|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cauldron||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 14, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Soldier of Fortune: Payback is a step back for the series. It's still a decent shooter, but fans will expect more from the SoF pedigree. Held in high esteem by shooter fans, the Solder of Fortune series was smart, fast-paced, engaging, and extremely violent. This time around things get a whole lot messier, and I'm not just talking about the excessive blood. This game is bloody to be sure, but it's also lost its charm; imagine Charles Manson with the personality of Kevin Federline.
Okay, that comparison was unfair to Manson. But the point isPayback seems to derive its fun in the shallow end of the pool. You could definitely call this game fun, but if you're looking for depth, there's no diving board in the wading pool. The action is fast-paced, and the control system is responsive and accurate. So far so good. But instead of an intelligent and engaging game, Payback wallows in self-indulgent brutality. It's so over-the-top that it borders on ridiculous. Limbs are severed, heads burst, blood spurts, and bodies literally fly. Some weapons are so powerful they actually cause bodies to launch into the air. Some landmines aren't even that powerful. Can you imagine the recoil on a gun like that?
So much for realism, but Payback really takes itself seriously. A bit too seriously, which is kind of embarrassing considering that at times we're laughing at it and not with it. Not that there's anything intentional to laugh at mind you. The story is merely a set-up. As a soldier of fortune, or assassin for hire, you are double crossed by members of the underworld. You'll embark on a vengeance-inspire tour of duty, dealing out death like a used car salesman handing out business cards.
Your enemy consists of terrorists, guerillas, drug cartels, corrupt government agents, and fellow mercenaries. As you might imagine, these guys should be fairly formidable. Unfortunately, you'll mostly be fighting henchmen. These guys are about as intelligent as the enemy henchmen in the Adam West Batman series. They stand around in the open, making a perfect target. They run right at you without shooting. They will even run into explosive charges or run right past you. Not to mention running into walls. But what they lack in intelligence, they make up for in numbers and dirty tactics. They do tend to hunt in packs, and those large numbers can be rather intimidating. But thanks to their general lack of combat skills, they can be easily mowed down. Having an almost excessive amount of firepower at your disposal doesn't hurt either. But when it puts its mind to it, the A.I. can be an amazing shot and can pick you off from a good distance. At times you will be unable to return fire due to some invisible barrier, even though you can see them quite clearly.
Where things tend to get unfair is when the off-screen enemy A.I. is able to fire at you with impunity. Oftentimes they will appear behind you, in a region that you were sure you eliminated of all opposition. But sometimes the A.I. respawns in those regions. When you go back to look for them, they disappear into the background. Seems like they are learning their lesson from the first time you killed them. This is a design flaw, and not an intentional characteristic of the enemy A.I. The unpredictable nature of the A.I. is really the only problem in the game that can cause you to lose your life. So let loose with a hail of bullets into the underbrush, and you're sure to send them back to Hell. If you get them before they get you.