Cold Fear sees you take the role of Tom Hansen, a U.S Coast Guard with the arduous task of searching through a Russian whaling vessel stuck in the middle of a nasty storm in the Bering Sea.
The cutscene introduction shows a team of Navy Seals being dismembered and flung around the ship's deck by a large, unidentified creature -- hence the need for the Coast Guard to pay a visit and find out what happened. After a short series of radio communications, and after your other Coast Guard team-members are attacked, you find yourself armed with only a .45mm pistol and flashlight, alone and ready to explore the ship.
You might think that navigating the deck of a ship in the middle of a storm during the night might be quite difficult...and it is. The motion of the ship makes running fairly awkward, and the frequent dousing with rain and seawater doesn't help your health much either (if you have a tendency to get motion sickness, you might immediately find this game is not for you). After a good bit of running around and getting used to the controls, it doesn't take long before you find your way inside the ship and get to work on your first task.
Once you're inside, you'll find that all of the typical survival-horror features abound - doors to open or come back to later, stairways to climb, control panels to figure out, fires to avoid, flooded levels, documents to read, plus plenty of mutilated bodies to search for bullets or health packs. The level of detail is good and the overall mood is pretty realistic and tense, aided by appropriate music and spooky effects. There are plenty of dark areas within the ship, so the flashlight attached to your pistol gets a good workout (luckily it seems to have endless battery power).
After finding a few important documents lying around the ship, you soon discover the source of the zombies - creatures called Exocels that crawled up oil-drilling pipes into a nearby Russian facility. What is scarier though, is that the scientists aboard the facility have been carrying out experiments on all kinds of animals, including humans, ultimately meaning that there is no telling what kind of creatures you will run into.
The early zombies we found were easily dispatched with a few bullets to the head, but the Russian crewmen you eventually butt heads with were another matter. Upon our first encounter with armed opponents, we found that simultaneously shooting them and running around obstacles was not that simple -- close-quarter attacks ended up being more effective. After a few more encounters with gun-toting crewmen and brain-eating Exocels, we also started to notice that the camera angles were often poorly placed, making it difficult to target opponents.
After completing the first task, the difficulty level of the game really ramps up a notch, with the creatures you start to encounter moving much faster and becoming harder to kill. As expected, the trusty .45mm pistol won't do the job for more serious opponents, but luckily there are plenty more weapons in the game. But in true survival horror fashion, these new weapons are not easily found and ammo can be scarce -- so expect to do a lot of hasty weapon-swapping, especially in the midst of battle.
Ultimately, Cold Fear is a familiar, but decent, survival-horror game with enough variety and difficulty to keep avid players happy for hours. The game controls are slightly clunky and camera angles leave a bit to be desired, so unless you are a combat-game expert, expect to be regularly frustrated and copping damage from simple creatures, even on Easy mode.
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