Review by sfcalimari
"An unusually gory but ultimately average shooter game"
Ah, Cold Winter, an espionage-flavored fps which is one of the bloodier games for the ps2. Let's dig in.
Really, the only reason to play this game is the gore. Any powerful weapon in the game can blow off enemies' limbs, and an explosive can blast their bloody body parts in every direction. Pretty different from the usual bloodless ps2 fps game, eh? This is fun for a while, and a nice novelty, but otherwise the game is pretty bland.
The game is really just a run-of-the-mill run-and-gun fps game. It markets itself as an espionage thriller, and sort of half-heartedly attempts to maintain that image, but the vast majority of gameplay involves running down corridors blasting at enemies. The levels are very linear, and there is very little chance to do any sort of exploring or using different paths to complete objectives. Basically you just rush through the levels blasting enemies, heading towards an exit, or going on a key hunt, or looking for a specific switch to let you pass to the next area. You pass down a corridor, come across a few enemies, blast them away, move on, come across a few more enemies.
Level design isn't really remarkable, and there are only three different locations the game takes place in: a Chinese prison, a Middle Eastern town and the surrounding area, and an Arctic military base. There are several individual levels though; the game is a bit longer than the average ps2 fps, though not as long as it could have been. The levels look pretty decent but are a bit unimaginative and repetitive. Also towards the end the game kind of peters out, and doesn't provide any sort of appropriate showdown or huge challenge.
Due to the game's "spy" scenario there could have been a lot of chances to use stealth and gadgets and other spy tactics a la Goldeneye, but unfortunately Cold Winter is, again, just a run n gun game at heart. There are a couple of silenced weapons, but they don't seem to really mask your fire, and the levels aren't set up to reward stealth or sniping. Whenever I use a silenced weapon on an enemy, usually a couple of other enemies nearby will magically see me and start firing wildly at me. Oh well.
For weapons, pretty much all the usual suspects are here. Pistols, sub-machine guns, rpg's, grenades. Nothing really spectacular. The weapons are ok to use, but don't feel very realistic or fun to use. Guns spit out a lot of barrel smoke, which I guess is realistic, but gets a bit annoying when I'm in a big gun fight with a bunch of enemies that don't seem to have the same visibility problems.
You can also use grenades of different types, such as poison-gas or flash nades, but really the only useful ones are frag nades. You can carry 6, and the cheap thing is that you can toss them ridiculously fast, causing massive explosions next to your unlucky foes. This is just a bit too cheap in multiplayer, where you can easily pick up grenades almost all the time, and just running around tossing 6 grenades at a time at enemies.
Something of a novelty in this game is that you can collect bits of material to construct different special weapons. Get some rags, some bottles, and some gasoline, and you can make a molotov. Pliers and some pieces of wire, make a lock pick. This is really the game's only nod towards espionage, and while the molotovs are useful, most of the bombs you can make are pretty useless. Basically you end up killing a lot of time rummaging through rooms looking for materials, which gets a bit boring after the 100th time.
Lastly, something weird and not very cool about this game is that you can always restore your health by injecting yourself with some sort of medicine that you always carry. It's a bad idea to heal when under fire, but it is always easy to run off and duck down an alley and heal. Considering the game has many checkpoints during levels, a health pickup or limited heal feature would have been better. As it is, this "heal whenever you want" feature allows you to play pretty sloppy and not worry too much about taking damage.
The graphics get the job done, but are really not that great and look very dated. The game seems to aim for a weird sort of shiny, polished look that doesn't fit the game very well. Grimy and worn-down, like the look of Killzone, would have worked a bit better for CW.
Conversely, the cut-scenes are very polished and bright and colorful, and look very pretty. Pity they are a bit boring.
Probably the most annoying thing, visually, about the game is the look of all the characters in the game--they really look goofy and badly put together. Big, ungainly feet, tiny heads and torsos, and they look pretty bad when running around shooting at you.
For an fps, the controls are not that good. X and Y axis aiming are ok on their own, but aiming in a diagonal direction is very very sluggish and gets irritating, because it is much easier to aim to the side, then up or down. Also the aiming is rather too jerky and unresponsive, so you spend a lot of time missing your enemies because you can't aim smoothly and keep firing to the left or right of them. An option to change the sensitivity should really have been made available, and the diagonal movement direly needs fixing.
Not really worth playing the game for. The characters are pretty dull and a bit annoying, and the plot attempts to be interesting but never really leaves the ground.
Cold Winter has an online multiplayer, as well as an offline multiplayer where you can play with or against only 3 bots or other players.
The online multiplayer is kind of a saving grace for the game, as it is quite fun. The different weapons in the game suit online play, and it is pretty fun to blow away other players' heads and limbs, or see what the ragdoll physics do when you put a grenade under an enemy with his back turned to you.
A shortcoming though is the level design--there are really only a few of the online maps that are suitable for gameplay, and many of them don't work very well. And the ones that do work well are very small. So basically you just sort of rush around madly blasting caps in the enemies. It is very fast and intense, and not very intelligent, but what did you expect?
Lastly, a major shortcoming no doubt is that not very many people play the game online anymore. It was a good online game back in the day, and was the first game I played online with my ps2. So I would warn people expecting a fun online game that it might be nearly impossible to find others to play with nowadays.
So...buy or rent? I would say rent for the single-player game, you will be done with it within a few days and there is really no real replay value. The online game would have maybe been a good reason to buy back in the day, but nowadays probably not so much.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/05, Updated 10/11/06
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