|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2 & Xbox
Cold Fear is a 2005 survival horror video game developed by Darkworks and published by Ubisoft for PlayStation 2, Xbox and Microsoft Windows. It was Ubisoft's first horror game, and Darkworks' second game, after Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare in 2001.
The game tells the story of Tom Hansen, a member of the United States Coast Guard, who comes to the aid of a Russian whaler and finds a mysterious virus has broken out and turned the crew into zombie like creatures. Numerous commentators compared the game to Resident Evil 4, which at the time of Cold Fear's release was only available for the GameCube.
Cold Fear was met with a mixed reception on all systems and did not sell well.
In Cold Fear, players control Tom Hansen, a member of the US Coast Guard. The game is played from a third-person perspective, with players free to use either the default fixed camera angle or switch to an over-the-shoulder camera to allow for more precise aiming.
The main enemies in the game are Russian mercenaries and various types of "Exos", such as "Exomutants" (mercenaries infected with parasitic Exocels), "Exoshades", "Exospectres" and "Exomasses". Most infected enemies can be knocked down with two or three shots, but unless the brain is destroyed, they will not die, and will eventually attack Hansen again. Players can destroy the brain by either by shooting enemies in the head, or knocking them down and stomping on their head. If an enemy gets close to Hansen, the player can perform a critical hit by pressing a combination of buttons. All exomutants are carrying an exocel within them. When they are killed, there is a chance that the exocel may emerge and attack Hansen, or, if there are any other dead bodies in the area, infect and reanimate that body. Exocels are fast, but very weak.
The first half of the game is set on a whaler in the middle of a storm, and the conditions on the deck of the ship affect the degree of control the player has over Hansen. As the ship banks continuously from side to side, aiming is made more difficult, although Hansen can grab onto a ledge to steady himself, if one is available. In some instances, the ship can bank to such a degree, that Hansen will slide towards the edge and potentially fall overboard. There are also numerous environmental hazards caused by the storm, such as swinging electrical wires and crates hooked up to ropes. If any of these items hit Hansen, he will lose health. Waves crashing on to the ship's deck can also cause Hansen damage.
The game also employs a Resistance gauge, which decreases as the player performs certain actions, such as running, although running is not possible when in over-the-shoulder mode. If Hansen falls off the edge of the ship, he can hang onto the side as long as he has resistance left, but if he doesn't climb back aboard quickly enough, he will fall.
The game does not feature an inventory. Health packs and ammo cannot be stockpiled; health packs are used immediately upon collection and no more ammo can be collected than the capacity of the specific weapon. Players can find ammo and health packs distributed throughout the game at certain predetermined spots and also by looting the bodies of fallen enemies.
The game begins with a SEAL team deploying on a Russian whaler, the Eastern Spirit, in the Bering Strait. As the team explore the deck, they are attacked and killed by something that literally rips them apart. Seeing his team is gone, CIA Special Agent Jason Bennett, who is supervising the mission, orders any other government vessel in the vicinity to investigate. His call is picked up by the US Coast Guard ship, the USCGC Ravenswood, which heads to the Eastern Spirit. The crew of the Ravenswood split into teams, but within moments of boarding, all but Tom Hansen are killed. Hansen sets out to explore the ship and determine what is happening.
As soon as he enters the interior of the Spirit, however, he is immediately attacked by two frightened Russians, who he is forced to kill. As he continues to explore, he encounters a multitude of panicking Russians, all of whom attack him. He also finds several horrifically mutilated bodies, including that of the Ravenswood's captain, Lt. Lansing. Hansen soon learns of a creature known as an "exocel", which was accidentally discovered by the crew of a Russian oil rig, the Star of Sakhalin, owned by Colonel Dmitriy Yusupov, a member of the Russian mafia, and staffed by Major Yuri Anischenko and his team of mercenaries. Yusupov came to realize that the exocels were parasites, which used living organisms as hosts, and as such, he brought Dr. Viktor Kamsky to the Sakhalin to begin experimenting with infecting various species with different types of serums extracted from the exocels. These experiments also included the re-animation of recently deceased humans and the creation of an antidote to counter infection. Hansen heads to the radio room to request help, but instead he is answered by Bennett, who tells him that Yusupov is on board and must be captured for questioning. Bennett tells Hansen that if he finds Yusupov, the CIA will get him off the ship.
Hansen locates Yusupov, who tells him that Anna Kamsky is onboard and must be saved. Yusupov had brought her to Sakhalin to blackmail Kamsky into working for him and turning the exocels into biological weapons. Eventually, Kamsky and his colleague, Dr. Pavel Bakharev, had begun to experiment on live human infection, and the Eastern Spirit was on its way from the Sakhalin to collect the next batch of human specimens supplied by the Mafia when the exocel outbreak occurred. An exocel then bursts out of Yusupov's chest, killing him. As Hansen searches for Anna, he learns that Yusupov and Anischenko had become suspicious of Kamsky's behavior. Hansen finds Anna, who tells them they must go to the radio room and contact her father. They contact the rig, but Bakharev tells Anna that Kamsky is missing and not to return. She refuses, telling Bakharev she will see him soon. They turn the ship back towards the Sakhalin but because the seas are so rough, they are unable to dock with the platform. As such, they head to the crow's nest and jump from the ship when it collides with the rig. Hansen makes the jump, but Anna falls into the sea.
Hansen soon finds Bakharev, who tells him to disable the radio jammer around the rig, he will need Anischenko to get him past a retinal scanner. Bakharev is then dragged into an air duct and killed. Hansen learns that Kamsky and Bakharev were under orders to make the exocels as dangerous as possible, which they had succeeded in doing, but without any way to control the resulting creatures. Hansen finds and kills Anischenko, taking out his eye and using it to deactivate the radio jammer. Once back in touch with Bennett, Hansen is told he must find Kamsky's laptop and transmit the research notes. Meanwhile, Anna is rescued from the sea by a large creature and left in a lab, where she is infected by an exocel. Seeing this take place on a security monitor, Hansen races to the lab to give Anna the antidote.
He makes it to her in time and administers the antidote before the infection can take hold. Bennett then contacts him and Hansen makes him promise that if he gives Bennett the notes, Bennett will save Anna. He soon discovers that Kamsky has infected himself with a strain of exocel DNA, and wishes to do the same to Anna. Hansen finds Kamsky's laptop and transmits the antidote data to Bennett, but nothing else. As a furious Bennett berates Hansen, he and Anna agree to blow up the rig using C4. As Hansen plants the charges, he comes to understand that Kamsky had gone completely insane, infecting himself with exocel serum, releasing the imprisoned exos on the rig, planting a group of exocels on the Spirit, and then disappearing to await his metamorphosis. When Hansen has planted all of the charges, he heads to the heliport to meet Anna. Before they can take off however, they are attacked by a mutated Kamsky; the same creature who rescued Anna from the sea. Kamsky is desperate for Anna to remain with him on the rig, but Hansen is able to fight him off and kill him. He and Anna then escape in a helicopter as the rig explodes below them.
Cold Fear was first announced at E3 in 2004 when the title was included on a list of upcoming games. According to Sony, the game was set to be published by Namco. On October 6, however, Ubisoft announced that they would be publishing the Darkworks developed game in March 2005 for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC. Some basic plot information was also revealed, with Ubisoft managing director Alain Corre adding, "it is set in a dynamic environment on a stormy sea, including intense combat, intelligent enemies, and a high element of the shockingly unexpected." A playable demo version was released in December. Both IGN and GameSpot were impressed with the camera, praising the ability to switch from a fixed camera location to an over-the-shoulder camera at any time. They both also lauded the setting, finding the rocking boat and torrential rain added to the atmosphere of the game. Both sites, however, found the gameplay a little derivative, arguing that there was nothing new on offer.
To make the Eastern Spirit roll realistically in the storm, the developers had to write a new program. They found that making the ship move was easy, but getting it to respond to storm conditions was much more complex. As such, they created a complete roll editor, called the Darkwave editor, which allowed them to control the pitch (when the ship moves on the horizontal axis) and the roll (when it moves on the vertical axis) separately. The combination of moving the ship on both axes allowed the developers to create completely realistic ship movements. This in turn allowed them to time the exact movement of the ship to coincide with what was happening in the game without having to use a cutscene. However, creating such a realistic movement system led to camera problems. According to lead programmer, Claude Levastre, "in the early stages of development the camera was constantly going through the walls because of the roll movement. So we had to develop an inertia-control system for the camera, just as if a cameraman is using a steadicam behind the hero."
Initially, the movement patterns of inanimate objects on the ship were scripted, but this was later replaced with real physics. The ship's constant movement also impacted character animation. Once the ship's movement reached a certain angle, Hansen and any other characters on deck would start to slide, and the character would have to compensate in whatever direction was necessary relative to their position. According to Levastre, this meant that Hansen required nine times the animations usually seen in third-person games (center, front, back, left, right and the four intermediary positions). Ultimately, Hansen had two hundred and fifty separate animations, and most of the NPCs had one hundred and fifty. According to Antonin Delboy, lead animator on the game, "all the technical decisions were taken in favor of animation, both in terms of quality and quantity, which is very rare on this kind of project." Basic animation was produced with 3D Studio Max software. Inverse kinematics were then used to create the nine directional animations, with the engine calculating the level of character compensation depending on the angle of the ship. Each character movement is composed of basic animation and compensation animation, and Delboy says that in total, the game contains more than nine hundred animations, allowing for over five thousand possible movements.
On February 22, Ubisoft announced that the soundtrack was being composed by Tom Salta. Salta had been hired in November 2004, with his first finished track submitted on November 16. The completed score was handed in on December 23. According to Salta, he had to compose over twenty different individual pieces as well as music for nine cutscenes; "It ended up being over an hour's worth of music which I composed in under six weeks."
In April 2006, Variety reported that Avatar Films and Sekretagent Productions had co-purchased the rights for a feature film adaptation of the game. However, there have since been no further developments.
Cold Fear received mixed reviews across all three platforms. The PlayStation 2 version holds aggregate scores of 69.54% on GameRankings, based on thirty-four reviews, and 68 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on thirty-nine reviews. The Xbox version holds scores of 69.73%, based on forty-three reviews, and 71 out of 100, based on forty-one reviews. The Windows version holds scores of 66.89%, based on nine reviews, and 66 out of 100, based on thirteen reviews.
Eurogamer's Kristan Reed scored the Xbox version 5 out of 10. He praised the opening of the game, arguing that, like Hansen himself, the player feels a strong sense of disorientation as they get used to being on the ship in the middle of a storm. However, he felt the strong opening soon gives way to clichés of the genre; "a sense of dark foreboding, destroyed cabins, corridors, locked doors, more locked doors, random objects, ammo clips, health packs, things that leap out on you. You know the drill." He was highly critical of the absence of a map, arguing that because the environments all look similar, getting lost is a regular occurrence. He concluded that "You can see that Darkworks had a great basic idea but never really got to run with it beyond the game's opening scenes [...] The further we got into Cold Fear the less we cared, and that's a sad reflection on a game we were initially impressed with for its atmospheric attention to detail. The whole thing just feels a bit half-baked, with moody but unimaginative environments, done-to-death one-dimensional characters, exceptionally tired gameplay mechanics that favors basic A-to-B object collection rather than injecting anything even vaguely resembling a puzzle and a combat system that's at best functional, and at worst unhelpful."
GameSpy's Will Tuttle scored the Xbox version 3.5 out of 5. He praised the setting, atmosphere and over-the-shoulder camera, but was critical of the lack of a map. He concluded that "While it's not going to overthrow Resident Evil 4 as King of All Horror Games, Cold Fear is a solid little thriller. Some nifty gameplay mechanics and nasty enemies keep it from being an also-ran, while a little too much repetitive exploration and a short story keep it from being a contender."
Game Revolution's JP Hurh gave the PlayStation 2 version a B-. He criticized the length of the game, the lack of a map and the auto-save feature, which he found too random. He was also critical of the camera; "When not in the over-the-shoulder view, Cold Fear employs static and cinematic camera angles. The age-old problem of pushing the wrong way on the stick when the camera angle changes is as persistent as a zombie with a small head." He praised the graphics and sound, but concluded "With so much attention paid to the environments, Darkworks almost made a great game. Unfortunately, it's only half a great game [...] The ending as well as many portions along the way feel rushed. The game itself, although promising, is nipped by the cold and bitter wind of a rushed production and a breezy plot."
IGN's Ed Lewis scored the PlayStation 2 version 7.2 out of 10 and the Xbox version 7.6 out of 10. He praised the over-the-shoulder camera and the setting, and he too criticized the lack of a map. He concluded that "even if Cold Fear doesn't create a whole huge new gaming experience that's still perfectly fine since it does establish a dark and gloomy mood and manages to keep that pace up for the large part of the game."
GameSpot's Carrie Gouskos scored the PlayStation 2 version 6.9 out of 10 and the Xbox version 7.2 out of 10. She argued that "Atmospherically, Cold Fear is derivative and predictable, which is a shame considering that it is, at times, an enjoyable action game." She was critical of the camera, and although she praised the outdoor scenes on the boat, she felt there were not enough of them, with too many "generic indoor locations." As with most critics, she was highly critical of the lack of a map. She was also critical of the auto-save feature, feeling the save points were unevenly distributed. She concluded that "Although Cold Fear is a tidy action game, with some interesting gameplay elements, it suffers from being generic, evidenced even by the generic action title. It's definitely entertaining for a few hours, especially if you're amused by the rampant clichés, but if you're looking for a truly freakish survival horror game, you'll be better off getting your fear somewhere else."
The game was met with poor sales figures. By February 2006, it had sold only 70,000 copies across all three platforms in the US.
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- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Yusupov's Diary: "Our first encounters with the creatures we now call the exocels came roughly two months after drilling commenced on the Star of Sakhalin platform [...] For the first 25 days, drilling was successful, as expected. And then, even though our sonars confirmed the presence of a huge oil reserve, the pressure started to drop...Suddenly the drill brought up several exocels that Anischenko and his men had great difficulty in overcoming. Two days later, we noticed more specimens crawling up the platform's columns. I immediately gave Anischenko orders to capture some of them. That's when I saw my first contamination.""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Kamsky's Diary: "We have deliberately infected and observed over 300 subjects, including dogs, apes, orcas and human beings. Those subjects have been placed under permanent biometric surveillance and dissected to accurately chart the growth of the exocel organism and help us learn how to control the process. The time it takes an infected individual to mutate depends on two factors: how long it takes the exocel to get a tendril into the victim's brain, and the infected body's natural resistance [...] Any individual infected by an exocel should be given the antidote as quickly as possible. If no antidote is available, the host's brain must be destroyed, and I mean destroyed, to prevent the subject from becoming an active, and potentially contaminating host. Indeed, the exocel seems to be able to re-animate a brain that has been clinically dead for several days.""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Yusupov's Diary: "I often wondered what really convinced Kamsky to work for me: the well-being of his beloved daughter, or the first poor-quality shots of the exocel I showed him [...] When I added that his daughter was already on her way to join him on the Star of Sakhalin, that was the end of it! He immediately agreed to stay on the platform and supervise the installation and research. As I had expected, Kamsky quickly assured me that the exocel had military potential, but he feared it was uncontrollable [...] I hope that, unlike the last consignment, the "specimens" will be ready and in good condition. Kamsky has been insistent about this.""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Yusupov's Diary: "When Anischenko told me what he had discovered by pirating Kamsky's laptop, I could have killed him!""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Yusupov's Letter: "The first phase of the operation has been partially successful. Dr. Kamsky and his associates have succeeded in producing powerful, efficacious and dangerous beings that can only be considered monsters. The injection of a partial antidote prior to forced contamination has given excellent results. Many of these things die quickly, but we have managed to produce creatures that are impervious to bullets, immeasurably stronger than our finest soldiers, and even partly invisible. The possibilities are endless. Sadly, we have not yet perfected a process by which these monsters can be controlled. This is now our key priority.""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Letter from Kamsky to Anna: "The power within me is greater than what I imaged in my wildest dreams. Still, I have the impression that my metamorphosis is not yet complete. My arms are continuing to develop. Soon, whoever approaches me will have to suffer the consequences of my furious anger. Anna, at last I have found what I've been looking for: an appointment with immortality. Come with me Anna, it's the most beautiful of all Kingdoms. I have built it for you...Anna, my dear daughter...I feel so strong...I must destroy the antidote...I don't want to go back to where I came from.""
- Darkworks. Cold Fear. Ubisoft. "Pages from Bakharev's diary: "November 16: Yusupov left today aboard the whaling ship. He claimed he was going with Lubenski to make sure they get some good specimens for the lab. I think he just wants to get away from Viktor. At first, Yusupov had to use Anna as a hostage to get Viktor to work for him. But now, Kamsky is more enthusiastic about it than Yusupov. It is a strange reversal of roles. Anna also went along, of course. I find myself fearing for her safety. But perhaps she is safer with Colonel Dmitri Yusupov than she is here. December 4: Viktor has vanished! His notebooks are missing, as is his laptop. The samples of serum and antidote we were working on? Gone too! Perhaps he has gone mad and thrown himself into the sea, unable to bear the things he has done. Personally, I don't think so. I am convinced he has decided to experiment upon himself, and that he is hiding somewhere, awaiting metamorphosis. He often said that his ultimate objective was to arrest the "exocel" process. He said it would be a tremendous feat to harness the creature's power, mutations and subsequent changes of personality. If I ever set eyes on him again, I do not think I will recognize him. Hopefully, all this is a bad dream. God help us all if he has succeeded.""
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