Cold War: On Your Own Behind the Iron Curtain
By Alex D.
Chaos, violence, conspiracies, the potential for a third world war and lots of sneaking: although this isnâ€™t another Splinter Cell title, Cold War can easily be compared to the king of stealth action titles due to the eerie resemblances in the gameplay mechanics. Even though the game is economically priced and features an interesting gadget creation system comparable to the stylings of MacGyver, it still suffers from severe flaws that hamper it down and make it seem like a poor manâ€™s Splinter Cell.
The year is 1986 and the Cold War is finally ending. The United States and the Soviet Union are taking the first steps toward developing a relationship of cooperation and friendship, although there are some who do not believe this is for the best. Among these extremists is the radical leader of the KGB, with a plan to frame an American in a plot to assassinate the Soviet President during the course of a secret meeting. Meanwhile, the game follows the story of Matthew Carter, an intrepid journalist on his way to Moscow with the hopes of breaking the story of a lifetime after receiving a tip from an informant. Unfortunately, he plays right into the plans of Barinsky, the head of the KGB, and ends up finding himself in the midst of an international conspiracy that could explode into World War III.
Sure, Matthew is no Sam Fisher, but he does have the wit required to keep him alive. Players will have opportunities to use a variety of weaponry, such as pistols and rifles. In certain areas guns arenâ€™t always a viable solution, so Carter will be forced to take down enemies in an â€˜up close and personalâ€™ fashion with a swift punch to the back of the head. If confrontation isnâ€™t your thing, thereâ€™s a variety of gadgets to make use of, the most notable one being the X-Ray camera that allows you to see through walls, knock out guards and ignite inflammable items. Carter comes packing with many other devices, but most lack originality and arenâ€™t worth mentioning.
Another impressive feature in Cold War is the gadget creation system, allowing the player to turn the most basic of items into useful contraptions. Items such as plastic bottles and bullets can be utilized to fashion non-lethal rubber bullets, while a rag and anesthetics can be used to silently neutralize guards whose bodies can be searched for additional items. Environments can also be scavenged for anything of use. The gadget creation system is rather basic; players simply press a button while in the menu and the newly created piece finds its way into your inventory. Peppered throughout the locales are blueprints for Matthew to steal, which provide him with â€˜tech pointsâ€™ that can be spent towards new gadgets. The system is basic but unusual, and is one of the gameâ€™s stronger points.
Gameplay-wise, players will immediately notice the similarities between Cold War and Splinter Cell, and trust me, they are plentiful. Whenever presented with an option such as opening a door, collecting an item or knocking out a guard, a menu will appear in the top-right corner presenting players with their available choices. Itâ€™s a useful way of accommodating a large amount of choices with the simple press of a button. Outside the interactive choices, players do little else but move and fire their weapons. When shooting a weapon, the camera will shift to an over-the-shoulder angle for aiming, but this system fails when moving and aiming togetherâ€”Carter appears to navigate in an extremely robot-like automated fashion, which is rather odd.
Much like in Splinter Cell, Cold War revolves around eluding capture and hiding in the shadows, which players will do a fair amount of. In the bottom right of the screen resides the HUD, which displays the item Matt has equipped along with a few stealth indicators, such as your visibility, health and the enemy alertness level.
The gameâ€™s A.I. is rather basic but gets the job done; soldiers will respond to noises you create, whether by snapping your fingers or throwing something, and if you are discovered, the alert level will rise and your foes will be a lot more cautious (as well as armed with heavier weapons). For the most part, the soldiers do a credible job and are quick to notice Matthew and eliminate him in a couple of shots, so disposing of them is key. Later in the game, the enemies become a lot tougher and sport better equipment including helmets, night vision goggles and body armor, which stops them from being knocked out from behind and forces players to use long-range weapons. In the end, it all comes down to shooting them in the back of the head or in the face before they get a chance to identify and kill Carter.
The audio-visual aspect of the game is nothing to brag about either. Most of the environments feel extremely drab and are composed mainly of dimly-lit rooms and corridors along with muddy shadows. The models look a little better, but feel run-of-the-mill more than anything else. The worst part resides in the gameâ€™s â€˜cutscenes,â€™ which are merely a set of animated stills that ruin any illusion of immersion or suspense. The voice acting is borderline passable, but the gameâ€™s soundtrack is easily forgettable.
In the end, Cold War canâ€™t help but reek of mediocrity. For its low price, it might provide a bit of fun for a few hours, but in the end, I couldnâ€™t shake the feeling that I was playing a dumbed-down version of Splinter Cell. While the graphics and sound are merely ok, the game does provide a couple of interesting twists such as the gadget creation system, but the few highlights simply cannot make up for the flaws that plague the game.