A terrorist organization has stolen nuclear weapons from a facility in Russia, intending to sell them to various third-world nations, initiating a global conflict. The player takes the role of John Mullins, a US mercenary working for an organization known as "The Shop". The goal is simple: hunt the villains across the globe, thwart their evil plans, and save the world!
Like most 3D shooters, Soldier of Fortune consists mainly of exploring the environments and killing the enemies that try to impede the player's progress. It is one of the first shooters to isolate over 20 different body regions and show/inflict damage to those regions. For example, if the player character shoots an enemy in the foot, the enemy will limp. The game was also notable for including realistic gore animations resulting from the injuries sustained by the enemies.
Steve Klett's review of the game in incite PC Gaming #7 (June 2000) had a somewhat distressing sidebar detailing how his dog was frightened by the blood-curdling screams of dying enemies to the point that he escaped to his master's room and curled up in a ball, scared out of his wits. In his own words, "I guess it's a testament to the fact that the violence is perhaps too realistic."
The game is based (to a certain extent) on real-life mercenary John Mullins. A former member of a Vietnam spec ops unit of the Green Berets, Mullins has written a novel recounting his experiences (Days of Fire, 1991, Berkley Press) and acted as consultant for the game.
"Jessica Six'"is a reference to the 1976 movie, Logan's Run.
The weapons in this game (except for the more outlandish ones such as the slugthrower and microwave gun) are based on real life weapons, but to avoid royalty issues with the manufacturers, they have fictional names.