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Cold Fear

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Darkworks

About Judy

As WP's senior editor, I edit review and preview articles, attempt to keep up with the frantic pace of Rainier's news posts, and keep our reviewers on deadline, which is akin to herding cats. When I have a moment to myself and don't have my nose in a book, I like to play action/RPG, adventure and platforming games.

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'Cold Fear' (PS2/Xbox/PC) - Developer Q&A

by Judy on Dec. 20, 2004 @ 3:25 a.m. PST

Experience an intense, innovative and clever horror experience in a realistic, constantly shifting environment out at sea in Cold Fear by Ubisoft. Cold Fear puts you in the role of Tom Hansen a US Coast Guard crewman whose team is sent to investigate a drifting, abandoned Russian whaling ship. Prepare to face the horrors lurking beneath its bloodstained decks. Shoot your way through a bloodsoaked nightmare straight out of a horror movie. Confront hordes of alarmingly intelligent enemies as the ship's deck lurches constantly under your feet.

Q : Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

Guillaume Gouraud, Creative Director and Antoine Villette, Director on Cold Fear since 2004. We are both co-founders of Darkworks.

Q : What platforms is Cold Fear releasing on, and when?

AV : We are working hard to release the PS2, Xbox and PC versions of COLD FEAR at the same date in march 2005.

Q : What genre does Cold Fear fall into?

AV: Cold Fear belongs to the horror genre, but we also wanted Cold Fear to blend horror and action gameplay, with more close- and long-range shoot-outs. We also have many variations in the rhythm of the action.

Q : How did you get in touch with Ubisoft? What about the collaboration?

AV: We have been in contact with Ubisoft for a long time (our studios are 20 min away from Ubi’s HQ), and we had several serious discussions in the past but the opportunity was not there at that time, whether for product lineup or schedule reasons.

Then we went to present COLD FEAR at the beginning of 2004, and the game made it instantly. We had the same view no the game ambition so things went rather fast. It was impressive to see that Ubisoft was able to react quickly despite being a big publisher; they had the flair.

At that time we had a prototype that demonstrated many of the core ideas of the game. Since then the collaboration has been very active. Ubisoft has a really valuable expertise, especially on gameplay. So they helped us to focus on intensive action and deeper level design. We are very happy with the collaboration.

Q : Who is the main character? Give a brief overview of the character’s story.

AV: Tom Hansen is a US Coast Guard crewman stationed in Alaska. He lost his father at sea when he was very young, which led him to join the Coast Guard. However, he’s haunted by his own past, a drug interdiction operation that went horribly wrong. Now he wants nothing more to do with being a hero, and he’s content to just do his job and keep his head down. Fate isn’t going to let him get away with that, though.

Q : What can you tell us about the plot of the game?

AV: Is a bit early to reveal the whole story. What we can uncover is that it’s a strong part of COLD FEAR., We wanted to have an involving storyline and engaging characters in the game. Cold Fear is not just a run-and-gun experience. You can expect many twists in the course of the events as well as many startling moments.

We also have a really talented writer working on the project whose previous projects include Horror novels and Ubisoft Clancy titles.

Q : What were your ambitions when you decided to create Cold Fear?

GG: First our ambition was to modernize horror genre to achieve what we wanted :

  1. To create a horror game with an environment set in motion that has an impact on the player’s experience and a very distinctive look.
  2. To free the action of player in terms of shooting and walkthrough
  3. To have more realism, modern settings and various enemies that allow situations where you have to be fast and reactive.

When the idea rose of a Coast Guard fighting on a lost ship trapped in a huge storm, we knew it was the right setting for the game.

AV: I would simply add that we wanted to create a game that we and other players would enjoy to play. And it seems to work: each day I am surprised to see that something that seemed impossible - technically or artistically – is finally taking shape. This is really fascinating.

Q : How many people are working on the project?

GG: The first prototype of COLD FEAR lasted 5 months with 10 people only; this was at the very beginning of 2003. Today the same talented and experienced developers lead a team of 60 people.

Q : What games/movies/comics etc did you draw inspiration from for the game?

AV/GG: Our references are Perfect Storm, Aliens, Doom 3…

Q : Will the whole game be set on the ship? Why?.

AV: No, the CIA decided to seize the “Eastern Spirit” as it is drifting into US waters, but the whaler is linked to a mysterious oilrig. The CIA suspects the whaler and the oilrig to be the shelter of illegal activities.

Q : Stormy sea, watery nightmare…what are the repercussions in terms of gameplay?

GG: In COLD FEAR the storm has a big impact on the action. The ship is rolling and pitching according to waves, this makes hooks, blocks, and fastened objects to swing in the air, and collisions with heavy objects can be deadly.

Bridges or footbridges on the whaler are washed by the storm, so you have to be very careful not to fall into the sea. But sometimes the ship is taking a steep angle and you may slide and still fall into the sea. To avoid that you can cling on rails or grab the hull on the point of falling into howling waters.

But the most thrilling is that all these deadly traps also affect your enemies, so you can try to attract and fight them close to the traps, this way you can shorten the number of enemies you are fighting, and also save precious ammunitions.

Q : How does Cold Fear innovate in its genre? What revolutionary elements will the game feature?

AV: All the settings, and storm-related elements of Cold Fear have simply never been seen before, and it is a part of the game we are very proud of. But for a horror game, the biggest innovation probably lies deeper, in the very mechanics of the game: we added a layer of emergent mechanics that allowed us create real “playground” areas, where the action is never the same.

To illustrate this, we can say that some creatures – like the exocels for instance – have a totally unique AI.
The exocels can adapt their moves to the geometry of the room, climb on the ceiling, and avoid any obstacle because they have an algorithmic pathfinding. They are unpredictable, fast and very aggressive. They are really challenging enemies.

What is worse is that the exocels can also regenerate dead bodies. So you have to keep them away from the corpses of the enemies you have just shot.
The key of the combat is then fast reactions, fast decisions: will you kill the exocels first? Or do you prefer to blow the head of the bodies, allowing the exocel to come after you? Now imagine there are 2-3 exocels and 6-7 crew members. In a melee, the combat becomes very strategic and each player can handle the combat in a different manner.

But on the ship the crew members are also attacking the mercenaries. Onboard the Eastern Spirit you will sometimes discover scenes where mercenaries are surrounded by crew members. You can engage the combat from the second you step into the room, or choose to wait to see how things are progressing, wait for the mercenaries to get killed or join them because this way you can kill all the crew members cooperating with them. But then they are likely to go after you…

Now add the rolling of the ship, the moving objects, and items in the background that can explode…The combat is never the same in Cold Fear and that is really new, especially for a horror game. We finally got rid of the repetitive combats that were a trademark of the genre. In Cold Fear you must have a tactical approach to combats if you want to survive.

Q : What are your favorite features of the game, and why?

AV : There many things we like in the game. But recently we have developed a special weapon, a speargun that releases a chemical substance that disorients the enemies. It is really fun to play with the harpoon because it gives you a big advantage, and it deepens the tactical aspect of the combats.

Q : How will horror feature in Cold Fear? What kind of emotions will players be encouraged to feel?

AV: We want Cold Fear to be brutal, keeping the player constantly under pressure and then shock him with very aggressive enemies and gore events. As Tom, the player will often jump out of his seat, but as I said before we also have a grasping storyline that leaves room for other emotions…

Q : What are the differences between the game’s different platforms?

AV : For the moment we are focusing on the graphical enhancement on each platform. On Xbox we are using great features; the environment cast shadows, and as the environment is in motion this is even more immersive, especially when your flashlight casts light on your enemies. We also use pixel and vertex shaders, for the clothes wet aspect. All these enhancements will also be available on PC. But we are especially proud of the PS2 version. Creating the storm was a real challenge, we made specific efforts on the SFX that are a bit of Darkworks’ trademark now.

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