between the stiff direction CS was going in and it’s AQ2 roots.

    • sventoby says:

      SOF2 multiplayer was loads of fun with several great maps and game modes. I reinstalled the game a few years back and there were still people playing, but every server was running mods where guns had 999 shots before needing to reload. Not so good.

      The campaign is also pretty cool despite some broken stealth parts.

  4. Nim says:

    Viva la Bienco and then a shrubbery explodes. Fuck those grenade-tossers in the jungle.

  5. beforan says:

    I still have my discs! I always meant to play the campaign, but until relatively recently didn’t have the staying power for shooty shootys (Massive RPGs on the hand, no problem :S).

    The multiplayer, however, I played tons of. I remember feeling giddy when I ran out of ammo in a firefight and successfully got a panicked knife throw kill for the first time.
    SoF2 was the first game I really played online, coming fairly late to internet access at home, and I sort of felt like it was MY game, while all my peers were playing CounterStrike…

    …maybe I should install it and get on with that campaign…

  6. serioussgtstu says:

    SOF2 also has these randomly generated single player missions, where you’d parachute into a map, receive an objective and be free to approach it in what ever way you wanted. It was really fun. I wish other games had adopted and refined that particular mode. I enjoyed those levels in much the same way as Far Cry’s outposts, but the mission objectives made it feel more substantial and varied.

  7. Giuseppe says:

    I actually finished the single player campaign just a couple of days ago. It felt rather average for its time, but it did satisfy the need to shoot stuff in short bursts. Yeah, aweful pun…:)
    There were bits that felt rather unfair and the jungle levels really exposed the fact the stealth system was more of an afterthought. The story is filled with cliches and it’s not worth even trying to make it all seem coherent. And John Mullins… the guy is some sort of Chuck Norris copycat.
    I’m not sure I’d recommend it unless you’re running out of better old shooters to play

  8. jpm224 says:

    Oh man…..so many hours of my childhood spent being a borderline masochist in this game. Still the best gore system in any game ever.

  9. Grizzly says:

    Soldier of Fortune 2 was one of the very few shooter games I played in my youth. My mother had a strict ban on the violent stuff ever since we had gotten our hands on GTA and played it for a week or two. Since then my manshooting times were limited to visits to my neighbour, where we played tons of BF1942 and Soldier of Fortune 2.

    I am quite sure that my dear mother would have banned me from visiting the neighbours if she had seen just how much delight I showed from beheading someone.

  10. Distec says:

    I feel like I liked Soldier of Fortune 1 more than 2. Its arcadey, pulpy feel was a better marriage to the ridiculous gore, and it allowed itself to get a little crazy with the sci-fi weaponry. Seriously, there was a gun that made your enemies blow up into balloons before popping. The sequel was fine enough, but it adopted a more serious military veneer and included those damnable stealth sections. Never beat it.

    I’d truly like to see another SoF that isn’t complete shit, if only to test my limits for graphic violence with today’s modern graphics.

    • GameCat says:

      I’ve played both games like centuries ago, but I remember I was slightly dissapointed with SoF2. :/

    • kalzekdor says:

      Yeah, I never got into SoF2, either. Played tons of SoF mp, though. “Guns? You people use guns? Ha, I need only my knives.”

  11. mpk says:

    Never played it, but I do remember being morally opposed to it. I was pretty sickened by the emphasis on evisceration in the game, something that still bothers me to this day. I dont mind stylised violence (and in the game), but this move towards gratuitous gore for the sake of gratuitous gore just wasnt – and still isn’t – my cup of tea.

    • Grizzly says:

      It’s weird innit? The game’s gratuitious gore is supposed to be a reward of sorts, for pulling of a headshot for example. Yet it also serves as a reminder that these are really powerfull weapons doing bad stuff to human bodies. So one hand it’s empowerent, on the other hand you just scattered a human being’s soul all over the wall.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Yeah it’s intended for sadistic thrills.

        But it also gives you a sampling of what doing this to other human beings is actually like. They come apart easily. They scream in pain and horror at what’s been done to them. They gurgle and struggle ineffectually. Things get messy. It’s not the sanitized and polite (or cartoonishly ragdoll) deaths of some other games. So perhaps being gratuitous isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

        I loved SoF2. Sometimes with a sick fascination. In a way, I admire it for showing violence as actually violent.

        • Flatley says:

          The same technology could be used to astounding effect by the right sort of designer.

    • Shadow says:

      I only played SoF2 in multiplayer, back when LAN gaming cybercaf├ęs existed here, so I’m not sure just how over the top it was in singleplayer. SoF1 was quite so: I remember even the pistol could easily cause dismemberments.

      That said, I think most games which deal with guns rather severely underplay the actual destructive power of firearms of various calibres on the human body. Mechanical firepower aside, most everything leaves the visual mark of a handgun in the average videogame, from actual pistols to assault rifles, anti-materiel rifles, helicopter cannons, rockets and even tank guns. Bloody “poofs”, some scarring on the texture and that’s it. Maybe you get thrown around a bit. Maybe you were killed in a single shot, but it seldom feels your character was on the receiving end of terribly overwhelming firepower.

      In truth, anything greater than 9mm will have increasingly mauling effects on people. An AK-47 (7.62mm) can leave gaping holes, the larger calibre (7.92mm) old German MG-42 machinegun can mince victims into chunks, the .50 cal (12.7mm) Barrett anti-materiel rifle can easily chop persons in half, 30mm helicopter cannons grind targets into bits, etc. Go larger and increasingly complete practical disintegration enters the scene.

      Games are generally far tamer than that, and I figure it’s for business reasons. It’s hard to sell a game a la CoD and BF with realistic gore when the usual, huge demographic for FPS is teenagers.

  12. theblazeuk says:

    The procedurally generated skirmish maps were a ridiculously ambitious feature and one that I wish got more attention than the head-explosions. Though those were neat too.

  13. GallonOfAlan says:

    Still have the CD (beside ‘Kingpin’)

    I love these games – they’re the campest things going. All the moustaches and overly-gruff manliness, great.

  14. Thulsa Hex says:

    Ah the days when I would get excited to see what Raven Software would do next. Voyager: Elite Force was a cool idea but fell short, I think, but I loved Jedi Knight II to absolute bits. SoF2 came out only two months after JKII and my 16-year-old self lapped it up. I played that “Shop” multiplayer map so many times, despite only having access to 56k internet. I’m sure I was the bane of many servers’ worth of players.

    I didn’t play the first SoF but from what I’ve gathered the gore in SoF2 was a bit more restrained or “realistic”. I remember handguns not causing that much visual physical damage (except when you shot an enemy’s jaw clean off — how I cringed when that first happened), but when you first get a shotgun, all hell (and limb) breaks loose.

    Mark Hamill was in it too, as some guy, which I thought was silly because he wouldn’t play Luke in the same company’s superior game that year.

  15. Al Bobo says:

    I know that I played SoF2 through when I was teen, but I can’t remember much about it. Does that mean that it’s over-the-top gore didn’t faze me at all or did my mind shut down part of my brain to protect my delicate psyche? :I

  16. daphne says:

    I’ve read so many of Graham’s posts referring to how he hasn’t actually played the game he’s covering (or its predecessor) that I currently wonder if he’s played *anything* before 2005…

  17. Chaz says:

    If I remember rightly, didn’t the multiplayer have character models wearing gimp masks and stuff like that?

  18. Bodylotion says:

    I remember waiting for the multiplayer demo like almost everyone else, awesome game for it’s time.

  19. Gurrah says:

    The multiplayer in this was splendid and had a very, albeit small, active and absolutely friendly community. Also leaning. I don’t think there was a shooter before it that had leaning. I really remember it as a game of phenomenal leaning matches. It was the Head & Shoulders of multiplayer games because that’s all you ever saw of the enemies.

  20. pund says:

    I remember throwing grenades around the corner in SoF 2 single player. I heard a baddy scream. After 2 more grenades there were still screams of agony. I went to check out what exactly had happened. The grenades had blown out the windows of an office (where said baddy was hiding). The baddy was full of glass shards (blown on him from the grenades) and looking very angry. That’s the memory that stuck to my mind the most :)

  21. brulleks says:

    Many, many times.

    Ah, good times.

  22. zat0ichi says:

    Big fan of the gore.
    I once managed to snipe across an NPC stomach and made his intestines fall out.
    Happy times.

    The first one I played not knowing what to expect. Then I got a shotgun…

    In recent times I thought Ryse would sate my need for gore but no, the scripted animation is too removed. Severance – Blade of darkness was good. You could hack a goblin to bits then beat his mate to death with his arm.

    Not a marketable niche to cater for.

  23. ffordesoon says:

    It has always annoyed the shit out of me that the gore in this game got so much flak. At the time, it was because I was a kid and wanted to see Xtreme Gore FX in every game. Nowadays, I don’t care so much for obviously gratuitous violence, but I still think there’s a reasonable non-gorehound case to be made for limb-specific damage and destructible character models. Just as fully destructible environments can change games in entertaining and unexpected ways, so too could fully destructible and/or reactive bodies. Imagine if you could shoot off a guy’s feet and leave him to be eaten by hungry wildlife in the next Far Cry, or use a bandit leader’s severed hand to intimidate other bandits into leaving you alone in the next Elder Scrolls. Plus, you know, limbs careening down hills like in Myth or Fallout 3, which I always get a kick out of. I’m not completely mature.

    Yes, I realize those are both violent examples. I’m not claiming that all the ludic possiblities inherent in destructible character models will apply to all games, or even that they should, and I’m certainly not going to argue that some of those ludic possibilities are disgusting. But if the industry’s going to keep making violent games, they should at least fill the games with more interesting violence.

  24. nil says:

    Most uncanny experience: “give all” cheat in the (non-combat) single-player intermission map, mis-fired grenade, and the spectacle of John “Staring Eyes” Mullins engaged in Very Serious one-sided conversation with a roomful of blood-splattered headless corpses.

  25. Jackablade says:

    I remember deciding somewhere along the line that Soldier of Fortune 2 was really racist and refusing to play it any further. I can’t remember why or even if that was really the case.

  26. Continuity says:

    Its was alright, not as pure as the original and it had some bugs and rough edges, but on the whole it was still fun to play.