This dreadful game is the third installation of what used to be a respectable and accomplished series of first person shooters, with gruesome dismemberment of NPC bodies being the only consistent thread which ties Soldier of Fortune: Payback (SoF:P) to its predecessors. This is the worst game I've played for as long as I can remember, and that's coming from a man who has played Shaq Fu.
~ [ Storyline ] ~
The player character you may be acquainted with from the first two games, John Mullins, is no longer part of the game (and wasn't involved in its development). You instead play as a mercenary who is seeking revenge for being double-crossed by an organisation you were working for, or something. It's vague, and it's largely irrelevant; the storyline is little more than a justification for the mass slaughter of swarthy terrorists. It's the equivalent of the classic "I'm here to fix the TV" plot most pornos have - it's a half-hearted attempt at setting some sort of context, around which the base desires of the participants and the viewers/gamers are played out.
~ [ Voice Acting/Writing ] ~
I'm not entirely sure that there was any writing done for this game, to be honest. The dialogue would have sounded just as convincing if the developers had simply left a tape-recorder running at a supermarket checkout.
I feel sorry for the actors involved with this game, not because they possess all of the acting ability of a sack of turnips, but because they will most likely never work again. On the bright side you can never have too many pizza delivery boys.
~ [ Gameplay ] ~
Masochists and the undead aside, no one with any level of sentience will enjoy playing this game. The game mechanics (controls, movement, weapon play, scripted events, etc.) are so badly implemented it's a genuine source of puzzlement to me how this game ever got beyond beta stages.
The game consists of running in a straight line, shooting everyone who gets in your way. When you shoot someone, even with a pistol, you'll likely tear off an arm or a head. I'm not sure what sort of bullets this guy is using, or what the enemy NPCs are made of, but expect limbless torsos to litter your path for much of the game's duration.
~ [ Graphics/Performance ] ~
The graphics in this game are underwhelming and masquerade as if they're in synch with state-of-the-art, up-to-date standards. The shadows and textures flicker and disappear regularly and even though the graphics are of poor quality your PC needs to be fairly beefy to run the game, which is almost certainly because of the shoddy coding and optimisation underlying the engine.
The NPCs are difficult to distinguish from the scenery, making it very difficult to take them out before they clip you. They look like something you'd expect to see in a game from 2002, as does much of the game world's fixtures and landscapes. The game has volumetric lighting which makes everything look a little more realistic, and anti-aliasing to smooth out the edges, but no one's being fooled here - the game looks horrid.
The biggest draw the Soldier of Fortune series has is its gore content. The gore in SoF:P is stupid and unconvincing, however. When you shoot someone the stuff which plops out of them looks more like a dry brownish-red powder than blood; the limbs are torn off in jagged straight lines; the NPC death animation looks strained and hesitant, and everything about it is just excruciating. Even with the irredeemable gameplay of games like this you can still have fun killing NPCs in gruesome ways, but even that isn't a possibility with this God awful garbage.
If you care, here are the game's minimum system requirements:
[Operating System]: Windows XP or later
[CPU]: Pentium 4 2.5GHz or better/equivelant
[RAM]: 512 MB
[Optical Media]: DVD-ROM
[Graphics Card]: At least 256MB of on-board RAM, DirectX 9.0c compatible, Shader Model 2.0 compatible
[Hard Drive Space]: 4GB
[Sound Card]: DirectX 9.0 compatible
Surprisingly high, considering. If you do intend to play this game your system's hardware should overshoot the requirements significantly because the lazy implementation of the game's engine, with its memory leaks and corrupting textures, will suck the life right out of your RAM, GPU and CPU.
The game, when fully decompressed and installed, takes up around 3.3GB of space. Compare this with the 15GB disc space requirements of modern games which have properly implemented graphics and you'll get the pictures: tiny textures and coding which has apparently Quantum Leaped into 2007 from the late 1990s.
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
This charmless game has no saving graces, and playing the game ironically or just for a laugh is out of the question, it's that bad.
If you value your sanity, if you enjoyed the first two games in the series and if you have a will to live, steer clear.