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March 28, 2005
Cold Fear - Review
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An enemy gets close...
Survival horror games are a dime a dozen these days, and it takes something really special to stand out. Even Capcom's Resident Evil games were stagnating in recent years until Resident Evil 4 was unleashed on Gamecube recently (and is heading to PS2 late this year or early next). Fortunately for PS2 owners Ubisoft have provided an alternative during the wait for Capcom's title with Cold Fear. First announced in October last year Cold Fear, which was developed at Darkworks, has a couple of unique features which help to raise it above the rest, but are they enough?

In Cold Fear players step into the role of Tom Hansen, a U.S. Coast Guard from Alaska who is sent to board a drifting Russian whaling ship in the middle of a howling storm on the Bering Sea, who will discover there is no safe place here. On this constantly rocking and shifting ship and a mysterious oil rig, players must turn their interactive surroundings to their advantage to take down human enemies – and enemies that aren’t human any more - and save their own life.

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Don't get washed overboard!
So it's a survival horror game, what's so unique then. Well let's start with the setting, a ship. This isn't a massive cruise ship but rather a whaling ship which is rather confined, but contains enough areas to explore to keep the game interesting. Being on a ship the most impressive aspect is the way is pitches and rolls in the swells. Having been on several ships in the past, including being one some of the roughest seas imaginable, I can honestly say the developers have done a superb job of capturing the feel and motion. This movement provides some unique gameplay opportunities. The first is that items slide and move around and if you're not careful will knock you over inflicting damage, or worse, send you over the edge of the ship to your death. It's not all bad as these moving objects can also be used to your advantage if you lure enemies into the path of these objects.

As you run around the ship you will also see a resistance gauge which shows you how much grip you have on the ship's deck. If it gets too low you may end up in a dangerous slide across the deck. Fortunately by pressing the triangle button you can grab onto objects to help steady yourself. It's an interesting feature that adds a new twist to the gameplay.

Cold Fear is played from a third person perspective it is possible to switch to an over the shoulder perspective which makes aiming with your weapon including handgun, shotgun or machine gun to name a few, at enemies much easier. Speaking of weapons, or should that be ammunition, the amount you can carry is fairly low so it's important to use your weapon wisely. Headshots will kill enemies with one bullet, certainly better then several shots to the body. Even better is shooting barrels, fire extinguishers and many other objects which will kill any enemies nearby - often several at a time. One thing to note about the enemies, they aren't like typical zombies - slow moving and hopeless in attack - no, these enemies literally run at you and then attack with all they've got. You'll have to be quick on the trigger if you want to survive.

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Quite bloody!
So the game has enough original elements to make it a title to take note of, but it's not perfect. The biggest issue which I have are the load times when going through every door, much like Capcom's Resident Evil titles. This wouldn't be too bad if it were a second or two, but these are generally between 5-8 seconds each time. Quite annoying when you enter the wrong door and have to go straight back through it. Another slight disappointment is that the resistance gauge isn't used in enough situations and becomes more of a secondary gameplay element when it could have been elevated to a crucial gameplay aspect.

After playing Cold Fear I have really come to respect the graphics. What you must keep in mind is that unlike a normal title which occurs on steady ground the animators of Cold Fear had to compensate for character leaning in 8 different directions (up, down, left, right and the four diagonals) as well as steady meaning that the game required 9 times the animation of most other titles. In total the animators had to create over 5,000 different animations for the title. It really is a wonderful technical accomplishment. The cut scenes, while brief and infrequent, do the job to tell the story. On a not so impressive note the enemies look too similar with animation that could have been a little smoother.

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Out on the deck.
Sound is one of the more disappointing aspects of this title. The speech is fairly good, no problems there however it's the lack of sound effects range that hurts with limited sound from enemies and weapons. The music is quite nice but becomes quite repetitive very quickly.

Cold Fear is a great title with a couple of problems which hold it back from reaching its full potential. The load times between each level this late in the PS2's life is criminal and detracts from the gameplay while the game should have had a slightly longer running time. Still, if you like survival horror games, and who doesn't, then this is worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThis game really is impressive in terms of graphics. Love the motion!
SOUNDSound effects are unfortunately limited. The music is quite exciting.
GAMEPLAYThe loading really starts to eat into the fun value which is high.
VALUEThe Hard and Extreme difficulties are tough, but it's not overly long.
OVERALLCold Fear is a good survival horror title let down by some horrible load times when entering each room. Nice graphics and sound can be found throughout and it's a game which fans of the genre would do well to check out.

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