RETROspective - Soldier Of Fortune

It’s easy to take the limb chopping gameplay of games like Dead Island for granted, but Soldier Of Fortune was the first to do so with such glee.

Platform: PC/Dreamcast/PS2 Developer: Raven/Activision Release Date: March 27th 2000 Like many of you, I€™m currently playing my way through the addictive zombie survival RPG Dead Island. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is its ridiculously over-the-top violence, with decapitated heads and bloodied limbs regularly flying through the air in satisfying slow-mo. It€™s not particularly shocking - with the gore being exaggerated, as well as the fact that it's now common to see such graphic violence in a video game. But, while such gore is frequent in games nowadays, this kind of black knight style evisceration can be traced back to Activision€˜s 2000 shooter Soldier of Fortune. Unparallelled at the time for its depiction of violence, the game utilized a new engine named GHOUL - capable of depicting enemy dismemberment and specific weapon damage to different parts of the body. The controversial game didn't simply pave the way for more graphically violent games, but also kicked off a trend of topical military shooters which delve into real world conflicts. The gritty first person shooter focused on the gruff adventures of the impressively mustached John Mullins - a mercenary working for a shady organization known as The Shop. After a cache of nukes is stolen from the U.S government, your mission is to travel around the around to find the weapons and prevent WWIII - killing as many henchmen as possible in the process. While Soldier Of Fortune was far from the being the first game to feature graphic violence, or even to court notable controversy, it was the first to depict violence with such detailed realism. Games such as Grand Theft Auto and Doom were bloody and gruesome, but Soldier of Fortune took things to a whole new level. A shotgun blast to the leg or arm would detach it from the torso - whilst a shot to the belly would result in your enemy clutching their guts like a handful of sausages. Heads would explode in a similarly visceral way to a famous scene from Scanners, and knives could be used to slash and chop chunks of flesh from your victims. There were even some cool sci-fi weapons - with a microwave emitter gun which would fry your enemies to death from the inside. Soldier of Fortune wasn€™t just visually shocking either - all of the gruesome violence was accompanied by realistic sound effects. Dismembering your enemies would result in them screaming in agony, but more disturbing was a icky gurgling noise that would accompany a gunshot or slash wound to the neck. It's with good reason that Soldier of Fortune popularised the ability to turn off gore on the option screens of many violent video games - something which continues to this day. The PC version was an instant hit, drawing acclaim for not only its violence but for being a well designed shooter with solid multiplayer to boot. A Dreamcast port was even created towards the end of the consoles lifespan, which became infamous for some of the longest loading times ever known to man. Two gorier sequels followed, with Soldier Of Fortune II: Double Helix being even more realistic than the first - featuring a refined GHOUL engine capable of even more detailed dismemberment. Most recently the series was revived without input from original developers Raven, in 2007€™s Soldier Of Fortune Payback. Designed on the cheap as a budget title, Payback was a mess - feeling even more dated than the original and even bordering on racist, playing out like Team America without the irony. Looking back at Solider Of Fortune today, it€™s clear that the game was notable mainly for its gore and perhaps may have gone unnoticed otherwise. It even seems almost tame now compared to the level of violence seen in some of today€˜s games. Nevertheless, back in 2000 Soldier Of Fortune was a fun and shocking FPS experience - paving the way for more realistic violence in video games. ________ Did you play Soldier of Fortune back in the day ?

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Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.