- Page 1 Cold Winter
- Page 2 Cold Winter
There are also signs that someone creative was let loose on the script. The storyline has its share of twists and ambiguity, and while the characters are fairly generic – the ex-SAS tough guy, the mysterious femme, the power-crazed overlord – at least they’re fairly well written and voiced. Again, Cold Winter sometimes tries a bit too hard to be adult, and it would be nice to see a game where all Chinese soldiers aren’t sadistic torturers or faceless drones, and where Arab didn’t automatically equal gun-waving terrorist, but there is at least a feeling that the game is trying to create a world of murky greys, not just blacks and whites.
Sadly, the game’s biggest problem isn’t its employment of worn stereotypes, but the fact that that it never quite makes the most of the aforementioned strengths. Cold Winter is one of those games that keeps getting it 80 per cent right, but not all the way there. For instance, the graphics can be stunning at times, with some great animation, a clean style and some superb lighting and explosive effects. However, the character modelling is often poor, the locations are frequently drab and uninspiring, and the textures used seem horribly bland.
This inconsistency also enters the level design at times. For every great shoot-out in a terrorist compound, there’s a chunk of slightly tedious trudging and blasting from one checkpoint to another. A number of objectives seem pitifully transparent as a means of stretching things out, and there are moments when the AI seems to give up entirely, the responsive opponents described above becoming slow-moving, half-witted nincompoops with the sharp shooting skills of Stevie Wonder. And why make a spy game where Stealth isn’t really an option? Most of us prefer shooting to sneaking, but a little tactical espionage wouldn’t have hurt, and at times the trigger-happy approach runs counter to the game’s realistic angle. When every mission turns into a bloodbath, your hero seems like a diplomatic incident on legs.
Finally, it’s hard to avoid the thought that Swordfish missed the point with the physics engine. Toppling tables for cover is a nice option to have, shooting gas tanks to shatter a balcony and drop the guard above is another. However, you can get through the game perfectly well without ever needing to do so. Think of all those great moments in Half-Life or Halo where smart thinking was the only way to beat superior numbers; the moments where the developer gives the player a tricky situation but the tools to get past it. Cold Winter gives you the tools, but never really provides a situation that needs them. It’s a bit of a waste.
Which is a shame, because at its best Cold Winter is as compelling and thrilling an action game as you could hope for, sending you barrelling along from firefight to firefight, from tense sniper shootout to high-octane set piece, in a way that has you actually thinking of GoldenEye. It also boasts a fine range of multiplayer options that could have those of you with network adapters making similar comparisons. This isn’t a game of the same class by any means, but it’s still enjoyable enough and different enough to be worthy of your attention. It’s just that with its rough edges neatened and a little more visual polish, it could have been so much more.
A brave attempt at a gritty, grown-up espionage shooter, but one that only partially comes off. Still, the inconsistent graphics and patches of sloppy design shouldn’t put you off an otherwise tight thriller.