2007 Reviews

Soldier of Fortune: Payback

  • Review Date: 2011-07
  • Release Date: 2007-11
  • Developer: Cauldron HQ
  • Rating: 5.0

The third Soldier of Fortune game was developed by Cauldron, instead of Raven Software who did the previous two. The original 2000 game was great; a purely fun action-packed shooter. The sequel in 2002 was still a good game, though not quite as good as the first. So why hand the game over to Cauldron? Well the surprise sleeper Chaser from 2003 was a good, long game developed by Cauldron using their own engine. This same engine is used in Payback, a game released four years after Chaser, so they must have made some hefty upgrades to the engine.

Ironically, that's the only redeeming factor for Payback - the fact that the game doesn't look too bad. The engine has all the usual bells and whistles you'd expect to 'pretty' it up. Of course, what game post-2007 doesn't at least have decent looking graphics. There's actually only 14 levels in this game, most of which aren't even big. You could probably rush through the entire game in a couple hours. For me it would have been about five hours game time, which is very poor. However each level is a new setting, from jungle and cliff settings, farming villages, middle eastern outposts, even a hotel brothel before finishing in an awfully designed car parking garage and nightclub. Some levels look poor, but others are fairly well polished. In particular the outdoor jungle levels. Unfortunately, the game doesn't hold a bean to Crysis, released the same month. Their outdoor capabilities and size, level of detail and realism are not even comparable. Payback doesn't look bad at all, but it's only average for 2007.

And that's the highlight. The low point of Payback is just about everything else. Poor checkpoints with no quicksave, jumpy controls and unrealistic movement, especially when firing weapons. Inconsistent difficulty where often you'll breeze through a level, only for some enemy to suddenly take a potshot from out of nowhere and drop you instantly without any chance of survival. There were a few times when I had to take on the same enemy several times over because he'd blow my head off within a micro-second of eye contact.

The boss fights, which are all too common, are simply the same enemy you face throughout the entire game just with insane amounts of health added on. The standard fare enemy are all the same, just with a different weapon and model. They unrealistically drop dead with a mere fraction of bullet spray in their general direction. Their heads pop like balloons and limbs just fall over the floor. There's no sense of power or enjoyment when your weakest gun unrealistically mows through an opponent like that. Blowing off limbs used to be fun, back Payback has lost that somehow. Then you get the sniper scope weapons which only hit enemies 50% of the time. The rest the bullet just vanishes and misses it's target, despite pointing clearly at the enemies eyeball.

The biggest problem with Payback was the insane bug where enemies are invisible to bullets. Yes, the bullets just go straight through them as if they're not there. This happens with probably 15% of the enemies in this game... by the time you realise it's another invincible enemy you're dead and replaying from the last checkpoint. This time in god mode or you have no chance of moving forward. It quite often happens with enemies that are on higher ground to you. But it's a ridiculous bug that ruins the already bad gameplay.

Overall okay visuals for 2007 but the levels are small, extremely linear with clipping all around you. The screenshots make the game look better than it actually is. Then again, it's hard to judge any games' visuals as that great after you play Crysis.

The gameplay is easy for most of the game until you get hit by a pot shot, but the invincible enemies bug ruins this one. Not really worth the playtime or money, but at least it doesn't go for too long.