"Payback's a *****, and so is this voice acting."
I was standing there, shooting the **** with my main man Brad, talking about the big games for the Xbox 360. We were talking and laughing, and he kept getting bothered by some customer-type people in the Wal-Mart he works at. Pshaw, right?
Well, eventually we got to talking about newly released games, and I got to talking about a game I had seen and heard some decent things about; Soldier of Fortune: Payback. I had even decided to recommend him the game just based off of word-of-mouth and what I'd seen from gameplay videos and trailers. Now though.... now...
I sincerely wish I hadn't.
I am told that there had been two Soldier of Fortune games before this. I had also been told that they were excellent FPS titles for the PC, and it makes me a believer. Why, you may ask? Because there's no way in hell a shoddy, second-rate title like Payback could ever spawn sequels.
That may sound harsh, but it's the gospel. The gameplay to be found in Payback is solid, but it's also average. It's kind of bad when you're complimenting a game for merely being competent, but I digress. The shooting is fun, the guns feel solid and they feel like they have a real weight to them. The explosions and sound design are also well done, but it makes me wonder where the rest of the resources went.
the graphics to be found in Payback are average. Incredibly average. They are, in fact, a slicker and more polished version of last-gen capabilities. While you may not notice this with all of the hellfire and brimstone that's being thrown your way, you'll never find yourself pausing to take in the view, or the architecture, or anything, really... save for the bloody stump that used to be Ajir Akbar.
Payback is a globe-trotting, testosterone-driven shooter that places the player in the role of a mercenary named Thomas Mason. Tommy is a short guy, and he's also got a gruff voice. You can instantly tell this by the first words he says, and it isn't long before he's dishing out hackneyed dialogue that'd make Arnold Schwazenegger blush. The plot isn't deep. You're backstabbed by a man in your crew, and from there you unearth a terrorist plot to... well, it never really says.
The plot could've been ridden by George W. Bush. it is chock full of logical holes and seems to revolve around a mysterious Weapon of Mass Destruction that, miraculously, never materializes. And while the patriotism may induce your gag-reflex, it can be stomached to get to the nicer bits. That of course means having to swallow subpar voice work, bad dialogue, and mediocre graphics but... well... some things make it worth while.
the real highlight in Payback is the dismemberment of your enemies. Pick a limb! Any limb! And now watch it do carthweels as the blood sprays and your enemy dances in a circle wondering what the hell just happened! The dismemberment and the all-out gore of Payback is a laugh-riot. It's fun. It may bring out the more sadistic animal in you, but there's no doubt that there is fun to be had here. Watching as your enemies run around blindly, never noticing the gruff American armed to the teeth, only to be mowed down one after another after another is incredibly satisfying for the first few missions.
It takes a downward spiral from there on out, though.
While the gore is satisfying, it gets terribly repetitive. I remember getting my hands on a grenade launcher and cackling with glee as my enemies literally exploded into messy pieces. I cackled and I laughed, and I had fun... but right around the middle of the game, the AI decides that you've had enough fun and gives you a swift kick in the nads.
and it happens instantly, and without real provocation. One minute you're mowing down Africans in the jungle, and the next they're kicking your ass. These are not upgraded enemies. They are the same models with the same screams of agony, only their bullets seem to be filled with Anti-White-Guy bullets. They're literally a sweet, lead-y kiss of death to Thomas Mason.
It just doesn't make sense, and this sudden jump to Magic Bullets really hurts Payback, in my eyes. Sure it's a subpar shooter, but the bloody chaos and destruction is a lot of fun. It brings out the sadist in you, watching your hapless victims try and crawl away like Lieutenant Dan on an acid trip, leaving flailing stumps and a bloody trail all the way, is truly an experience to be shared by the whole family. Sadly, the rest of the game is not.Closing Comments
Soldier of Fortune: Payback can be fun. The gore is great, and the plot--while not deep--is at least easy enough for a first grader to follow. It's still full of holes and doesn't make much sense, and the lackluster, half-cocked finale is uplifting in the sense that you realize this game is finally over. It' also gives you a foreboding sense of doom, simply because you know there's going to be another one.
Here's hoping it's at least half decent.