Building a Retro Linux Gaming Computer - Part 12: In Tremendous Pain

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Continued from Part 11: Forgotten Heresies

In 1998 developer Raven Software acquired the rights to Soldier of Fortune to make a video game inspired by the mercenary magazine of the same name. The plan was to make a realistic tactical shooter, with consultant John Mullins brought in to add both his insights and likeness to the project. The final result he described as "emblematic" of the real world experience, which is a generous way of putting it. Where the controversy laid was in the game's violence.

Soldier of Fortune was the first game to feature the GHOUL system, allowing for the depiction of damage to specific parts of the body, with your enemies reacting in graphic over the top ways. More pacific players might opt to instead just shoot the weapon from their hands, which is also made possible by GHOUL, but with your mission objectives often tied to eliminating all opponents on a map, such mercies are made just a block to your progress.

A more salient discussion could have been had on the plot of Soldier of Fortune, steeped as it is in the doctrines of western military interventionism. It is hard to take a detached view of your actions in the game when they are taking place within the context of what were then contemporary conflicts. No matter where you stand on these issues, I think we can all agree that the cutscene where Mullins deferentially walks in on Saddam Hussein is more than a little surreal today.

Unlike with Heretic II installing Soldier of Fortune off the CD-ROM was a breeze, with the Loki Update tool patching the game all the way up to the Gold Edition. Detail textures proved to be broken with this version of my graphics drivers, and like with Heretic II the dynamic lighting had a significant impact on the frame rate. With those disabled the actual reported frames per second was not far off what I saw on Windows 98, but the game still felt smoother from there.

Feeling this I went ahead and turned down all the scalability settings in the menu for a little extra speed, with the exception of specular lighting as having it off made certain objects appear black. Setting the "gl_gentextures_broken" console variable to "1" is also supposed to fix texture issues on Linux. From there I selected a custom difficulty setting, allowing for unlimted carrying capacity and saved games, but cranking the enemy toughness up to Aggressive.

 

Anything lower than that and your opponents tend to be pushovers, with the exception of the armour piercing snipers and mounted turret guns, which are both overpowered and too often hidden in fog no matter the difficulty. The first Siberian level is the worst for this, with the Al-Fahad oil refinery also getting a dishonourable mention. I experienced a couple hard locks at the start of the Kosovo Hanger level as well, but other than that the game remained stable.

Stable though is not the same as bug free. I managed to break an elevator forcing a reload at one point, and while fighting the final boss I somehow convinced Dekker to stop pursuing me, allowing me to snipe him at my leisure. The music also started to skip as if it were being played on a record player. That final area in general was a pain, with the liberal amounts of Order soldiers using Microwave Pulse Guns slowing the game to a crawl.

While those are the most esoteric weapons found in the game, they are all fun to use and have applications in different situations. Some are better at piercing armour, some are better at taking enemies out at a distance, while others deliver more of a punch up close. My only real complaint is that Mullins throws grenades straight without any kind of arc, causing them to often be more lethal to me than any of the opposition.

In many ways Soldier of Fortune was ahead of its time, bearing a closer resemblance to the military shooters that would come to dominate in the decade after its release. The game teaches you to lean from cover while fighting what are for the most part human hitscan wielding enemies, all while battling through a mostly linear and highly scripted campaign. Given that Raven Software is now a close partner of Infinity Ward, it perhaps was a sign of things to come.

Every 3D accelerated game I have covered so far has used some variation of the Quake engine, being made by either Raven Software or by id Software themselves. This has meant I have been playing on friendly ground, as id Software were always a booster of OpenGL, which on Linux is the only graphics API supported by my Rage 128 Pro card. I think it is time to move into more hostile territory, and play a game that was very much optimized for Glide instead.

Carrying on in Part 13: Looks Almost Unreal

Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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Hamish Paul Wilson is a free software developer, game critic, amateur writer, and farm labourer living in rural Alberta, Canada. He is an advocate of both DRM free Linux gaming and the free software movement alongside his other causes, and more information on him can be found at his icculus.org homepage where he lists everything he is currently involved in: http://icculus.org/~hamish
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13 comments
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Hamish 14 Feb
The Soldier of Fortune song can be heard here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpRgTDPjMTY

A review of the game by J. Neil Doane for Linux Journal can be read here:
https://www.linuxjournal.com/article/4381

A review of the game by Matt Matthews for Linux Games is archived here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20011223131525/http://www.linuxgames.com/reviews/sof/

And my launch command for Soldier of Fortune is as follows:
sof +set gl_dynamic 0 +set cl_lights 0 +set gl_gentextures_broken 0 +set gl_detailtexturing 0


Last edited by Hamish on 15 February 2022 at 8:35 am UTC
mirv 14 Feb
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We're entering territory where I personally started to move from Windows and become more interested in GNU/Linux. I recall wanting to try Solder of Fortune, but couldn't find it in the local shops at the time. All these older games show just how important id Software was (and still is) to gaming history in general, and GNU/Linux gaming in particular.

Looking forward to Unreal! I'll have stories of my own to share with that one (Unreal Tournament in particular, but Unreal as well).
gbudny 15 Feb
Thank you for the article.

It's one of my favorite games for Linux.

I tried to install it on Ubuntu 64-bit a few days ago, but it crashes at startup - it's terrible.
However, I keep older versions of Linux distributions like Linux Mint from 2010, and it allowed me to have some fun playing SOF for Linux without using any tricks.

Unfortunately, SOF for Linux sometimes crashes to the desktop with the segmentation fault error. I don't remember any situation when I had to reboot my computer when I played it.

I also played SOF 2 for Mac, but it's a different game than the previous one. I remember that I was disappointed when I bought it.

Soldier of Fortune: Payback wasn't ported to any Unix-like operating system, and it's the best reason to skip it.
anewson 15 Feb
I think I was 14 or so when it came out, and have a distinct memory of making all the enemies surrender by shooting the guns our of their hands, then going back through the level and gleefully murdering them all in cold blood. I suppose if I'd turned out to be a psycho it would have been a grim warning sign.
Nod 15 Feb
I'm a proud owner of an original Loki version of this one. Good game but not as good as my favorite Loki original Myth 2 which is one of the greatest games of all time.

Edit: OMG I forgot Tribes 2 which is nearly as good as Myth 2 and it also one of the greatest games of all time.


Last edited by Nod on 15 February 2022 at 6:10 am UTC
TheSHEEEP 15 Feb
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Quoting: anewsonI suppose if I'd turned out to be a psycho it would have been a grim warning sign.
Don't fret. There's still time
elmapul 15 Feb
"Soldier of Fortune was the first game to feature the GHOUL system, allowing for the depiction of damage to specific parts of the body, "
acording to wikipedia this game relased in 2000?

prety sure goldeneye 007 came first...


anyway, anyone got luck running koumanjou densetsu on linux?
holisticboy 15 Feb
Quoting: elmapul"Soldier of Fortune was the first game to feature the GHOUL system, allowing for the depiction of damage to specific parts of the body, "
acording to wikipedia this game relased in 2000?

prety sure goldeneye 007 came first...


anyway, anyone got luck running koumanjou densetsu on linux?
Indeed it did, the difference is that Soldier of Fortunes damage model will not only register a hit on various body parts that equate to damage, but they also render the damage too (e.g. if you shoot a leg with a shotgun, you can blow it right off the body or take a chunk out, etc).

Don't get me wrong, I prefer Goldeneye any day, but merit where merit is due in terms of the technology in SoF!
Cybolic 15 Feb
Shout-out to Rune (also ported by Loki) from a few months later, that not only also let you sever the limbs off of your enemies, but also let you beat them with them.
mirv 15 Feb
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Quoting: CybolicShout-out to Rune (also ported by Loki) from a few months later, that not only also let you sever the limbs off of your enemies, but also let you beat them with them.

With the soggy end, no less!
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