Cold Winter

The best things, apparently, come to those who wait. Which is gravy for those with saintly patience, but utter bollocks for us impatient grizzlers who are going to have to wait until next winter to play Cold Winter. The good news though is, if all goes to plan, it's going to be worth the angst. Hear this: if Cold Winter continues to progress at its current level, this could be - putting all our protein rich shells in one wicker cask - the best FPS to ever grace the PS2. With nine months of development left and the backbone of the game firmly in place, the remaining development time can be spent getting an already-polished game sparkling like the family silver.

The game begins with the hero, SAS operative Andrew Sterling, in a bit of a mess - in that he's locked down in a Chinese prison with an execution warrant on his head. Fortunately for Sterling, help is at hand and the first mission sees you shooting your way out of the prison and off to relative safety while fireworks fizz all over the sky - not to celebrate your escape of course, but because it happens to be the Chinese new year. It's a good job the Chinese firing squad get New Year's Eve off then.

From there, the game's story branches out into three intriguing plot lines that take Andrew all over the world, before eventually all linking up with each other to form the basis of the story.

Comparisons with other FPSs are obvious, but Cold Winter is aiming to set itself apart from the rest of the bunch with some unconventional takes on gameplay. Interestingly, there are no medipacks in the levels with which to boost your energy. Instead, whenever you feel the need, you can top up your health levels and continue shooting. Of course, these energy boosts will take a little bit of time - Sterling has to actually inject himself and apply a bandage to heal fully - so it's probably not a wise move to top yourself up in middle of a gun battle, a bit like Freedom Fighters.

Using items is another aspect that breaks from the norm. No longer can you wander around and simply pick up the items that will help you solve puzzles, because you'll have to use your head to get yourself out of sticky spots - after all, that's what anyone in the Special Forces would have to do. If you want to get past a code-locked door, rather than shooting everyone and hoping that they'll drop a keycard, you could combine some wires and circuit board in the inventory to make a code cracker. The same flexibility applies to the non firearms weapons too - combine a clock, some wires and some explosive to make a timed mine, or mix petrol, some rags and a bottle to make a petrol bomb. See, this game is all about minor details, and to make things even more interesting, you can search every dead body that you see. Some may be carrying something good, others may have nothing on their person, but you'll be able to find out by looking at their waistline, because you can see every item that an enemy's carrying by looking at their belt.

Yes, Cold Winter is going to be that good...

Although it won't be out until the end of 2004, Cold Winter already looks the bomb