As he squints through light starved eyes, MI6 agent John Cord can just about make out the faces of his torturers, the evil Dimitri Nagarov and his thug sidekick Lukyan. Drugged and weak, Cord struggles hard to remember how he came to be in such a predicament.
The one thing that he knows for certain is that he was betrayed, but by who and why escapes him. He definitely remembers his mission objective, which was to track down a missing agent. He also recalls that what began as a simple task became far more complicated, changing instead to the prevention of a nuclear holocaust. As Cord's memory gradually returns, he starts to tell his story right from the very beginning, and this is where the game begins, playing out a succession of John's memories, until you finally discover just what went wrong, and who it was that betrayed Cord.
In Cold Blood is an arcade adventure game set in Volgia, a former republic of Russia, giving the game an instant grim atmosphere from the start. You meet up with freedom fighter Gregor Kostov, who helps you at the beginning of the game, and will pop up again throughout at key moments...
Stealthy Does It
You can choose to play the game in two ways, either as a headless chicken topping any guards that move, or the far more beneficial stealth method. Cord can creep along silently and unleash a lethal chop to the back of the head. Not only does this conserve your bullets for more volatile situations, but it also doesn't alert other guards to your presence.
One thing that Revolution have tried to achieve is the feeling that you are not just one guy going up against the guards, but part of a living world. Technicians and other servants of Nagarov go about their business, and most of them will find time to chat with Cord, often providing vital information. Robots also patrol the buildings, but these are impervious to your gunfire, requiring accurate timing to evade them or sabotage their recharge stations.
Cord is equipped with the handy REMORA wrist device, enabling him to hack into security systems, keep a full database on everyone he meets, and display a radar scan of his immediate surroundings. The latter is extremely useful for showing you how many guards are in a particular room, or whereabouts a patrolling robot currently is.
The emphasis is clearly on communication. You will often find that having spoken to somebody once, you can revisit them later in the game to squeeze more information from them relating to subjects that you have discussed with other characters in the meantime. This even includes some totally irrelevant conversation threads, like chatting about a football game which two guys are watching! A truly inspired feature is the ability to threaten the characters with your gun, sometimes reaping greater information rewards.
Controlling Cord is sometimes very frustrating though, with a tendency for the controls to be overly sensitive to your key presses, resulting in your character facing in completely the wrong direction. With this finicky setup it becomes almost laborious to get Cord to walk into tight areas. Another real annoyance is the occasionally poor sensing of actionable areas - you can sometimes be miles away from a door, press action on something else, and the game will think that you have selected the door button rather than what you were intending to press. When time is against you, as it is later on in the game, this can be scream inducing!
The whole game plays and feels like you are in a movie, with the plot intelligently woven around FMV sequences of Cord with his torturers. The movies are superbly rendered, and owing to his drugged up state of mind are fairly confusing to follow, as you would expect. Clips of equal quality are also used throughout to depict poignant sections of the game.
It's not just the FMV clips that give the whole film-like feel though; the voice acting is exceptionally good, making you actually care about the characters. Cord's English voice is calm but with dark undertones suggesting you really should not mess with him, and the bad guys really do sound like they mean business.
Every person you come across speaks with their own individual voice, along with varied personalities. A lot of humour has been injected into the dialogue too, keeping things nicely balanced and entertaining. When you meet up with the male and female technicians who are arguing over a stupid hat, you will know what I mean!
On first playing the game I was immediately reminded of the classic arcade adventure "Beneath A Steel Sky". The graphical design and overall look is very distinguishable, and I was not surprised at all to learn that the team behind In Cold Blood also created the aforementioned title.
The pre-rendered backdrops look excellent, and in most cases include spot animations to give them some added life. The animations are simple but very effective, like the light fittings juddering on the land-train, or the soft ripple of water in the mines. Great care has been taken to make sure you never have your vision obscured by the camera angle or a piece of scenery, making for trouble-free scuffles with guards.
The characters also look very nice, well animated and appearing solid against the backgrounds. They do however lack in facial detail, which is quite surprising when you consider how much dialogue there is in the game, where facial expressions would have enhanced things even further. Not all of the animations are good though, with Cord's running style causing laughter when I don't think it should...
The game is not without its faults. A lot of the time you will find that guiding Cord into narrow gaps in the scenery, or positioning him such that he will climb a ladder, can be a royal pain in the backside. The controls are generally clumsy both on keyboard and joypad, with the character turning far too quickly at times, making collisions with walls and objects a frequent occurrence.
But aside from these quirks, In Cold Blood is a splendid adventure filled with humour and intrigue, challenging puzzles, and a beautifully scripted story. Thoroughly recommended.
8 / 10