In Cold Blood Review
By Chris Commodore |
Who doesn't like Spy games? Spies are the next best thing to superheroes, and even better because everyone (other than foreign government officials) seems to love them. Good looking, nice clothes, big long sports car... there is absolutely nothing that can stop a good old fashioned international spy. One thing that In Cold Blood proves, though, is that sometimes the life of a spy can be a little too cool, especially in the case of M16 Secret British Secret Service agent John Cord. While you'll travel the world controlling him in a set of adventures in foreign Volgia, you might find yourself wishing that the life of a spy was a little more at stake in In Cold Blood.
That's not to say that things don't start out rough for our hero. In an innovative take on the standard mission-based storyline, you actually begin the game in an interrogation, being injected with a serum to give Volgian nationals the true information on your missions in their homeland. As you begin to recall your recent memories, you flip into actual playable missions, "reliving" the past events to reveal the story, and explaining how you've ended up as a dart board for Eastern European medics. As the game begins, you'll have to investigate the disappearance of an American spy undercover in a Volgian mine, where, like all good stories, things quickly go awry. It seems that the Volgians have created a new power source from crashed meteor ore, named Tri-Nephaline, and it provides almost limitless energy, non of which will be used for good if you can't find a way to get it out of the hands of the corrupt nationals. A Chinese spy adds intrigue to your investigation, while the search for the head researcher's kidnapped daughter gives you a reason to do things like wade in sewers, and leap onto giant, dangerous Land Trains. The story plays out like any Hollywood spy story, and you'll instantly be lured by the twists and turns, all narrated by the charming, casual John Cord himself. It's hard not to like the world that's been created for your gaming pleasure.
DreamCatcher has enlisted developer Revolution, creators of Broken Sword, to create its own take on the whole action/adventure genre that's filled the console shelves for years now. Like other DreamCatcher titles, the focus here is on storyline and adventure, but with a new twist, namely in the pacing and control. You won't need your mouse for this adventure -- your keyboard or gamepad controls Cord, and a set of keys allows him to interact with objects, pull out his weapons, access his handheld computer link, or run away from danger. The interface will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played a survival horror game like Resident Evil. Because this is a mouse-free experience, you won't spend much time searching for objects, or figuring out if there's a hidden hotspot on the screen. As Cord nears special sections of the screen, his head will turn to point out items he can talk about or interact with, and most of the time, special objects will glisten to get your attention as well.
What you will spend most of your time on, then, is finding out facts from civilians and soldiers, avoiding security bots, sneaking by guards, punching out enemies from behind, solving simple "how do I open this door/break this window/get past those security guns" puzzles, and every once in a while, threatening or just plain nailing someone with your weapon. The adventure elements are all pretty standard, and the action, while at a constant pace, is fairly calm, especially given the subject matter. You'll rarely sweat when in a gunfight, and you'll never have to worry about being too low on health and ammo, thanks to the plentiful supply regained every time you search a dead enemy. The story unfolds in nice tidbits, giving you new characters to raise your investigative eyebrow about, and new situations to get your head around on a regular basis. Unfortunately, while the game's pretty entertaining, it's rarely invigorating. The half-and-half structure of the game doesn't lend itself to anything too challenging, or stress-inducing, so while you've got an international crisis on your hands, you don't necessarily feel like you have to, say, break into a run or anything to save the world.
The pre-rendered backgrounds are beautiful, and are filled with animated details, and tons of character. Metal and ironwork has rarely looked this good, and Revolution has done a great job of competing with anything produced by Capcom. Cord and the other characters are in 3D, though at a PlayStation level of detail. You'll appreciate the dynamic lighting effects on Cord though, especially given that he's running around as a polygon in pre-rendered backdrops. The sound is top notch, as long as you grant the team a little leeway when trying to pull off convincing Eastern European accents. Cord's voice is smooth as silk, and the delivery of most of the characters in the game is cool and crisp, fitting in with the James Bond school of dry martini acting perfectly. Sound effects are nice, particularly the nice pop of your gun as it fires, and the music is large, moody, and a perfect backdrop for both tense moments and calm investigation.
It's not that In Cold Blood is necessarily bad -- in fact, it's a fun, solid jaunt throughout all the missions. But in the end In Cold Blood refuses to step aggressively in any direction, and ends up becoming an entertaining but mostly lackadaisical entry into the action/adventure genre. As an adventure fan, you may enjoy the cool spy storyline, and some of more interesting stealth elements of the game, but action gamers will find themselves in a world of intrigue, but a world without challenge. In terms of the hardcore experience, this is one to be nibbled, and not to be savored.
-- Vincent Lopez
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