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April 5, 2005
Cold Winter - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
9/6/2005VivendiSnowblind Studios1-4, 8 $99.95

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Check out the blood spray.
Cold Winter is one of Vivendi's big 2005 titles and as such the game wasn't overly emphasised or presented at the 2004 E3 show - it was a little too early to be on full display. It was there however and even at that early stage it was looking pretty special. Developed in Europe by Swordfish Studios (the team behind World Championship Rugby, and formed from ex-Rage employees) Cold Winter is shaping up as a key title for Vivendi, especially as it isn't attached to a movie or TV license like so many of their other titles.

You are Andrew Sterling, a disavowed secret agent caught in the cat-and-mouse manipulations of Grey Wings, a shadow intelligence agency with a chilling agenda. In order to facilitate its mission, Grey Wings now pervades all aspects of politics, national intelligence and the highest echelons of human society. As Sterling you must fight through a complex web of international intrigue, double cross and sinister global interest, where friend and enemy are impossible to tell apart.

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Underground battles.
And how did you get in this mess? As an SIS operative, you had been working undercover in China, passing yourself off as a journalist. Caught taking photographs of a Chinese military establishment, the Chinese government has accused you of espionage, thrown you in prison, and sentenced you to be executed on the first day of Chinese New Year 2002. Happy friggin' holidays! Danny Parish, an old friend and SAS colleague whose life you once saved (at great peril to your own), now heads a security agency in Hong Kong, handling deniable jobs for all manner of covert agencies. Upon hearing the news about the noose around your neck and knowing that no one gives a bloody damn, he sends one of his agents to the rescue on the eve of Chinese New Year.

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Looking quite impressive.
In all the game threads together three seperate storylines which should be pretty special. In terms of gameplay Cold Winter allows gamers to pick up and throw objects or move them to create cover and to reveal alternative routes though the levels as well as multiple solutions to the mission problems. Players will have access to over 30 real world weapons and gadgets, such as pistols, sub machine guns, assault rifles and shotguns with more to be unveiled closer to the games release date. Cold Winter also incorporates a unique combined items system where the player can create additional weapons, traps and tools by collecting and combining objects in the environment.

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Some nice outdoor environments.
Vivendi are promoting the AI in this game. Enemies will operate in squads with leaders issuing commands to the grunts. Take out a grunt and the enemy squad will still operate effectively, take out the leader and they may fall into disarray. We've heard it before, some games manage it, others don't. Time will tell if Swordfish get this working effectively and realisticly.

As with any FPS title multi-player plays a major role in the longevity of the title. On a single console the developers are including support for 4-player split screen action. If you prefer to be online you'll be glad to hear that the game will include 8-player action through Gamespy (although the American website for the game indicates 12-players?). In total the game will include 12 multi-player maps, 30 different player skins and game modes such as "King of the Hill" and "Last Man Standing".

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Taking on the chopper.
Graphically Swordfish are including six highly detailed hyper-realistic environments including a Chinese Prison and North African Arms Fair. All areas include extensive lighting, shadow, and particle effects all thanks to the latest Criterion Renderware software. One of the most impressive aspects, as you can see in some of these screenshots, is the blood splattering effects. What you can't see are the realistic portrayal of body damage and death. Indeed the game will allow you to blow off limbs on enemies.

Cold Winter was originally expected to be released in late 2004, but development delays have pushed it to the current June 9th 2005 release date. I'm not concerned as this game looks fantastic and in the crowded FPS market on PS2 a game needs to really stand out to get noticed. Fortunately this game looks to have all the right ingredients.