In Cold Blood
First posted on 15 June 2011. Last updated on 15 June 2011.
The game is available at GOG.
The best description of In Cold Blood is that it is a game which mixes the spy genre and the science fiction genre under the guise of an action adventure. The premise sounds interesting, and the potential of a narrative à la style of Tom Clancy is intriguing. However, In Cold Blood also suffers from lackluster production values and overly simplistic gameplay that may not offer enough of a challenge to some gamers.
The alternate fictional reality depicted in this game is fascinating in its own right, because it deals with the possibility of a new cold war, driven by countries which are trapped in a political dictatorial regime, that is once again slowly destabilizing the world order. It is not hard to foresee a similar scenario in real life, wherein countries that only have a war plan are trying to take control of the rest of the world through military power. Alas, the game sidesteps such speculations but instead focuses on the realm of espionage set within this hypothetical global conflict.
The game starts when John Cord (the protagonist), a British spy from MI6, is sent to the fictional Russian state of Volgia to rescue an American agent who is trapped inside a fortified military installation located in an uranium mine. At first, the mission appears to be proceeding on course. As John explores the depths of the facility, however, he discovers that not all he sees is what it appears to be: secret experiments are being carried out at the base on a new form of energy which can apparently shake up the current political climate and even threatens to destroy the world.
Undoubtedly, the game's story sounds a bit inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond. Even so, the narrative is surprisingly fast pace and does not lose any of the elements of a good spy story in which you already know from the start about your mission and who will betray you at the end. In fact, it can be said that the story is the best attribute of this game and the singular element that you will keep you interested in it from start to finish, despite the game's many technical failings that will annoy you otherwise. It is unfortunate the developer fails to recognize these failings and address them before the game is released.
Gameplay, while adequate, falls below that of other contemporary stealth action adventures such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. The game is divided into 9 missions. In each mission, you are tasked with a number of challenges that are a mix of classic logic puzzles and action oriented puzzles closely tied to the story. The game is very linear and does not leave much option for open exploration. In many ways, the game is reminiscent of GoldenEye 007, in that you are confined to a map with limited roaming and few areas to explore. Each area, however, must be searched thoroughly to acquire the necessary objects to proceed onwards.
The game's graphics are stunning for its time of release, even though the game only supports a fixed resolution of 640x480 pixels. The game is played from a third-person perspective, with fixed camera angles positioned for maximal cinematic effects. All of the pre-rendered environments (the developer claims that there are more than 100 environments to explore) are quite immersive and nicely capture the essence of the Georgian region where the story takes place. The background music and sound effects are also nice and appropriately add to the emotion of each scene.
The game's interface is clunky and often hinders the action you want your character to perform. For example, when you are trying to interact with an object in a room where other objects also lie in the proximity, the game will frequently pick the wrong object for your character by default. Likewise, you have no choice of which enemy to target during combat. The game will automatically aim your weapon onto the enemy who lies nearest in your line of sight, even though you may be in danger from other enemy closer to you that your character refuses to target.
A few odd but annoying oversights also undermine the game's overall production values. For example, the secret facility is littered with monitors that display warning messages. These warning messages are supposedly written in Russian but are in reality written with easily recognizable but gibberish characters. This distraction takes away the credibility and some of the charm of the otherwise well planned cinematic of the game.
Fortunately, character interactions are more realistic. As a spy, you can exercise your interrogative skills and threaten a character with your gun to get the necessary information that you are seeking without killing. The dialogs are well written (and even quite funny sometimes), and the voice acting is superb.
The game had an interesting production history. Following the surprising commercial success of the Broken Sword series (Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars and Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror) on the original Sony PlayStation, Revolution Software was commissioned by Sony to develop In Cold Blood as a third-party title for release initially on the same console. The console version was released in 2000, but it met with only limited critical success. Subsequently, the game was ported to the PC and released by DreamCatcher Interactive in 2001.
In conclusion, In Cold Blood can be quite charming to play if you seek to experience the thrill of being a high-tech spy infiltrating an enemy stronghold in a foreign land. Despite the few but annoying flaws, the game offers up a decent story and interesting characters set in an alternate reality of cold war espionage.