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Cold Winter
Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: VU Games
Developer: Swordfish Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
The PS2 continues to produce a wealth of quality FPS titles, from the recent Project Snowblind, Area 51 and now Cold Winter. Early on though, PS2 was fairly devoid of FPS action -- as were most consoles -- but with these recent titles (*cough HALO), the console FPS realm has bolstered it’s ranks

Graphically, this James Bond-esque thriller is a nice showing on the veteran PS2 hardware. The levels themselves are really stunning and amazingly interactive. Not since Half-Life 2 have I seen more ways to tweak an environment. You can toss tables over for cover, bash crates open for powerups, or lob a HUGE assortment of objects at your enemies. While the color palette is a bit dark and drab at times, the gritty feel of the graphics suits this title just fine. The textures are kind of muddy as well, but the bloody messes you can produce make this a small negative. Speaking of which, this game reminds me greatly of the classic PC FPS Soldier of Fortune with its gory action. Shotguns and loads of machine gun fire will literally rip body parts off unlucky guards and would-be assasins. I tested this out further with a truck-mounted machine gun and made pulp of a soldier. All that was left were tattered uniform parts and a hunk of grisly flesh.

Character models are smooth and detailed; same goes for the animation. Swordfish Studios also added some great blurring, explosive, lighting and physics effects that bring the game on par with other FPS's. Overall, the graphics are as you would expect from a major title such as this, but not as polished as a Halo 2.

Cold Winter, like its graphics, has some solid sound. Most notable is the voice work, mainly from Euro-themed persons. Andrew Sterling, the main character, harkens you back to the great actors who played Bond, and delivers some of the best lines in the game -- with adult content, mind you. Yes folks, aside from the gore, this game has some beautifully foul language, something that is becoming almost standard in today’s gaming world, sans the Nintendo systems. Fans of the The Getaway should be sound as a pound. The other half of the great lines go to Danny, an ornery Scotsman who acts as your manager of sorts. Sound effects are less stellar but still do a workman’s like job of keeping the world vibrant. The developers did a nice job of atmospheric sounds, such as the dripping of water, the distant shouts of guards, and especially with the fireworks going off in the first prison level.

You are Andrew Sterling, captured MI-6 (the famous Bond Secret agency) agent held in a maximum-security Chinese prison, interrogated, starving and nearly forgotten. Jump ahead six months to a harrowing rescue attempt by the beautiful, but deadly “Kim.” After you escape, the aforementioned Danny hires you. He sets you on numerous tasks to save life, liberty and property, culminating in a plot to stop a madman with some nukes. Been there, done that. The storyline is just not very original and is only helped by some excellent cut scenes stringing the action along, but you have all seen this before. The levels themselves are split into different objectives, such as "reach this point, blow this door, and capture these documents", with a handy checkpoint save feature.

Weak story aside, the action does deliver. Besides the fully interactive environments, the ability to dismember troopers and a host of cool weapons, Sterling can rummage through dead bodies. But get this…stuff collected off bodies and crates can be combined into items such as lock picks or Molotov cocktails. The latter feature is a bit funky and I didn’t find a lot of use for some of the items -- I had plenty of stuff to fire and explode as it was. There are over 20 different weapons here, but for some reason you can only use 2 at a time. 2 out of 20… Now I am the first person to trumpet realism, but this just isn’t that fun to have to choose between the shotgun or the machine gun -- I WANT THEM ALL DAMNIT! Rounding out the inventory is your unlimited use med pack and armor add-ons. Sterling can really take a lot of punishment, and with this unending supply of health, it’s a pretty easy game if you take your time. The A.I., while not completely moronic, won’t win many prizes. They will retreat, take cover and call for help, but most seem to stand there taking bullets in the face.

If the mediocre single player doesn’t spark your interest, fear not; there is a quality multiplayer angle to the game. Although I didn’t have firsthand experience, my research revealed up to eight players online with your standard Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Last Man Standing and Domination (cap ‘n hold). With six modes in all and 12 maps, multiplayer should keep you agents thirsting for more challenge. It’s also worth mentioning the added four player offline mode, with the move toward complete online play. This is a nice homage to the games of yesteryear, such as its “grandpa” Golden Eye.

Under normal difficulty, the game takes no more than 8-10 hours, a bit skimpy by today’s standards. While the enemy A.I. ratchets up gradually, with an unlimited med pack and plenty of ammo/weapons lying around, you should breeze through this title. With the added waypoint indicator leading you around, getting lost is something to be truly embarrassed about. If you crank up the difficulty levels, there does seem to be a substantial increase in enemy intelligence and cunning, so try that if you’re sleeping through the missions.

Game Mechanics:
Ahh, gotta love the PS2 controller with FPS games. I am very attached to my PC’s mouse and transitioning to the jerky, overly sensitive analog sticks isn’t fun. What’s worse, there is no sensitivity setting for Cold Winter. Ugh. Thankfully, there is an aim feature that allows for more precision, but be prepared to miss your targets. A lot. You have your standard HUD (Heads Up Display) with health, armor, ammo/weapon indicator and compass/waypoint indicator. The health/armor indicators are bit hard to read at times, smooshed in the lower left, but the waypoint indicator is great for wanderers like myself.

Overall, Cold Winter is another solid entry into the vast library of PS2 games, and offers a nice collection of gruesome action mixed with spy tactics. A definite rental and a must buy for non-PC/X-Box owners, this title has enough staying power to carve it’s own niche, just as Soldier of Fortune did 5 years ago.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

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