Every once in a while comes a game that adds something new to it's genre. In 2005, that game was Cold Fear. The game brought to the table a new kind of an enemy, one that mankind has been fighting against for thousands of years. Crabs? No, the weather.
Cold Fear is a 3rd person action adventure with heavy influences from Resident Evil. The game starts when the US Coast Guard is called to investigate a Russian ship in the middle of the ocean during a huge storm. The main protagonist, Tom Hansen, and his team is sent aboard the ship but most of them are quickly wiped out by an unknown enemy. The player finds himself alone in a hostile environment where the environment itself is the biggest enemy.
The story is driven by cut-scenes and notes left by the crew members. The player quickly finds out the reason why almost every character he comes across is trying to kill him; they are possessed by an unknown entity. It's up to Hansen to find out what has happened on the ship and rescue any survivors. The story is pretty basic and offers no surprises for veterans of the genre but it does keep you playing until the credits roll after about 8 hours.
The game is played from a 3rd person perspective and you can aim by keeping the right mouse button pressed. This gives greater control of the character and (thanks to the built-in laser sights on weapons) makes headshots easy to perform. When indoors though, the game switches to pre-determined cameras and the movement is relative to the camera. You can still aim but that just disorients you even more. Add the rocking of the ship to this mix and you really feel like you're fighting against the elements; the ship rocks back and forth so it's a struggle to even stand. This makes the game feel fresh and exciting and especially the outdoor scenes on the deck are very exhilarating. It really makes your adrenaline flow when you're on a slippery deck, dodging swinging cranes while aiming at a crazed crew member. Too bad only the beginning portion of the game is played outside and the rest of the game is played indoors in cramped, maze-like cabins. And without a decent map, you'll be seeing a lot of the same corridors while trying to find the right way to go.
Other than the possessed crew members, the enemies include non-possessed humans and alien creatures. The tools to dispose of them are few but enough; you start off with a pistol and along the way you'll find some extra firepower (shotgun, SMG and AK-47 to name a few). The weapons are pretty much equally powerful so it's best to stick with the trusty sidearm that proved to be the most accurate. The still fighting members of the unfortunate crew also have weapons but luckily (at least in the lowest difficulty level) they couldn't hit a barn door 2 feet away. The possessed enemies require a headshot to go down permanently so you end up shooting the heads off of each corpse you see lying around. The game relies on scare tactics with corpses suddenly rising and possessed crew members running towards you with a cleaver in their hands.
The sounds are absolutely fantastic with metal cracking, wind blowing and huge waves splashing on the side of the ship. The Russian yells of the crew members as they attack you really help with the feeling of being in a hostile, unfamiliar territory. The music also plays a big part in creating the atmosphere and it dynamically changes to fit the mood. When in combat, the music is fast-paced and when exploring the creepy insides of the Russian vessel, it changes to a dark, even sinister, tune that keeps you on your toes.
The graphics of the game are still very enjoyable, especially in the outdoors; waves splash on the side of the ship, the deck is wet and the storm hampers your vision. You really get the feeling of being on a ghost ship in the middle of a raging storm. Inside the ship (since there's no rain or fog to block the view) the low resolution textures are very evident. There are some bloody corpses and body parts here and there but the gore just isn't enough anymore to scare you. The lighting is well made with shadows moving with rocking of the ship. The game doesn't support widescreen resolutions but thanks to the fans of the game, there's a patch available that removes the stretching of the game screen.
Overally the game is a very enjoyable (albeit not rather scary) horror adventure. Great music and sounds and graphics that don't make your eyes bleed keep you glued to your chair until the secrets of the ship are unravelled. Too bad the game's biggest asset, the raging storm outside, is only used at the beginning. Any fan of the original Resident Evil games will feel right at home. And with a price tag of just few euros, I can sincerely recommend everyone to give this one a go. There are no multiplayer modes or extra content to keep you occupied once the game is complete but it's still enough to satisfy your hunger for a well-made action adventure.