Jeremy Jastrzab
24 Oct, 2005

Bet on Soldier Review

PC Review | An Original FPS? Don't bet on it.
We have no doubt that by now, everyone knows that the FPS genre on PC is crowded. Very crowded as a matter of fact, with only the top echelon of the highest quality and best-known franchises being able to stand out of the crowd. Any new entries need to do something special, different and out of the ordinary. Bet on Soldier tries to do something different and ends doing something that it really shouldn’t as well.

The story here, in an alternate world a war has been raging for centuries and many people live and die knowing nothing but war. Your character lives in this time and has been forced into action after his life was ruined by a group known as the B.O.S. the Bet On Soldiers. By ruined, we obviously mean taking away everything that meant anything to him. Well, people have to do something for fun and in these times, the B.O.S. are your version of gladiators that provide competitive “sport” and channel for gambling. Your character joins in on the competition to exact his revenge.

Maybe things are a little more complex than that, but the story is merely a vehicle for taking you through the game’s 20 missions. Aren’t they all? Anyway, the gist is the game is that you make your way through a fairly linear level, picking up necessary items or gathering information and then heading to the next objective. It’s standard point A to point B, point B to point C stuff. However, there are a couple of twists.

The claim to fame that Bet on Soldier has is that you’re not going to pick up any enemies weapons or ammo. You’re on your own in this matter. It’s all about how you manage your money. At the beginning of each mission, you “buy” your guns, grenades, armour and you even get to “hire” a few cronies to help you with your deeds. Through out any level, there are several points were you can buy or upgrade weapons and repair armour. You earn money in the simplest way imaginable. Kill anything that moves! Of course the amount you win will be determined by the way you kill them, e.g. headshots are worth more.

Red is probably not the best colour to be wearing when out sniping

Red is probably not the best colour to be wearing when out sniping
Another twist on the formula, is that in the middle of levels, you’ll face off against a B.O.S. competitor. You get to choose him at the beginning of each mission and the choice you have will affect the amount that you win if you beat him. It’s made a little more difficult when you’ve got only a minute to knock him over. If do win, your richer and your B.O.S. rank increases. As simple as this may sound, they’ve all got some big tricks up their selves so none of the fights are going to be a walk in the park.

The functions are bare bone basic. Other than standard shooting and moving, you got all of an action function, four commands for your sub-ordinates and a couple quick menu funtions. Players will probably be a bit flustered at the simplicity of it all. Simple is good to an extent but it is something of an indicator of things to come. At least the simple multiplayer hotkeys are workable. While the game is running well, the controls are solid but there are several instances where the game trips up and precision can be a bit frustrating.

Bet on Soldier does a few things differently to other shooters. You can buy a huge riot shield and that there are no health packs, just to name a few. With a shield in one hand and handgun in the other, your player can (for some time) trudge through the game’s trenches with some fortitude. That is until you go up against human or high AI opponents that are really good with tactical headshots. While you can heal yourself to the end of the mission, it’s up to you to hunt down the repair/purchase stations that you dig into your coffers and repair any damaged armour and replenish ammo. It is a small twist in the game but the underlying shooting isn’t anything that hasn’t been done.

Fourth of July celebrations begin early

Fourth of July celebrations begin early
You’ll have a small squad of mercenaries (meaning two) at your disposal. They can be commanded with the F-keys but that only involves asking them follow/ stay or for either one to repair themselves. There is a choice of four different kinds of mercenaries, each useful in different situations. They are the trooper, sniper, protector (dude with a shield) and engineer. As simple as it is, it works in most scenario, with a few “I don’t know where you are” phrases when you’re standing next to them and asking them to follow you. Outside of the squad, you’ll be on your own until late in the game you’re given control of exoskeletons. These are pretty self-explanatory. A mech that you jump into and fire of a couple of thousand rounds with reckless abandonment.

If you take all this into account, you’ve got yourself a solid little game. The quirks and new conventions don’t stand out enough to be truly considered innovative or new. However, this all counts for null in what is one of the most technically deficient and shoddy retail releases that we’ve come across in years.

Bet on Soldier was released too early and need much more time to iron out some extremely glaring issues. Upon the completion of the setup, we started the game … and nothing happened. And nothing. And nothing. We thought the game had crashed and after several restarts we realised that the game was simply taking an excruciatingly long time to load. So to kill the load time, we pulled out the DS and took Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (yes, it took that long). After the game finally loaded, we made it through the opening FMV, only to have it crash again at the main menu. Several more attempts ensued and we eventually got into the game after numerous desktop crashes and stupendously long load sessions, only for it to crash midway through the tutorial.

The crashes came on only after we did something like access the options menu or change the resolution. We retreated to grab the latest patch off the game’s website and things seemed to settle down a little bit. Well, long enough to get through a few game sessions. Still, the main issues have not been dealt with. There are still desktop crashes and stupidly long load times, just not as many. However, playing through the game only uncovered more problems. Namely doors that refused to open, despite the fact that our objective point was behind them and numerous slowdown and stuttering moments that made it difficult to control accurately. This happened even on the lowest resolution.

The most surprising part is that we played this game on a top-line machine, with specs that easily satisfied the game’s recommendations and drivers that were fully updated. We can only imagine the problems that people with even slightly lower machines will have. After scope over a few Bet on Soldier forums we found that we were definitely not the only ones with these problems.

This guy might need that riot shield

This guy might need that riot shield
From this, we weren’t surprised we weren’t able to find a game to try out the multiplayer. However, we did manage to set up a very small LAN game and there was absolutely nothing here that would ever pull us away from Counter-Strike. Especially when the game is primarily focused on the single-player experience and a lot of the problems have infiltrated the multiplayer as well. It’s a bit strange considering that the title would’ve been decent with a fully-fledged multiplayer mode.

Graphically, when the game is running at full speed, it looks reasonably good. Everything is solid and looks distinctive enough to feel like its own game. The geometry is quite impressive, the animations are good and general presentation has a slim-line feel that works quite well. It’s a shame that the art direction is terrible and that pervasive problems get in the way.

The sound is poor. Very poor. There is no distinction to any of the sounds in the game. It is as if you could play the game with the volume turned off and there would be little difference. Guns sounds are weak and there is no discernable music. The worst part is probably the most horrific voice acting that you’ll ever hear. It is impossible to imagine that an actual person is possible of talking in such a way. Well, not any sane, sober or healthy person. Still, there are a few points were some may derive some small sense of humour from it. Unless they’ve turned their speakers off by that time.

In conclusion, while some may find a solid shooter underneath this mess of a game, there is nothing here that makes putting up with all the problems particularly worth it. A few quirks aren’t enough to save the game from general mediocrity and there is nothing here that is going to pull your interest. Especially when there are much better games readily available and on the way Bet on Soldier had something going for it but it needed a few more months (possibly years) in development. With the state the game is currently in, there is absolutely no reason to consider looking this title, let alone purchasing it.
The Score
A completely unrecommendable mess. Even if you can get past the glaring errors, issues, bugs and problems, there is little that make the game different or more worthwhile than any other FPS ever made.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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