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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 Diary #2 - Screens

by Judy on Jan. 11, 2005 @ 9:25 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.

The enemies in Cold Fear : Cyrille Combes (AI Programmer)

I developed some entities in the game, like the ExoMutant and the mercenaries, but I also worked on the weapons codes. From the beginning, our objective was to differentiate ourselves by providing aggressive and fast monsters that would put the player under pressure. Our objective in Cold Fear is to convey the fear through in-game action, putting the player in a state of shock.

The ExoMutants

Our work on the ExoMutants is based on aggressiveness and sudden behavioral changes. For example an ExoMutant will rush towards you with his weapon raised. Our objective was to emulate frantic human behavior rather than the slow movements of an undead. This is particularly evident in the strangle move.

ExoMutants: “Our objective was to transcript a frantic human behavior rather than a zombie”

Aggressive AI

The behavior of the ExoMutants is really aggressive and totally independent; so independent in fact that they do not only attack the player.

For instance, they’ll lose their focus on you in order to attack a nearby mercenary. The mercenary will have a volatile reaction. He will begin to shoot at every mutant, without differentiating between you and the mutant. Throughout the game, you will often witness fights between mutants and other entities. It is up to you to use the situation at your advantage. I’d suggest that you shoot at the enemies that are most numerous.

“Mutants and mercenaries really hate each other”

Enemies allow many different combat situations

A mutant can suddenly rush towards you, so you may want to shoot it in the legs from far away to slow him down. The hosts can use many different weapons including a monkey wrench, knife, a hook, and even a firearm that has fallen to the ground.

As a result, combat is really fun. You can electrocute mutants by throwing them into electric devices propel them off the boat by shooting them with a shotgun or throw them to the sea using the shotgun. The mutants become unpredictable when caught in the flames of a flamethrower, spreading the fire and surrounding objects, potentially including you.

The ship also adds a level of unpredictability to the mutant’s behavior. A breaker or swaying cables can kill a mutant. Over 20 death animations provide an animation to fit every situation.

Critical Hit directing

My favorite feature is the critical hit. Hand-to-hand fighting in horror games can get quite repetitive and boring. We really wanted to develop something spectacular like a special move to get rid of the monsters grasp. We could have used the cross hit, but we wanted more.

First we worked on the camera movement. The grab, strangle and release of segments in a sequence includes special direction. The camera follows the enemy’s movements we creating the illusion of a real struggle. If you manage to press ‘action’ fast enough during a predefined amount of time, you are given the opportunity to blast the head of the mutant with a special, single shot in its mouth. The timing for this special move is quite short, offers the player a great payoff. The whole action takes place in slow-motion and ends with blood splattered screen.

“The critical hit is a big reward for the player”.

The weapons: an essential in Cold Fear gameplay.

In Cold Fear we really wanted to load the player up with firepower. We didn’t want him to be in a situation of weakness, so equipped him with powerful weapons like submachine guns, assault rifles and others that are typically found in war games. However, each weapon has a huge impact on gameplay, so the player has to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each.

AK47: The recoil for the AK47 is very strong and increases if you continue to fire. For this reason, it is better to fire with short bursts.

Shotgun: The shotgun is powerful but slow. It is best used at short range, especially when trying to blow an enemy away.

MP5: The MP5 is my favorite weapon. It is fast, precise and features a torchlight.

Flamethrower: The flamethrower is particularly deadly. It kills your enemies on the spot. It also allows you to destroy some objects on the ship, including crates. You must be cautious of the direction of the wind when using the flamethrower outdoors because of a back draft system. Back drafts can cause you to miss your target or, in a worst case, cause you to set yourself on fire. A gasoline magazine allows you to use the flamethrower for only 30 seconds, so you have to let your enemies approach you before you can use the flamethrower effectively. It is the ultimate weapon against the Exocels.

Grenade launcher: The grenade launcher is a short-range, very powerful weapon that can easily kill several enemies with one shot. The grenade’s bounce is monitored with physics, but due to the rocking ship it can be inaccurate and will roll back to you. Because it can be unpredictable, it should be used cautiously.

Speargun: The speargun is absolutely crucial. It works like a harpoon. The player can shoot arrows into walls or enemies. But its uniqueness lies in the substance contained in the arrows, which spreads a gas that will attract your enemies. So you can shoot an arrow in a dangerous area, then shoot a an explosive barrel for instance to kill all of your enemies with one bullet. This is the ultimate weapon for the player, although it will have very limited ammunition.

Balancing the weapons

Balancing a set of weapons requires a lot of tuning - damage, range of fire, rounds per second, accuracy. All the weapons in Cold Fear were designed to fit the ExoMutant. We did some additional tuning afterwards to fit with the other entities.

Once complete, we worked on balancing edge effects. The more you modify weapons to kill stronger monsters, the more likely it is that some weapons are too strong for basic enemies. You have to freeze the weapon settings and act more on the creature’s characteristics. The objective is to choose the appropriate weapon for each enemy, based on its various strengths and weaknesses.

The weapons of the enemies

Enemy weapons also require tuning. For example, the mercenaries use the AK47 and the handgun.
The handgun aims less accurately, but we tried to make the bullets fly close to the player to create the sensation of being in the middle of an intense gunfight. We have no friendly fire in the game. The enemies can hurt themselves in spite of the fact that their priority is still to protect themselves.

The Oil Rig Level Design: Arnaud Barros (Lead Computer Artist)

For the Star of Sakhalin platform design, we tried to reach new dimensions, differentiating the rig from the whaler ship. Our objective was to show vastness and a very broad perspective so the player had a sense for the many modules in the distance. We also re-created the environment at sea. From my point of view the result is even more impressive than on the whaler.

As the player gets familiar with his surroundings, the perspective from the vast environments help him take his marks.

Moreover the platform is not built in one piece. Rather, it is made of several different modules that offer several settings including environments that are scientific, industrial, underwater, or habitations. But I will stop here; I do not want to spoil everything.

“The star of Sakhalin oil rig: For the outdoor parts we wanted to offer greater perspectives – increasing visibility to see the different modules in the distance”

“There are four modules with different atmosphere. Here Tom explores the scientific module”.

Nicolas Castaing, Level Designer and Lead Level Builder

Right from the start, we wanted to offer an evolution in gameplay from the whaler to the oil rig. The whaler puts the focus on the storm, tights indoors, close-quarter combats and surprise effects. By it has far bigger dimensions, the oil rig means even more action-oriented gameplay, allowing to fight many more enemies and bigger creatures. The tension is built more progressively.

The military theme is also more present in this part of the game: there are more mercenaries and they are better organized: they put security systems for the doors and mines to protect themselves from the Exos.

“The Eastern Spirit ship: smaller place, and closer fear”.



“The star of Sakhalin: bigger creatures and more military action”.

Creatures like the Exomass or the ExoShade are more powerful, but we took care to always offer two or three different ways to fight them.

For example with the ExoShade you can take the risk to let it grab you and then attempt to perform a finishing move or you can use the shotgun to make it fall and carry on firing, thus preventing it from running away. And of course you can always use the speargun…

With all its network of pipes, the platform also offers many more interactive objects in its sceneries. Some pipes contain flammable gases; others are filled with pressured steam. The player really has to watch for the valves.

“ExoShade: you can take the risk to let it grab you”… “The player really has to watch for the valves”

The fear is more progressive in the oil rig. For instance there is a room in the game where at first you will only hear strange noises. The second time you enter it, some dust will fall from the ceiling, then on the third time, when you really are under pressure, something even more dreadful happens.

We tried to build a seamless course of events – visuals, sounds – all along the path in order to put the player under constant pressure. Sometimes it’s only a sound, a small FX, or a jolt, but it can also be the apparition of a creature. Therefore the player is really in his guard, he pays attention to the slightest unusual activity, not knowing when he will have to fight.

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