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Cold Fear (Xbox) artwork

Cold Fear (Xbox) review


"'The Intruder Within' just called..."


Tom Hansen isn't having a good day. Instead of cracking open some cold brews and making bad jokes at this home, he has to fly to a whaling ship and respond to dire situation. Someone boarded the vessel, rattled the crew and killed a bunch of commandos. That doesn't sit well with special forces, so they sent Tom and his buddies in to clean up the place. It's all in a day's work in Cold Fear.

Tom lands on the boat and immediately has to deal with the elements. The boat drifts in the middle of a violent storm, while waves and rain pet the ship. The downpour limits Tom's visibility, making the act of trudging forward a chore at first. The world around you appears so murky and blurry that play becomes dizzying before long.

It also doesn't help that you can't rotate the camera normally. Walking around corners or scanning the vicinity would be much easier that way. Instead, you often end up traipsing blind through set pieces, sometimes careening into a hazard you otherwise would've dodged with little trouble. Of course, you can move the lens around while aiming, but that would mean having to hold the left trigger down for whole minutes at a time. Guess what you end up doing through most of the campaign? Unfortunately, aim mode doesn't allow you to run, so if you want to cover ground more quickly, then you need to switch back to the standard camera. More than a few times, you'll wonder why the developer didn't just go balls-out into the third-person shooter realm, a la Max Payne. I guess someone thought the game was scarier this way...

Here's the thing, though: this game isn't scary. Not even a little bit. It rehashes frights from previous survival-horror titles, but with greatly lessened effect. Any time you enter a room, you see possible points where the game's monsters (called "exocells") will leap out and attack you. You walk past a bunch of corpses in a freezer, and you know one of them is going to sit up. You pass a couple of cryo containers with human bodies in them, and you know one of them is going to burst out of the capsule. The experience is rote and predictable, and you can almost feel Tom's frustration with each eye roll-inducing, familiar scare device.

Bear in mind that the proceedings lean more toward action than horror. Whenever you encounter various exo-creatures, you don't often have the luxury of sneaking past them. If you try, they'll usually catch up to you and wear you down. Most survival-horror titles utilize the dread of running out of resources to drive its fear factor, but this one eliminates that woe by providing you with more than enough ammo and healing items. Dead bodies hold spare bullets, plus clips and shells linger all over both of the game's facilities (the aforementioned ship and an oil platform). Above all, though, both locations keep reserve ammunition stored in armories, which you can use to fully replenish your supply. Medkits also pop up occasionally, plus both areas feature sick bays with limited healing capabilities, plus corpses often drop restorative items when your hit points are low.

In other words, there's no reason to be afraid in Cold Fear. Tom is more than capable of kicking monster ass and weathering the storm, both literally and metaphorically.

Don't get me wrong, though; this really isn't a terrible horror-shooter. The true challenge emerges in the form of memorization. Pretty much the entire campaign sets up tasks that amount to "go to this place," but you don't receive an in-game map. You need to explore and memorize where locked doors lie or recall where certain rooms sit in relation to your current position. You also sometimes need to use your memory of the grounds to figure out handy detours, because sometimes nonsense blocks your path or doors or elevators become inexplicably locked.

Fire fights turn out to be pretty tense and enjoyable, as long as you can get past the awkwardness. It's irritating having to hold down the left trigger during an entire battle, especially since you don't have a traditional reticle. Instead, you need to pay attention to your laser sight, which can make precise aiming a pain. After you've adjusted to the mechanics, though, you'll find that taking headshots grows simpler to accomplish. Thankfully, you also receive a strong variety of weapons, ranging from a regular handgun to an AK-47 and a grenade launcher. You even locate a harpoon gun that fires scented spears, which draw exocells away from you. From there, you can either rain death upon the distracted beasts or run away.

The most enjoyable scenes involve the simpler enemies, placed in tiny rooms. Standard exocells and the infected people lumber about the place, sometimes cornering you. So you brandish a shotgun or pump bullets from an automatic or semi-auto like a man possessed, sometimes striking a fire extinguisher or explosive barrel to clear the scene more quickly.

The bestiary is fairly diverse, too. For instance, you might run afoul of a hulking monster called an "exomass," which drags one club-like arm beside it. If it gets too close, it'll bludgeon you to death. Another foe uses cloaking to its advantage, but pools of water give away its location. You can see the critter splashing along the water, racing toward you with flesh-eating glee. If you aren't able to put a bullet in it right way, it'll pounce and thrust you into a short QTE.

However, when it's all said and done, you release the left trigger and return to that clumsy, unnecessary survival-horror camera style. Cold Fear boasts no effective scares, mostly due to its cheesy action movie elements and unoriginal frights. You feel less like you're playing an interactive adaptation of "The Intruder Within" and more like you're watching a Dolph Lundgren flick with monsters. Just because the game features monsters and horror elements doesn't mean it needs to abide survival-horror standards. The game would've been better off with the camera constantly behind Tom's shoulder, with more desperate shootouts and larger crowds of monsters. I know this sounds like Resident Evil 4, but let's face it; there's a reason Resident Evil 4 still occasionally comes up in discussion these days, while Cold Fear slowly fades into obscurity...

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (October 08, 2019)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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