Cold Winter review

PSM2 investigates claims that this could be the new GoldenEye.

The new GoldenEye' tag is something that gets bandied about too often in videogames, and it's one that's already been stuck on to Cold Winter, thanks, mainly, to the fact that one of the programmers of this worked on that particular N64 classic.

It's a huge burden to carry, one that the supposed 'sequel', EA's Rogue Agent, failed to withstand and it's one that Cold Winter desperately tries to live up to, but can't quite manage it.

In fact, the first couple of stages of Cold Winter are so far from GoldenEye's taut precision, it's hard to understand where the comparisons could come from.

Boring weapons, unimaginative level design and, mystifyingly, an infinite medipack (even on the hardest setting) strip what should be a fraught, desperate escape from a Chinese prison (the game's all to do with the Cold War and international espionage, by the way) into a simple case of rushing the guards head-on and, should you approach death, nipping round a corner to use your medipack. It's an absolute, gutting let-down.

This is followed by a mystifyingly pointless jaunt round some empty Cairo alleys, attaching surveillance cameras to the walls. Jeez. And then, suddenly, you walk into a massive shootout in a hotel and duck, dive and blast away with a huge grenade launcher - and everything feels good.

Yes, despite the inauspicious beginning, there's a lot to love about Cold Winter.

There's the way almost any object in the gaming environment can be pulled about and manipulated to create impromptu cover from gunfire.

Tables can be overturned, piles of barrels can be used to hide behind, and you can even crouch beside a dumpster and push it along to protect yourself from sniper fire. It all adds a (admittedly fairly simple) tactical side to the wanton bloodshed.

But the object manipulation offers more than just a way to shield yourself from gunfire - there's scope for all kinds of entertaining diversions.

Stack some explosive barrels on top of each other and see how big a bang you can create. Blast away the supports on some nearby canopies and watch the enemies perched upon them plummet to the ground. Kick a melon around the pavement and have a game of football. Hell, it's more fun than FIFA Street. It's all a big playpen. But without the babies.

Another twist that Cold Winter offers is the snappily-titled 'combine item mechanic', which lets you take anything that you find lying around and create brand new items out of them.

Find some cloth, a bottle and some petrol to make a Molotov cocktail. Find a tank of petrol and, er, an alarm clock to make a timed explosive. Then there's lockpicks, more explosives and a few others as you progress.

Some of these are reliant on the same component parts, however, meaning you have to decide whether you're best off using, say, a Molotov in your current situation or having a quick scout round to see if you can find the elements needed for a mine.

How do you find these things? Why, by looting the corpses of the dead. Obviously.

And the physics are nothing short of fantastic. Men crumple convincingly as you shoot them.

Blast them in the leg, and it'll give way from under them. If they're at the top of the stairs, they'll tumble down in exactly the right way. Shoot them in the arm and it's likely to drop to the floor. Head shots create a fountain of blood. Blow up a load of explosives near them and laugh mercilessly as they go flying through the air, arms waving pathetically, and crash, lifeless, to the floor.

And yet - big set-pieces apart - it's never all that exciting. The infinite medipack robs the game of its sense of urgency - yes, you'll definitely die if you're caught in concerted gunfire or if you're simply just blown up, but even then, you'll restart near-enough exactly where you left off anyway.

And OK, you don't have to use it, but you try resisting the sweetness of immortality when you're about to die near the end of an epic gun battle.

Other problems? The multiplayer mode is too slow for words to even describe and it's completely pointless playing it.

Then there's that Cold Winter makes a big deal about its variety of locations - India, Hong Kong, China, etc - but then plonks you in utterly familiar environments - a warehouse in China doesn't look any different to a warehouse in Chichester, after all.

But the major problem is, like Project Snowblind, that it's just too easy. It's a lot like GoldenEye, certainly, but the joy of that was beating its unforgiving nature. This is GoldenEye with stabilisers, GoldenEye: Early Learning Centre Edition. Colossal fun, in many ways, but almost without challenge. Damn.

Cold Winter is out for PS2 on the 3 June

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