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Cold Winter

If you ask anyone what they remember most about grizzly anti-terrorist shooter Soldier of Fortune, nine times out of 10 they'll mention the gore.

The game was made famous for giving players the opportunity to not only kill, but to dismember. Legs, arms, heads... all could be removed by a well-placed, suitably-powerful gunshot. It was crude, over the top and existed purely to make what was an average shooter stand out from the crowd.

You can indulge in the same sort of body alterations in Cold Winter, with equally gruesome results. Shoot someone often enough and you're left with a bloodied limbless torso that resembles a rack of meat you'd see hanging in a butcher's shop, flies and all.

It's all quite horrible. But the gore has more reason to exist here than in Solider of Fortune as everything is interactive (not just the limbs of dead soldiers), which all works towards giving the game its authenticity.

For instance, if you see a chain hanging from the ceiling, or a table or bed on the floor, then you can interact with it. Sometimes doing so is pointless, other times it's essential, such as when you have four angry guards shooting at you and your only possibility of defence is hiding behind an overturned table.

The overall graphical sheen does suffer slightly for this extra level of interactivity, looking slightly out of date in places. But this is the unavoidable trade-off when you make a game where any seemingly irrelevant object can be moved, picked up and thrown.

Character AI reacts well to your presence, with enemies displaying caution and even going for cover themselves when you open up on them. And different types of guard display different levels of intelligence: some squads, for example, are entirely useless once you've taken out their commanding officer. It's in the detail that this game will impress.

During your time killing people and wandering through the game you'll come across a range of items (ordinarily by searching dead soldiers), which can be stored and cobbled together later to create makeshift weapons, A-team style.

For example, you'll find lots of rags and for a while you'll wonder why, until you realise that these can be combined with bottles to make molotov cocktails: a pretty useful weapon for setting groups of soldiers on fire.

Our only reservations with the game regard its difficulty. Any sense of challenge might be nullified by two key factors.

The first issue is with your health. You don't smash open crates or find medi-packs in order to keep healthy. In Cold Winter you have an inexhaustible supply of health within your backpack and can inject yourself at any moment you choose, which will probably end up being after each gunfight.

The second concerns saving your game. Or rather the auto quick save function that removes any sense of urgency and panic by backing up your progress each time you pass any sort of main battle.

These two elements have been implemented to keep players moving forward, ensuring they don't get bored and frustrated by having to repeat lengthy sections of infuriatingly tough opposition. But if the challenge is completely removed the sense of achievement will surely be lost?

As well as the extensive single-player game, four people can play split-screen or, alternatively, eight players can run amok within the confines of this fully interactive world: shooting, overturning tables and throwing frying pans and garden furniture at each other.

Will this be PS2's best shooter yet? Well, quite possibly. It's not as pretty as Killzone but it's got more going on, that's for sure. The real challenge is how it will compare to Xbox's genre-leading Halo 2.

Cold Winter is due for release sometime this spring