It's 2008, but I've still got 2007 on the brain.
Back in mid-November last year I received a copy of "Soldier of Fortune: Payback" from Activision.
I had never actually picked up the previous two games in the series, which are based on the military-focused magazine of the same name. After finding "Soldier of Fortune: Payback" among my stack of games that were released around that time, I noticed something interesting advertised on the box ... specifically, a "low-violence" option. The white text, outlined in a red border read:
WARNING!!! Violent Subject Matter. Low-Violence Option Included
Since the "Soldier of Fortune" games have been known for their excessive violence, I was curious as to why they would advertise the low violence option (was it to appease parents or entice gamers?). I e-mailed Activision to see what it was all about, and I got a response from Producer Dan Gniady of Slovak Republic-based developer Cauldron HQ during the holiday break. Here's what he had to say...
[Note: Activision wanted us to point out: "Soldier of Fortune is rated M for Mature by ESRB and is marketed accordingly. ESRB ratings provide concise and impartial information about the content and age-appropriateness of games that you might consider purchasing or renting for your children. For the more inquisitive parent seeking greater detail or different perspectives about the games their children want to play, please visit: www.esrb.org."]
Multiplayer: Did the previous "Soldier of Fortune" games [developed by Raven Software] have the "low-violence" option? If so, was it advertised on the box on the other games?
Gniady: Both "Soldier of Fortune" and "Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix" had the low violence option. It was only advertised on the box for the original "Soldier of Fortune" in the form of a circular warning label on the front cover.
Multiplayer: How does the low-violence option for "Soldier of Fortune: Payback" change the visuals in the game? Does it affect gameplay at all?
Gniady: The low violence option, visually speaking, turns off all dismemberment effects in the game. It also turns down the amount of blood that gushes from wounds as well as turning off blood splotching and blood pooling effects in the environment. It also affects gameplay. When dismemberment is on you can shoot off enemies' arms, and they will not be able to fire their weapon. You can shoot off their leg, and they will fall to the ground and still try to attack you or retreat while bleeding out. With the low violence option turned on they will not lose arms and though they will become injured and fall down they will not bleed out as fast. Also with violence setting turned "on" the player can get one-hit kills in the neck and groin area of the body and also is rewarded with a special animation. This does not happen in the low violence version.
Multiplayer: So many games nowadays have gore and violence without the option to turn it down. Why did you decide to keep that option for "Soldier of Fortune: Payback"?
Gniady: It became apparent early on that the violence was not for everyone. Some people may be uncomfortable watching or playing the game. We didn't want to alienate anyone from playing the game because they did not have the stomach for or simply did not enjoy all of the over-the-top violence.
Multiplayer: Do you feel that "Soldier of Fortune: Payback" (or the series in general) is more violent than most games out there?
Gniady: I think that the violence and gore is more shocking and over-the-top in "Soldier of Fortune: Payback" than in most other M-rated games. The "Soldier of Fortune" series is known for its over-the-top violence and gore. When people hear the name "Soldier of Fortune" they immediately say things like, "My all-time favorite FPS moment was when I shot a guy standing behind a telephone pole with a shotgun and blew both of his arms off."
Multiplayer: Was the warning on the back of the box meant to appease parents or entice gamers? Perhaps a little of both?
Gniady: It was to let gamers know that this was a violent game, especially the "Soldier of Fortune" enthusiast. By emphasizing that you have a low violence option, you are also communicating that this is a very violent game and letting people know that there is an alternative.