Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix

Reviewed by: Greg Carson, send e-mail
Published by: ActiVision & Raven Games, go to the web site
Raven Games: go to the site
Requires: Pentium III/450MHz Intel CPU or AMD Athlon or higher, 60MB uncompressed free hard drive space, 128MB RAM, 32MB 3D video card, Windows 9X/Me/2K/XP, DirectX 8.1
MSRP: $49.99

Had your taste of violence this month? No? Then get set for a meal fit for the most ardent armchair mercenary. Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix has arrived and it's in a very bad mood indeed. From the hotels of Prague to the rainforests of Columbia, Soldier Of Fortune II: Double Helix will immerse any player in its twisting yet plausible plot. During the game you reprise the role of John Mullins, a professional mercenary ("Military Consultant") with a long combat record of getting the job done when the world's governments can't.

The storyline goes like this. During the first mission you must save Dr. Ivanovich, a scientist studying and creating biochemical weapons. He wishes to do the right thing by exposing the terrorist groups he was once working for. After you successfully retrieve him you receive a new mission, which takes place 10 years later. The doctor has now joined the secret organization you work for, commonly known only as "The Shop". The terrorists Dr. Ivanovich was once employed by have become even more dangerous than one could have suspected. This time it seems that the ex-Biopreparat scientists are treading on much more dangerous ground - the human genome.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (with the aid of your old friend Sam Gladstone and your new partner Madeline Taylor) is to destroy the terrorist group known as Prometheus and along with them, the virus they are developing. (Sorry for the cheesy Mission Impossible reference, but I couldn't help it)

The game was tested on a Pentium III/550 with 768MB PC133 RAM, Windows 2000 Professional, 7200 RPM Samsung hard drives and an ATI Radeon 7500 64MB All-in-Wonder video card driving an 18" NEC LCD monitor. The game ran without a bump or hitch in 1024 x 768 with the game graphics at their highest settings. Frame rates were excellent, rendering and textures were superb and movement and game control engaged without any lags, breakup or other problems.

From the intro movie I could tell that this game was going to be great. Don't get me wrong, no game is perfect and SoF II: Double Helix is certainly no exception. But to begin with, the camera placements during the cinematic scenes seemed straight out of a James Bond movie. As that first movie played I was a bit surprised to see that it used the game engine (this stuff is usually created as a separate and somewhat higher quality video) but this only demonstrates that the developers are proud of what they have done (as they should be). On the other hand, there were a few minor things I noticed (more of a laugh than a problem) after seeing several of the short 'movies'. The back of certain model's necks were missing or clipped out, and on several occasions a waiter or employee would speak to John Mullins in Russian but he would respond in English.

The gun physics are very realistic, but to an avid game player, they will definitely take some getting used to. For example, you can't charge into an open area with your M4 firing round after round because the realistic recoil means you'll end up shooting towards the sky, take hits from enemies and find your health quickly diminishing. On several occasions I was firing on target, but the enemy would just not go down. After unloading clip after clip into the same guy I came to the conclusion that at certain angles, some model's hit boxes would go haywire. At times I felt that the environment, though beautiful, was not very interactive at all. But to every game there is a learning curve.

To say the least, the levels are just magnificent. The texture quality is fantastic and the scripted events are so well pulled off, you'll find yourself running for cover. As I encountered the first two bad guys I was unsure of what to do, so I watched them for a little while and was surprised when they began to talk to each other and move in a very realistic way. It's these kind of special features that make a game great, and SoF II: Double Helix is filled to the brim with them.

Cons: Avid gamers may find the realistic gun physics annoying. Interactivity was minimal. These larger games take a l-o-o-o-n-g time to load. We could not get the multi-player version working - servers could not be contacted.

Pros: Immersive environment, Graphics, Storyline, The game itself. Lots of real-world locations. Excellent random mission generator. Recommended.

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