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Game Over Online ~ Cold Winter

GameOver Game Reviews - Cold Winter (c) Vivendi Universal Games, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Cold Winter (c) Vivendi Universal Games
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 70%
Date Published Monday, May 30th, 2005 at 03:54 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

Some games are going to get kicked around in the press like a hacky-sack, and honestly, it's through no real fault of their own. Cold Winter is a first-person shooter in a period of time where it can often seem like every other game that comes in for review is a first-person shooter.

It's also a first-person shooter on the PS2, so it's got a bad case of Murk Syndrome. The graphics can best be described as "muddy," the character models are nothing short of embarrassing, and the occasional odd glitch pops up. Its multiplayer mode is standard-issue stuff, featuring the same modes and the same basic gameplay as half a dozen other games.

If you can get over all of that, which isn't easy, you might enjoy Cold Winter. I've been following it because of the story for its singleplayer mode, which was written by Warren Ellis, but it's got a few other things going for it.

The game begins in a prison, where an MI-6 agent named Andrew Sterling has been captured by the Chinese. Sterling is taken off the board by his handlers, declared dead and wiped from their records. He only escapes from the prison, six months later, because an old friend busts him out.

Once he's free, Sterling accepts some freelance work from another old friend, using his espionage skills as a mercenary rather than an agent of British intelligence. Hilarity ensues.

This is what kept me playing Cold Winter: the story. Admittedly, I'm an Ellis fanboy of many years' duration, but there's a certain quiet darkness to the plot that appeals to me. There's very little that separates the heroes from the villains.

Cold Winter is also one of the most genuinely interactive shooters I've seen on a console, especially on the PS2. If you see something, you can probably interact with it, and there's usually a reason to do so. You can search bodies, rifle through drawers, check under couch cushions, or flip over tables, either to look for items or create hard cover.

Sterling can also improvise needed tools from various items that're lying around in each level. You'll be handed a list of "combine items" you can make at the start of a stage, such as lockpicks, Molotov cocktails, or improvised timebombs.

On top of all that, the controls are smooth and give Sterling all of the actions you need in a modern FPS. You can jump, crouch, zoom in on distant targets, and smack somebody with the butt of your gun. Climbing ladders and going underwater are both clumsy, but then again, they're clumsy in almost any FPS you care to name.

If Cold Winter had the graphics to match its other good qualities, it'd be excellent. Unfortunately, it looks like a retouched PSOne game, with a crap framerate and a tendency to cause instant headaches.

Even in CGI movies like those found at the end of a level, the character models are stiff and inhuman, resembling Lego men more than actual people. A villainous arms merchant looks like a pudgy mannequin; Kim, Sterling's Chinese sidekick, can usually only be identified as a woman by her voice actress.

Both friends and enemies have a bad tendency to fade into the background, becoming almost invisible until they open fire. The PS2 is capable of producing a vivid and distinct color palette, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to see a guy who's twenty feet away until his muzzle flash lights him up.

On top of that, it's easy to break Cold Winter, both in small and large ways. The physics engine is halfway decent, but it's also prone to spectacular and hilarious misfire. When an AK-47 round sends somebody flying halfway across a street or an enemy doesn't visibly react to a grenade going off directly in front of him, you know something's gone wrong.

I think the largest problem Cold Winter has is that it's on the wrong system. If, for some freakish reason, you only own a PS2 and you're a big FPS fan, this is one of the better games that's available on the system. It can genuinely be fun if you're willing to forgive its various flaws.

If you have a decent PC or an Xbox, however, there are many, many better shooters out there. Cold Winter's got a lot of features that I'd like to see make their way into other games, like the improvised weapons and the interactive environments, but it's nothing I can recommend unless you've played every other FPS out there.


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