Cold Winter Reader Review
It's all quite familiar
Developed by Swordfish, you take on the role of ex-SAS and MI-5 operative, held prisoner in Hong Kong and abandoned by your former paymasters.
You are given the chance to escape a day before your execution by some old friends, they are in need of your services apparently. The opening prison escape mission serves as a tutorial, but is still no cakewalk for the un-initiate FPS player. Your first action, along with a few other game designs, is lifted from Halo. A simple follow at the light affair in order to familiarise yourself with the now standard 2-stick controls. Through the rest of the level tool-tips appear onscreen, drip feeding the controls on a need to know basis.
Pick me up
Immediately after following the light you are introduced to the health system. It's a remix of the Halo system, you are given a very short health bar which you can manually refill at any time by dabbing left on the d-pad, allowing you to get to full health when things are quiet. You'll need to use it far from the action as you are slow and vulnerable during the few seconds that you use it, it is thankfully interruptable by using the weapon swap on d-pad right. Your health will not always be damaged directly though, a much larger armour bar can be filled by finding vests or searching fallen foes.
It's like Deja Vu - but there's no purple blood
Yes, weapon swap. Halo certainly has left its legacy on console shooters. The two weapon limit is enforced with the usual fare of contemporary firearms are available, each with their benefits and their drawbacks. I don't need to list them, you've seen them all before. Although I will add that flamethrowers made the final cut, unlike a certain space themed shooter.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Grenades are also available, deployed with the alt-fire on R2. The type can be switched between many different flavours, from the humble frag to motion detection firebombs. Some of which you manufacture yourself using items you scavenge from the environment and guards, such as strips of cloth for your Molotovs. Explosives aren't the only thing you can build, locked doors and chests can be opened with the aid of bodged up hacking tools and lockpicks. Although this isn't entirely necessary for completion, this will allow you access to better weapons, more items to combine and for completists, tick off those secondary objectives.
The plot serves well to drive the story but is unsurprisingly detached from the player's actions. The voice acting is above average and flashback scenes aid to flesh out some of the main characters. The player is also tasked with gathering intel in the form of documents and posters, they serve more than just something to collect, they add to the story and can even give the player helpful hints.
Enemy AI can be a challenge, they use cover well, avoid grenades (but you can 'cook' most of them) but don't always try to flank you. Most stick to their predetermined zones but a few will give chase. The weapons feel adequately balanced, the usual accuracy to power trade off is present. This goes hand in hand with the extra damage dealt with head shots, which are often lethal resulting in a gory outcome. Enemies have a damage model that allows for the detachment of limbs and heads. Finding bodies to search for can be troublesome after large explosions, which are plentiful due to the large number of gas cannisters left lying around.
Level design is for the most part, linear but it is by no means a corridor shooter. There are plenty open areas giving a choice of path and cover and many levels boast alternate paths and out of the way places to explore. The final level itself is a sprawling complex which although is 'unlocked' linearly it opens up allowing you to choose your route as you complete the objectives.
Better than Black
Coldwinter should have been pushed more, it should have recieved more exposure. It's no Halo beater but equals it in many ways, betters it in some and fails it in others. Combatwise, I can closely compare it to Critereon's Black but I can also say that overall Coldwinter is a much better game. More forgiving, more invention on part of the developer and more scope for invention by the player, it's more fun.
8 / 10