In the last few years, the stealth/espionage genre has exploded, largely thanks to the big success of games such as Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell and the James Bond titles. Everybody wants a piece of the pie while it's still hot - EA and Ubisoft are churning out their respective titles at a blistering pace, while Kojima Productions are hard at work on the 4th Metal Gear Solid title. In amongst these competitive titles, there is still a little room for new entrants in the genre, and rookie developer Mindware Studios is hoping to cut their teeth with their first title, Cold War, for the PC and Xbox. PALGN was lucky enough to get the opportunity to take a recent build of the game for a test drive.
Cold War follows the exploits of one Matthew Carter, a freelance journalist, who has travelled to Moscow to cover what would appear to be a routine story. Unfortunately for Matthew, life is never really routine when you're the main character of a videogame, and as such, he finds himself the victim of an international conspiracy that aims to gain control of the U.S.S.R. Twelve hours after his arrival in the country, Matthew is beaten to a pulp, stripped of all of his possessions and thrown into the KGB's political prison. Thankfully, Matthew's abilities as a journalist are not limited to making fun of movie license videogames, as he manages to recover some weapons and gadgets. With his procured arsenal, Matthew must evade or eliminate any Soviet forces he encounters, or face imprisonment at a Siberian prison camp or worse; death. The game is set in the middle of the 1980s, when tensions between East and West were still high, with the threat of nuclear war constantly hanging over the collective head of humanity.
The playable build we got our dirty mitts on offered up a selection of six quite varied levels which showed off what we're supposed to expect when Cold War is released in August. The game takes on the fairly standard third person perspective, and of course, being a stealth game, you have to keep a low profile. One thing that we found intriguing in the stealth element was that the speed of your character is altered using the mouse button - a nice idea for an analogue substitute, although a slip of the finger might result in a little frustration. Matthew is also capable of MacGuyverian feats of resourcefulness, being able to construct items and ammunition from lesser parts that he collects from around the levels.
The general gameplay process of Cold War is actually heavily menu driven which is surprising, but it does serve it's purpose. One of the things we enjoyed about the game was that there was more freedom in the way you could carry your missions out, as compared to say Splinter Cell - rather than just hiding in the bushes, you could rush out and take your enemies head on, and not be penalized for doing so. The game gives you a few fancy little gadgets as well, with the x-ray camera being the highlight. There probably isn't as good a range as in competing products, but we'd say that this would be attributed to the fact that the main character isn't an operative of any fancy government organization.
Cold War does seem pretty rough in this build, though, and considering it was two months away from release at the point this beta was put together, we can't help but think that things may not be ironed out in time for the final game. Many parts of the game were still filled with placeholders, graphical effects were missing, and bugs and glitches were plentiful. From what we can gather from our research, the game has already seen some lengthy delays, and we believe that it could probably use a little more work before it hits the shelves to ensure that it can compete with the likes of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid. Still, Cold War has many strengths, namely it's atmosphere and less linear approach to stealth, and it'll be interesting to see how things work out later this month when the final game hits the Xbox and PC.