Cold Fear Review


Zombie mutants, a dark conspiracy, low lighting, a lone gunman with limited ammo … sounds like a survival horror game alright. The situation may not be novel, but Cold Fear makes up for this by dropping the game into the heaving hull of a Russian whaler caught in a gale. This gives the game a lot of potential for some innovative gameplay and the game does have some success on this point. However, tired old issues such as poor camera controls and an iffy shooting system weigh this title down.

Screenshots
Rough seas are just as deadly as mutants.

In Cold Fear you are Tom Hansen, a US Coast Guard officer aboard a cutter sent to investigate a floundering Russian whaler. Before you can know it, everyone is dead and you’re alone on the heaving deck of the ship. This is a great start to the game as you quickly learn that you’ll have to fight the environment as well as any enemies if you’re to survive the night. Waves come crashing over the side of the ship, and if you don’t time your movement with the roll of the ship then at best you’ll take some damage and at worse you’ll find yourself in Davy Jones’ Locker. The sway of the ship also creates additional hazards in the form of swinging booms, crates, and machinery, and again timing is crucial to your well-being. This all makes for a tense and engrossing atmosphere but unfortunately you’ll soon encounter the game’s problem points, the first of which is navigating your way around the ship.

You’ll often receive objectives that tell you to go to a certain room or point on the ship, but getting to these places is always a challenge. Locked doors abound, as do rooms with only a single entrance and dead end corridors, giving the ship a maze-like feel. The rooms and corridors have a decidedly similar dark and rusted look and quickly begin to look the same - far too many of the corridors and rooms look alike, driving home a feeling of repetition as you move from one room to the next and back again.  There is no in-game map either, so you’re left trying to remember where you last saw a locked door with a keycard reader or a room that you need to revisit. You will soon be thoroughly sick of tracking back and forth through the ship, even more so because you’ll face a load screen just about every time that you enter a room.

The game does try to provide navigational help in an innovative way by placing signs here and there in Russian. Luckily Hansen can read Russian, so if you want a hint you just need to pause by a sign and he will translate. Unfortunately, this is only of minor usefulness in practice as it only gives you a vague sense of where you are ... and only if you also consult the manual’s minimalist map of the ship.