Video Game: Soldier of Fortune

Major John F. Mullins, crusader against terrorism the world over.
"The Shop is dedicated to the preservation of peaceful society and a staunch enemy of terrorism. While they know no allegiance to any government, they hire themselves out to countries that have need of their unique services. Some would say they're in the business of solving problems: the kind of problems that just don't seem to go away..."
John Mullins

A series of First Person Shooters from Activision, most of which were developed by Raven Software. What happens when you take Video Game Cruelty Potential and Ludicrous Gibs to their extreme. The main selling point of the series is the extremely detailed damage system that simulates many areas of bodily damage (and gruesome deaths to go along with it). You are given many tools to play with said damage system, from Shotguns for full limb chopping action to Pistols and other such weapons for those precision groin shots, along with extras like Flamethrowers and Microwave guns (pretty much as insane as it sounds). The game apparently had the real-life mercenary John Mullins (who also starred in the game) make sure the game was as realistic as possible. The storyline and weapons like the microwave gun puts the extent of his guidance under serious dispute, but nobody cared. It also stood out for being a surprisingly decent FPS even without the gore system, as well as having some interesting ideas like the possibility to customise your difficulty setting ("stock" options were provided that scaled up, but you could also have stuff like very limited inventory space but easy enemies, or vice versa, along with other options like the save system).

Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix (2002) attempted to build on everything from the first game, with more detail to the gore system, a longer game, more weapons (but with the crazier ones removed) and a very advanced graphics engine for its time. Some say further focus on realism makes the gore system less amusing (despite the higher detail level) and that the weapons and locations being less OTT (despite there being more of both) causes the game to be nowhere near as enjoyable as the first. On the other hand, the multiplayer is said to be incredibly good and suffer from none of the issues the single-player side does. The detail of the damage system in both games still beats the majority of games made today. It also has a random mission generator which worked quite well.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback (2007), unlike the previous two games, it has nothing to with John Mullins' story, and was developed not by Raven Software but by budget-price developer Cauldron. The results are pretty much what you'd expect.

This series of video games provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The opening level in Kosovo in the first game.
  • Adjustable Censorship
  • A.K.A.-47: In the first game. Subsequent entries use real-life gun names.
  • Alternate Continuity: The third game.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Inverted with Taylor, who has a butch haircut and is seen wearing a Spy Catsuit in the ending of the first game, while having a softer ponytail and wearing standard office clothes in the sequel.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The OICW in the 2nd game is an experimental futuristic assault rifle with a computerized scope that allows you to zoom in at long range, see in nightvision, and even highlights enemies with red targeting boxes. It also comes with a semi-automatic grenade cannon with a laser-targeting system and computer-assisted range-finder that can be used to set grenades to airburst at whatever range you like. It's also incredibly clunky, with an awkward menu-driven interface that requires 5 separate buttons to use. The grenade launcher is impossible to fire without using this system. In an interview Mullins discussed the door stop of a manual that comes with the thing, and summed it up as a lot of useless bells and whistles the developers would love the government to spend millions on.
    • The Rocket Launcher, Flamethrower, and Microwave Pulse Gun in the original. All take up three spaces in your inventory, eat up hard-to-find ammo quickly, and are rather unwieldy in firefights.
  • Awesomeness Meter: Sort of. Gunfire and explosions drive up your noise meter; this results in more enemies appearing, necessitating even more gunfire and explosions.
  • Badass Bystander:
    • The security guard standing outside Sam Gladstone's room in the Hospital mission of the 2nd game. Genre savvy players will think "he's toast!", but he is actually quite capable of defending himself against the attacking mooks despite only being armed with a regular handgun. He may still die, but it's not unlikely that he'll survive either.
    • The civilians in Hong Kong will sometimes randomly picked up a dropped weapon and open fire on the gangsters attacking you. They're not exactly great combatants, but do get a honorable mention for effort.
  • Bald of Evil: Wilhelm "Sabre" Dekker. Also, the Interrogator. Both count as Walking Shirtless Scenes.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: One consequence of the component damage system is you can actually disarm enemies by shooting their guns out of their hands. In the first game, this caused enemies to basically surrender and cower in terror. It's much less useful in the second game, as enemies will simply run over to the nearest weapon and pick it up to continue fighting you. The third game does away with this entirely.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Alexei Nachrade.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: Seen in the first two games. In the second game, some weapons do have minor armor-piercing ability, but the effect is so small as to be inconsequential gameplay-wise.
    • In the first game, magnum and sniper shots can damage you through your armor.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Ridiculously overdone in Soldier of Fortune 2.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Exploded head, severed limb, or spilled guts equals instant death.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Played straight. The most hilarious variant is that if you shoot a civilian in 2, Mullins is apparently so overcome with guilt he spontaneously dies.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The first and second games' final bosses. See also That One Boss.
  • Darker and Edgier: Soldier of Fortune 2 is certainly darker than 1 or Payback.
  • Dead Character Walking: A rarely triggering glitch can cause an enemy to not notice they're supposed to be dead. Due to the game's damage system, this can result in an enemy continuing to run around and shoot even after they've been reduced to just a bloodied torso.
  • Dead Sidekick: Hawk. Taylor, not so much.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The second game. Let's see, who could be the Big Bad's mole? Is it our wise old mentor, our heroic captain, our plucky female sidekick, or the creepy thin guy who hates our guts, constantly gives bad advice, always acts negative whenever good news happens, and is voiced by Mark Hamill?
  • Difficulty Spike: The first several levels of Payback are your standard Call of Duty-style FPS, with your character possessing regenerating health and the ability to soak more than a dozen assault rifle rounds before croaking. However, in the last 3 levels, the enemy receive a massive increase to their damage level, allowing them to kill you in just 2 or 3 shots from a SMG.
  • Disney Villain Death: Wilhelm "Saber" Dekker suffers this fate after he is shot by Mullins.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him / Disposable Woman: In the second game, Madeline Taylor is unceremoniously gunned down by a Mook at the beginning of the Hospital mission, just halfway through the game.
  • Evil Laugh: Sabre shows quite a bit of mirth as he escapes in the first level of the first game. Also exhibited by Sergei Dekker after he kills Hawk.
  • Fackler Scale of FPS Realism: The first game was heavily on the "classic" end of the scale, with very fast Quake-style running-around-shooting-everything gameplay. The second game was much more towards the realistic side, with Counter-Strike-style gameplay involving lots of firing from cover and leaning around corners. The third game falls somewhere in the middle; the weapons and character movements are realistic, but you have regenerating health and the enemies are brain-dead drones who simply run towards you while shooting and screaming.
  • Faux Action Girl - The female Prometheus soldiers in SOF2 are noticeably weaker and poorer equipped than their male counterparts, the game code makes it obvious this was a very deliberate choice. Also, the female boss in Payback is probably the easiest to kill of all the game's bosses.
    • And Deviant 1, who isn't much of a threat, despite being part of a Dual Boss battle, the other opponent in which is the Interrogator, That One Boss.
    • Alas, poor Taylor.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: In the 2nd game, the Marine fireteam that follows you through the last few Columbia missions is seemingly unkillable (unless you shoot one of them, upon which they kill you). In fact, given the Nintendo Hard nature of the game, you'll be better off taking cover and letting them do most of the work. The buddy who helps you through the last Hong Kong level is killable, but he has a butt-load of hit points, making it unlikely anything short of the M60-wielding level boss will kill him.
  • Gorn: One of the most notorious examples in gaming.
  • Guns Akimbo: The second game allows you to duel-wield pistols and SMGs.
  • Hand Cannon: The Silver Talon.
  • Harder Than Hard: Unfair difficulty. Noise meter goes up very quickly, leading to tons of Respawning Enemies, which can get you overwhelmed, killing one wave of enemies only to cause more noise and summon more enemies. Not as unfair as it sounds, though.
    • Soldier of Fortune II's "Soldier of Fortune" difficulty setting; seriously limited saves, enemies do significantly more damage with their weapons, etc. in a game which is already Nintendo Hard on the normal difficulty setting.
  • Have a Nice Death - If you jeopardize the mission or accidentally hit one of your allies, they yell "execute him" and you die instantly(they don't even actually shoot you).
  • Heroic Bystander: Due to how the A.I. works, the civilians in the Hong Kong levels may occasionally pick up fallen weapons and use them to fight the gangsters attacking you. They're not exactly the best combatants, but they can still kill a gangster or two if favored by the Random Numbers God.
  • Instant Death Radius: Enemies in Payback do quadruple damage if they can shoot you from point-blank range.
  • Jive Turkey: Washington, one of the marines accompanying you in the Colombian missions.
  • Kick the Dog: The mooks in the Subway mission of the 1st game will commit acts like shooting a hostage for "being annoying" and push another in front of an incoming train, probably so you won't feel guilty about blowing them into Ludicrous Gibs. Later, the Big Bad does this to Hawk.
    • Also, in the second game, Vergara and the Colombian rebels does this to the village of Pureza, attacking it with the Romulus virus. The results are not pretty.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc./Private Military Contractors: The Shop. They're also a UN organization.
  • Limited Loadout: The first game and Payback limit the player to a max of three guns and a knife, but the second game had a significantly higher loadout limit, e.g. Mullins may lug around a sidearm, shotgun, assault rifle w/grenade launcher, light machine gun, and sniper rifle at once.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Expect plenty of this while indulging in the above.
    • That said, considering how graphic real gunshot wounds can look in real life, this may also be a case of Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • Made of Iron - Whereas the first two Soldier of Fortune games featured semi-realistic enemies that could only survive a couple assault rifle bullets (with the exception of the first game's armor-plated final boss), Payback features several boss fights against enemy mercs who can take a few clips of assault rifle fire before dying. Most of these bosses aren't even wearing body armor.
    • The Interrogator and Deviant 1 bosses in the second game are made of iron, too. Specifically, they take 10-20 assault rifle shots to kill, despite not wearing armor (or, heck, even clothes), whereas standard enemies in full body armor go down after a handful of shots.
  • Mooks
    • Elite Mooks - The Order soldiers in the first game who appeared in the last few levels and were equipped with body armor and automatic slugthrowers. The second game has elite Prometheus soldiers wearing a blue suit of full body armor (making them look exactly like Team Rainbow operatives), which allowed them to withstand multiple assault rifle shots (in a game where 1 or 2 shots is usually sufficient to kill) and even allowed them to survival a few headshots from lower-caliber firearms.
    • Gas Mask Mooks - Various enemies in the first game, although somewhat justified in that they work in a WMD plant. The Prometheus soldiers in the second game also wear gas masks.
  • The Mole - In Soldier of Fortune 2, Taylor is suspected to be one. Turns out it's Assistant Director Wilson, who established Prometheus with Nachrade as means to get rich by blackmailing the world governments to pay them for Romulus' antidote.
  • Murder Simulators - Oddly averted, considering its nature. While the games have gotten a bit of notoriety, they'll haven't been able to muster the same level of controversy as other violent games.
  • Neutron Bomb - Jessica Six. Dekker plans to destroy the UN and therefore The Shop by firing it on New York.
  • N.G.O. Superpower - Arguably, The Order and Prometheus. The Shop, not so much.
  • Nintendo Hard - Soldier of Fortune 2. Full stop. Especially on the hardest difficulty.
    • The last 3 levels of Payback are also like this, as the enemies get a massive damage increase to their weapons, despite the fact they're still using the exact same weapons as in all the previous levels (with the result that you die after only 2 shots from an MP5, whereas all the previous levels played like a standard action movie FPS where you could take more than a dozen rounds to the face before having to worry).
  • Pacifist Run: Hard to pull off but quite possible (with a few exceptions where you have to kill) on lower difficulty levels in both the 1st and 2nd games thanks to you being able to shoot the weapons out of your enemies hands. It is also possible in the 2nd game to pistol-whip enemies (except bosses), knocking them out for a while.
  • Police Are Useless: In the second game, the Swiss police tried to apprehend Nachrade at an airport in Bern. They manage to evacuate some of the hostages, but end up outnumbered and outgunned, only succeeding thanks to Mullins. It doesn't help that they forgot to bring a SWAT Team with them.
  • Porn Stache: Yeah...
  • Power Armor: Sergei Dekker wears one throughout the first game.
  • Psycho for Hire: Wilson.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: In the first game, Mullins confronts Saddam Hussein face-to-face but is unable to simply shoot him because this was back in the 1990s when the real life Saddam was the guy considred to be in charge of Iraq, for better or worse. May also be considered a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Nachrade.
  • Red Shirt: Most allies that don't directly accompany you fill this role, usually having scripted deaths. The police in the Subway mission, The KLA soldiers in the Kosovo mission etc.
  • Rule of Cool: In the first game, in case the Ludicrous Gibs and weapons like the MPG weren't a clue, the part where you fight your way through a nuclear base under a slaughterhouse is the point you realize the game doesn't actually aim for realism.
    • Also the more outlandish weapons in the first game, and, at one point, busting into one of Saddam Hussein's fortresses and having in your sniper sight, unfortunately you can't shoot him.
  • Scenery Gorn: The war-torn town of Gracanica and The Shop's HQ in the first and second games respectively.
  • Semper Fi - Played straight in Soldier of Fortune 2. Hawk is an ex-Marine himself.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Soldier of Fortune 2, thanks to the insanely competent enemy A.I.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: One of the many failings of the A.I. in Payback is that many enemy soldiers will actually run at you from several dozen feet away to club you with their rifles instead of actually, you know, shooting at you. This can be very bad for the player as once the enemies finish their melee attack, they'll probably remember what their guns are for and open fire, dealing quadruple damage.
  • Shout-Out - During the Helicopter Extraction level in part 2, for a little "mood music", the pilot puts on "Ride Of The Valkyries", an ode to Apocalypse Now. The box gets destroyed by gunfire shortly after.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: The first game very much rests towards the "silliness" side. The second game much more towards the "seriousness" side. The third game falls somewhere in the middle.
  • Sociopathic Hero - Mason in Payback definitely comes across as one of these. Notably, while both Mullins and Mason shoot an unarmed prisoner in the face, Mullins does it to The Dragon after he mocks the deaths of Mullins' friends (which he has just recently caused), whereas Mason does it to some random Arab accountant for calling him names.
    • Well Mason WAS going to let him live, until the accountant stupidly bragged that if he was in Mason's position, he wouldn't have hesitated to kill him, then Mason probably realized that letting him live wouldn't be a very smart idea.
  • Sinister Shades: Nachrade.
  • Stock Scream - The second game uses a number of stock screams for Mullins' death sounds.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Again, Nachrade.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Romulus virus.
  • Take Me Instead: Used by John in the first game when Hawk is held hostage by Sergei Dekker. It fails.
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: The first game does it right in the first level when you enter an otherwise unoccupied room to grab some ammo. Sometimes justified with enemies arriving through locked doors, but in the worst cases, they pop into existence right in front of you.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: All over the place, but towards the end of the first level in 1, just before Sabre bails out on the train, you come across a couple of unarmed mooks being held at gunpoint by the cops. You can cap said mooks right in front of the cops, who don't so much as blink.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: They're great if you're a sadist, but they take a while to catch someone on fire and don't have much spread.
  • War for Fun and Profit: It's not very clear, but the ending of Payback implies the bad guys are an evil version of the Shop that are fomenting wars in third world countries in order to create demand for mercenaries.
  • Whole Plot Reference: In the second game, the ending of the Colombian jungle part of the game with the helicopter evacuation while the hero is operating the helicopter's machinegun is recreating a scene of Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger.
  • You're Insane!: Mullins to Wilson in the second game's endgame.

Alternative Title(s):

Soldier Of Fortune