25, 2001 (USA)
> It's not at all fair to compare the Dreamcast to either
the GameCube or Xbox, but some of its games
did give the Playstation 2 a run for its money for a while.
It's a shame the Dreamcast didn't survive the "Playstation
2 blitz"; it is still an awesome console with its fair share of
great games. One or two, like the superb Virtua Tennis 2
(a typical Sega game that's easy to learn yet difficult to
master) have yet to be outclassed. Despite being launched with titles that
left you wondering if they were finished, a perception of ensured dominance
and ensured lifelong support ensured the Playstation 2's
march to victory, crushing the Dreamcast into obscurity along
the way. You could say that everyone just wanted to be on the (perceived)
winning side. Still, the PS2 failed to deliver everything
it promised. Sony stooped to new lows by using CGI footage
pretending to run in real-time to showcase its power, and used theoretical
performance figures as bait (rather than let actual games do the talking)
to lure in the masses. How can so many people be so blind? Chewing on hooks
is the price people pay for their blindness. Shouldn't it be an eye-opener?
> The conversion of Half Life to the Dreamcast
should never have been canceled in my humble opinion. I personally think
Sega should have published the game; it was almost complete
and only needed some fine tuning. After all, releasing a game for a dying
console at a loss is one thing; canceling a widely anticipated game for
a console with an 8 million strong user-base is quite another. So, Soldier
of Fortune, which is another port of another PC single player first
person shooter where blowing people to gory pieces provides much of the
entertainment, fills Half Life's shoes on the Dreamcast.
But is it a worthy substitute? In a wise move, the venerable Ubisoft
published this game in Europe (if only they had picked up the rights to
Half Life too).
> International terrorists are running amok and arming themselves with
nuclear weapons. Guess whose job it is to stop them? You assume the role
of John Mullins, a war veteran who makes killing terrorists in the most
violent of ways seem like taking candy from a baby.
> Special effects such as bursts of gunfire, explosions and lighting are
all pleasing to the eye. Enemies are nicely animated and varied, going
from skinheads to soldiers, and the frame rate is a speedy 60 FPS and almost
always constant, only faltering in rare cases when there are tons of enemies
on screen or when several explosions happen at once (mainly towards the
end when enemies throw everything they have at you including a helicopter
gunship). Levels are surprisingly detailed with each having its own unique
charm with unique structures and hardly seeming repetitive at all, which
should be par for the course since you fight in areas located in different
parts of the world (from American subways to moving trains in Uganda to
warzones in Kosovo to the snowscapes of Siberia to the deserts of Iraq)
whose surroundings have many natural obstacles for shields. The only problem
is levels are split up into smaller areas by frustratingly long loading
times (also serving as restart points because you can't save your game
anywhere). Needless to say, they can slow down the pace of the game quite
abruptly. Some areas are much smaller than others forcing you to wonder
why they took so long to load, while others are large and detailed enough
to be worth the wait. This game uses the old Quake 2 graphics
engine as opposed to the Quake 3 one which was optimized
for the Dreamcast, so asking for greater efficiency is probably
asking too much. You only need to take one look at Quake 3 Arena
to see that the Dreamcast is capable of delivering more in
terms of what we can expect even though the environments are quite detailed
themselves in this game.
> This game has survived the transition from PC to DC almost
wholly intact apart from longer loading times which can really drag the
game down, and the frame rate sometimes dropping/skipping when the action
heats up to boiling point. There's no doubt in my mind that these problems
could have been fixed in due time, but the graphical problems found here
are nothing compared to the inadequacies of the PS2 version
> The PS2 version has shorter loading times and a multi-player
mode, but suffers from grainy, totally washed out jagged textures everywhere.
And no, the original PC version is nothing like that in case anyone just
wants to blame these inadequacies on outdated PC graphics (poor logic).
> The Playstation 2, despite choking on the flow of too much
data from a needlessly complicated parallel processed bottlenecked design
(high amounts of bandwidth and small amounts of texture cache for mid-frame
streaming with nothing to compress the data flow over the pipes), is more
powerful than the Dreamcast with the power to push more polygons
into place on-screen when developers finally figured out how to synchronize
the PS2's processors, but is nowhere near as efficient as
the DC's second generation Power VR chipset. VQ compression
delivers textures to the screen far more efficiently than the PS2
(compressing and decompressing them in real-time) at high 5:1/8:1 ratios
(depending on the texture mixture) through 8 MBs of Video RAM (as opposed
to the PS2's 4MBs of VRAM), deferred rendering stops the
console from rendering textures on anything that isn't facing the player,
and a developer-friendly environment made programming a relative breeze.
Throw in a super-sampler, which renders each frame at a higher resolution
and scales it out to fit the original resolution as it's being sent to
the TV monitor to blur the lines for sharper looking edges, for full screen
anti-aliasing, and rough edges mostly go the way of the dodo. In those
respects, the Dreamcast was ahead of its time. That's why Dead
or Alive 2 and Test
Drive Le Mans for the Dreamcast have more vibrant
(not to mention cleaner, sharper anti-aliased) textures than their Playstation
2 ports. The deep colorful textures seen in Sonic
Adventure 2 and Virtual
On: Oratorio Tangram can even hold their own against many modern
> The PC is the home of first person shooting games. With a mouse to aim
this isn't even open for debate. There are more commands in Soldier
of Fortune than there are buttons on the DC gamepad.
Taking the time to become accustomed to the controls is the best solution.
Still, the main default controls are mapped out quite well. You use the
main buttons to walk forwards, backwards and strafe left or right, and
the analog stick to aim. The remaining controls are accessed via the L
and R triggers and the D-pad (like crouching and jumping via the D-pad).
Being free to aim with the analog stick naturally means you're free to
aim while moving.
> There's nothing to really complain about here. The weapon sounds are
particularly realistic, and the screams of your victims sound like they
are screaming in genuine agony. The music, which sounds like it came out
of an action flick, sets a heart-thumping pace.
> Soldier of Fortune's major selling point is the ability
to blow off limbs and heads with carefully aimed shots which help preserve
much needed ammunition. When you shoot someone in a certain part of the
body, they will react accordingly to add to the whole "visceral experience".
The results can be quite gory. There are more than enough guns to pick
up along the way to satisfy your stopping power needs like the standard
shotguns, automatic weapons and sniper rifles (with zooming mounted sights)
found in typical first person shooters. The game is basically one firefight
after another (sometimes with the aid of allies), with an occasional lever/switch
puzzle (to open doors etc.) stopping you from going forward. Health packs
are spread throughout levels frequently enough to make sure you make it
to the end alive in one piece. Although enemy AI isn't the best in the
world because enemies refuse to chase you at times, things change later
in the game when enemies come at you in groups more often, and take cover
behind objects during firefights. Difficulty settings offer a small measure
of replay value too.
> Although there's some room for improvement, Soldier of Fortune
is a good port of a good PC first person shooter. It's a pity Half
Life didn't join it on the Dreamcast. There's really
no point in buying this game now when even average PCs today can handle
the PC version on the highest graphical settings without a hitch, unless
of course, you can find a really cheap copy. What's interesting to note
is how poor the PS2 version is in comparison. I almost cannot
believe how much of a turn for the worse it took. For what it's worth,
you can find the sequel, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix
(the title of which implies a killer virus theme), on the Xbox.
What? No PS2 version?
Geoffrey Duke ~
8.2 | Graphics: 8.5 | Control: 8.1 | Sound: 8.9 | Fun: 7.5