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Reviewed: Cold War
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: November 10th, 2005
Page: 2
Cold War, from the shots on the box, looks like your standard FPS title. Don't be fooled - this is a spy simulation, through and through. The goal is to take "journalist" Matthew Carter, a man who was on his way to snap photos of a secret meeting between Russian and US officials during the Cold War, and instead is framed for an assassination, caught, stripped of all his gear, and tossed into a jail cell. From this point on, the goal shifts - instead of investigation, it's about escape. Unfortunately, from this point on is also where the game's premise falls apart.

Despite the fact that he's got minimal training at best, as well as no special forces experience, Matthew Carter is expected to perform in this game like entities from much better known spy titles. Aiding him in this is an uncanny knack for using guns, the fact that he can rig up just about anything he needs from household trash, and later in the game an X-ray camera that doesn't just see through walls but can cause other "interesting" effects. Yes, you get to play with cool toys. If only it made sense as to why...

Put in perspective: individually, the mechanics of Cold War are quite cool. Carter, upon exploring stages, can find secret documents worth tech points. Tech points are spent buying "blueprints" for makeshift gadgets - decoys, slingshots, ammunition, tools, and gear that he might need. Unfortunately, rather than actually seeing these built or being able to fiddle about creating the items, the game's mechanics are all about buying prearranged gadgets. You even get to know in advance which ones you're buying.

When it comes to sneaking, the game utilizes a stealth meter, something that's been in every stealth title since Looking Glass gave us Thief. Carter also has the amazing ability to cause noises by throwing things, or snapping his fingers, trying to lure guards to discreet places for disabling. At least, that's the plan - more often than not, the guards are amazingly quick witted and perceptive and will find and shoot Carter dead in the space of two or less bullets, unless he's standing in the predetermined spot where they're not going to see him anyways and/or bump into him on their preprogrammed investigation path. Save early, save often, and walking a fine line replace having a useful theory on defeating each puzzle, which isn't good for frustration.

As for shooting weapons, the game's a bit off there too. Drawing and readying a weapon brings up crosshairs, and as long as you're reasonably within range, a shot will go exactly where it's aimed. Painfully, the shooting screen's a bit off kilter from the normal behind-the-head view, and the animation for moving while holding a gun almost looks like sliding, which does nothing for players trying to be immersed in the experience.

The coolest gadget (and possibly best redeeming feature) of the game is the x-ray camera. The camera can look through walls, start fires, disable guards... hey, if our special forces had something like this today, espionage would be incredible. On the downside, this game is set during the Cold War; on the upside, this is exactly what you'd expect to see in an old spy movie. Score one for the writers, I guess. The acquisition of gear is also pretty reasonable; the vast majority is looted from downed enemies, rather than just lying out in the open, or else is looted from desks or other places where you'd actually expect to find the random objects. Nothing seemed too out of place the whole time. There's also the option to use sedatives on downed enemies to keep them down longer, although I was never sure (being careful about doing it whenever possible) whether it was really helping or just present for flavor.

Cold War will only run you $20, which is good, because it has some obvious imperfections. Even at that price, between the dodgy AI and the obvious plot holes, it's a purchase to be considered carefully.

Added:  Thursday, November 10, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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