REVIEW: Cold Winter (PS2/Xbox)
Cold Winter is a solid FPS for the PS2. It tries some new things and provides a great story as you progress.
Originally written on April 9, 2006.
Cold Winter is a First Person Shooter exclusive to the Playstation 2. While the game isn’t extraordinary by any means, it does provide a satisfying single player game experience which is fuelled by an interesting and well-told story involving a potential nuclear disaster and some very brutal arms dealers. You play as Andrew Sterling, a former MI6 (British Secret Service) agent. At the beginning of the game you are captured by the Chinese and endure some extremely brutal torture (in one of the games several extremely violent cutscenes) before being rescued by an old friend named Kim. In exchange for being rescued you agree to work for another old friend of yours named Danny who operates a mercenary agency of sorts. The mission you receive from Danny is pretty much what the rest of the game is all about. You are supposed to track down an arms dealer, who has somehow acquired a dangerous new weapon, and eliminate him. There is more to it then that but the story does get rather interesting as you progress through the game and I’d hate to spoil anything.
The gameplay in Cold Winter is much like many other console first person shooters but it does have a few unique aspects. Conversely, it is also missing some things that other great shooters have, which is unfortunate. On the plus side, Cold Winter employs a pretty robust physics engine, especially considering this game is running on a PS2. You can flip tables to provide cover, pick up and move nearly anything (within reason) in the environment and your enemies flop around like rag dolls when they die (granted, that’s nothing new but its still nice to have). The game also has a unique approach concerning grenades and other throwable items. Instead of finding Molotov **** for example, you must instead find empty bottles, rags and gasoline to construct your own. Other items can be combined to form a number of things including lock picks (which enable you to access optional rooms or locked boxes), timed explosives, fire bombs and poison gas grenades. The game also boasts well over a dozen firearms, which adds some variety to your arsenal. Some of them deal a bit to much damage (the MP5 can sever limbs, despite being an SMG) but it suits the violent tone of the game.
On the flip side, the game is almost to easy which is largely due to a number of factors. First of all, the game allows you to scavenge items off of fallen enemies. Not a bad idea at all, however, every enemy you kill will have a certain amount of body armour on them which you can then take. This basically ensures that you will have tons of body armour at all times provided you take the few seconds it takes to scavenge it off of your enemies dead bodies. Not only that, but you come equipped with what appears to be a nearly endless (I never once ran out) supply of health packs that completely refill your life bar. This makes you seem nearly invincible as you proceed through the game, which nearly removes any sense of tension or excitement you often experience in a FPS. Another problem that contributes to the ease of the game is the artificial intelligence. Enemies will often make no attempt to find cover and simply stand in the open and fire at you. This makes it far to easy to pick guys off without taking much damage. Another minor gripe is that the game does not allow you to double wield any weapons, which is something that is often seen in First Person Shooters these days. Despite these flaws, the game is still fun though it is definitely not a challenge on the default difficulty setting.
The graphics in Cold Winter are pretty impressive overall. As mentioned, the games physics are pretty good for a PS2 game. The game also has some pretty graphic damage modelling going on. Much like the Soldier of Fortune games, you can do some serious damage to your enemies. Legs, arms and heads can all be blown off of your enemies, which definitely contributes to the games mature rating. The game manages to maintain a fairly good frame rate, even when numerous enemies and their severed limbs are flopping around. Its kind of gristly but at the same time visually impressive. The game also boasts some fine looking explosions and fire effects. Not only that, but the game nearly seamlessly integrates cutscenes into gameplay to tell the story. The game may suddenly switch to a cutscene with almost no loading time, which really keeps the story moving and allows it to be told in a more visually impressive way. The game does lack some graphical details but it looks pretty good overall. There are some framerate issues but, as mentioned, it isn’t to bad considering what is often going on when it happens.
In terms of audio, Cold Winter is pretty solid. The various guns all sound pretty good, though the shotguns are kind of lacking some punch. The various impact sounds are suitably gristly which is good considering all the times you’ll be hearing them throughout the game. The music is good as well but not especially memorable.
When I bought Cold Winter it was 25.00 CDN so it’s a good value if you can find it for a similar price. The single player game has four difficulty settings, which range from easy (easy is likely much to easy as I played it on normal) to elite. The main game takes approximately 8-10 hours to complete which is pretty standard.
The game also offers a pretty solid multiplayer component, both online and off. The game supports 4 player splitscreen offline and up to 8 players online. You can use bots to fill out the offline limit if there aren’t four people playing. There are a dozen maps and 6 different game modes to choose from. The game modes include Deathmatch and King of the Hill, which are pretty common in shooters. There are also some unique modes, which include Domination, Head Match and Flag Tag. Flag Tag and Head Match are basically the same. Players battle over a flag (or severed head) and whoever carries the flag (or head) long enough wins the match. Domination requires players to capture “Data nodes”, which are computer consoles that are scattered across all the maps. Points are periodically awarded to the players who currently have nodes under their control. More nodes equals more points so it is best to have several under your control. There is also a mode called Last Man Standing, which is basically deathmatch but with limited lives. Many of the modes also have the option to be played as teams, which is ideal for online play.
I’m not entirely sure if all of the game modes can be played online as there was only one server when I tried it and it was Deathmatch. This brings me to the biggest drawback to the online multiplayer, there is basically no online community actively playing this game. The server I was on had some serious lag problems and it wasn’t even full. Unless this game becomes hugely popular as a budget title, I doubt there will be anyone playing it online for very long. Also, there is no clan support, voice support or chat available in online so it is pretty bare bones in that regard.
Overall, Cold Winter is a solid First Person Shooter for the Playstation 2. It tries some new things which help set it apart from other games in the genre and it has a pretty interesting story to keep you interested as you progress. The game has some issues, not the least of which is its lack of difficulty, but it is still worth checking out. Given the game’s current price, any PS2 owner looking for a good FPS should give Cold Winter a shot.