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Cold Winter

Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Swordfish Studios

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PS2 Preview - 'Cold Winter'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Cold Winter is set in a dark world of global espionage, full of international intrigue, action and suspense. This story of a disavowed secret agent unfolds through three different threads and takes place in eight distinct environments that are as gritty as they are beautiful. Cold Winter will also incorporate a variety of immersive environments, from the dank hopelessness of a Chinese prison, to the exotic beauty of cities like Cairo and Hong Kong.

Cold Winter (PS2)
Developer: Swordfish Studios
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Release Date: Q1 2005

If the Cold War’s over, no one bothered to tell Andrew Sterling. A captured MI-6 agent, he’s endured months of torture in a Chinese prison, and expects to be killed at any moment. Suddenly, thanks to an old friend, he’s free, armed, and has a shot at escape. His problems, strangely, are just beginning.

Cold Winter is a first-person shooter, both like and unlike any other. You may have seen gore zones, ragdoll physics, and intelligent enemies in a FPS before now, but you rarely see them all at once. Using a brand new middleware engine coded specifically for the game, Cold Winter is meant to include “elements of many great shooters,” and to wed them with an understated story that’s reportedly quite unlike anything that’s been seen in a game before now.

It’s certainly unlike any other FPS we’ve seen on the PS2 up to this point. Most of the good ones have been watered-down ports of Xbox games, or multiplatform titles. Cold Winter is an exclusive for the system (the xbox version was cancelled a while ago), and does things I didn’t think the PS2 could do. The graphics are clear, without a hint of being murky despite some truly dark environments (somebody should speak to the Chinese about how badly-lit their prisons are), and the FMVs show an attention to detail and drama that very few games, on any platform, display.

Maybe it’s just a matter of coding specifically for the PS2; maybe there’s dark magic involved here somewhere. I suppose it doesn’t matter. Cold Winter has a lot of the bells and whistles that, let’s face it, you’re not used to seeing in a PS2 shooter.

Of course, the usual first-person shooter details are in effect. Cold Winter boasts an arsenal of more than thirty weapons and gadgets, such as night-vision goggles, a GPS watch, poison, truth serum, lock picks, phone bugs, and a PDA.

Your environment is fully interactive. Both you and your enemies can kick over tables or crates to use as cover, and if you’re totally out of options, you can toss furniture at a guy to knock him out. There’s a lot of stuff lying around, and you can pick it up or kick it over as you see fit, a la a Havok-engine game like Max Payne 2. Using a special mechanic, you’ll be able to use some of these objects to create new weapons, traps, and tools.

(I feel kind of stupid, saying “You can pick up a chair!” as though it’s an unpredecented and amazing act. It’s plenty swell as part of a first-person shooter, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a bizarre statement to have to make. It’s like video games are marching towards adulthood, and in the next gen, we’ll all be enthused about having to tie our shoes and ride bikes without training wheels.)

When you’re in a firefight, your opponents will retaliate using actual tactics, and more sophisticated AI than any I’ve seen on PS2 up to this point. If you dive for cover, they’ll yell directions to each other, and try to flush you out with grenades. An enemy soldier won’t just run out at you like a screaming moron, but will advance cautiously while his buddies provide suppressive fire.

The fun only starts there; when they’re shot, enemy soldiers won’t bloodlessly kick over, but will instead realistically spray blood. Bodies, whether flung by the shockwave from an explosion or lying limply in a hall after a firefight, can be dragged around and placed in less obvious locations, to prevent other guards from seeing them, or to make sure they do.

In the final version, we’re told that you’ll have a variety of ways for you to succeed, without the “shoot everyone along this straight and conveniently open path” linearity that often plagues console FPSes. <I>Cold Winter</I> already has a certain degree of replayability in that regard, based upon its enemies; it’s very difficult to see them do the same thing twice.

At Vivendi’s pre-E3 event, they could “neither confirm nor deny multiplayer at this time.” That being said, they accidentally (?) showed <I>Cold Winter’s</I> title screen for a couple of seconds, where the online and multiplayer options in the main menu were clearly visible.

There’s about a year and a half to go in <I>Cold Winter’s</I> dev cycle, and a lot could change between then and now. If it were to be released tomorrow, though, <I>Cold Winter</I> would be something of a breakthrough on PS2, pushing back the boundaries of what the system was thought to be able to accomplish. In the next few months, we’ll be getting our hands on later versions, so keep watching this space. I have a good feeling about this one.

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