Cold Zero
Cold Zero
In Cold Zero you assume the role of John McAffrey, a former LAPD sniper, who has become a private detective after an unfortunate hostage killing situation. Players must complete sixteen missions around the world.
Posted: 10/23/03 | Category: Review | Developer: Drago Entertainment | Publisher: JoWood | Platform: Microsoft windows

In Cold Zero you assume the role of John McAffrey, a former LAPD sniper, who has become a private detective after an unfortunate hostage killing situation. Players must complete sixteen missions around the world. Victory can be decided by choosing all-out action or stealth and you can, in fact, finish the game by killing very few enemies. If you choose the all-out action path, then you are provided with more than one hundred different weapons ranging from knives to heavy weaponry. These divergent paths make Cold Zero suitable for die-hard action gamers or even adventurers like me.

What really differentiates Cold Zero from other action games is its strong plot. It ties together sixteen huge missions that support each other to form a well woven story of double-crossing and deception that evolve into a spider’s web of intrigue.

Cold Zero screenshot - click to enlargeWhen I first heard that this game provided more than one hundred different weapons, I quickly assumed that Cold Zero was just another kill-them-all bloodfest. But after playing for about two hours, I realized that using stealth and good timing make the game easier to beat and more enjoyable compared to shooting every enemy on sight. Why? Well, there are two main reasons which will be explored in detail.

First of all, this game has some wonderful AI implementation. If you make a noise by recklessly killing an enemy, his friends might become alerted and will either hunt you down, if they have better weapons, or wait until they can strike you from behind. Also, enemies move around quite a bit and will not remain in one place waiting for you to kill them. On some occasions, you will never see an enemy in the exact same place when you replay the mission for the second time. One cool thing that happened was I managed to shoot at an enemy before he could use his gun. He then stood still, now afraid of me, and raised his hands to surrender. He could then be approached - with my weapon at the ready - and conked in the head. Of course there are still a few instances where the AI does not work properly and your enemy will accidentally kill his own friends if they stand between you and him.

Cold Zero screenshot - click to enlargeSecond, you can inflict more damage to an enemy when he is not aware of you. Basically, you can defeat an enemy with one hit from behind. It will take at least couple of hits to knock a foe down if he is aware of your presence.

Being a big fan of turn-based combat systems, Cold Zero's combat system was sometimes a nightmare for me. Since everything must be done in real time, you need to pay attention to your surroundings at all times. Victim’s bodies must always be hid out of view so as not to attract attention. In my opinion, this is one of the weaknesses of the game. It is very difficult to control a combat situation at times as a foe could storm from any directions without your knowledge and one simple noise can raise an alert for an entire area. This greatly increases the frustration level of the player.

Cold Zero screenshot - click to enlargeThere are five main indicators that are very vital for your actions: life energy, condition of bulletproof vest, stamina, visibility, and sound level. Where the life energy, bulletproof vest and stamina are standard statistics for RPG games, visibility and sound level are very unique. Visibility determines how well your enemy could see you. Visibility level can be decreased by shutting down all light resources around you. For example, to avoid a nearby enemy you could shoot out a streetlamp or turn off a power generator. This is actually one of the best features in the game. Combined with the sound level, the game becomes more realistic. The sound level is determined by how much noise you produce. Sneaking around your enemy will produce no sound. Walking, running, dropping an item, or opening a door will increase the sound level. Unless you use a silencer, firing your gun will alert every single enemy in the area. When you sneak, you use more stamina compared to when you walk, but once your stamina is low, you can not sneak until your stamina has regenerated. This is, in my opinion, a brilliant concept.

All of you pack-rats who like to collect everything will have a tough time with Cold Zero. Your character has a weight limitation – though it does increase with the progress of your strength statistic. Once your inventory weight is close to the limit, you will not be able to run or sneak and if the weight limit is exceeded then movement is impossible. It’s best to choose wisely and not take every single object even though inventory items ranging from cell-phones to guns from dead or unconscious enemies can be collected and sold. The value of an item depends on its condition and damaged weapons have less value than usable weapons. So unlike games in which the weapons never show any sign of wear, every weapon in Cold Zero has its own life cycle. The more you use them, the quicker they wear out. Even though you have a repair skill to repair your weaponry, at some point they do become unusable or broken.

Cold Zero screenshot - click to enlargeThe sound effects and the graphics are both outstanding and realistic. The sound that is being produced by an object, either through conversation or manipulation, depends on your distance to them. The closer you are, the louder the sound. This works the same with object manipulation. You can only manipulate an object if it is nearby. The camera angle can be maneuvered to any angle which is a big plus for this type of game. At the beginning of each area, you can locate each enemy and study their patterns. By using this information you can then map out the most advantageous route.

Cold Zero is a very long game and provides between 30 to 40 hours to complete depending on the difficulty level. The three levels - easy, normal, and difficult – also affect the strength and vulnerability of the enemies. There is also limited multiplayer support that allows up to sixteen players to compete against one or more opponents.

Even a very good game has some weaknesses. First, keeping track of all of these details can become a nightmare. Weapons can become jammed or worn out, grenades can bounce off walls and a foe can inform if you are nearby and will then find a better spot to shoot from. Light is sometimes your worst enemy during the battle. People have their own agenda and don't expect them to stand still doing nothing while you are roaming the streets. All of these details make the game very complicated, but satisfying.

Second, some sub-quests and more NPCs would have made the game more interesting. Instead of focusing on one major objective, several minor objectives would have added more flavor. Also, some alternate endings could have spiced things up.

Despite these few criticisms, Cold Zero has everything necessary for an enjoyable RPG/Action/Adventure experience. Not recommended for purist adventurers that do not want to deal with any combat or fast-paced action, but for those who like the combination of RPG/adventure and do not mind a few action sequences, then the fresh concept and innovation of Cold Zero make it a must-buy game.

Final Grade: A

System Requirements:

  • Pentium®-III 750 MHz
  • At least 128 Megabytes of RAM.
  • Windows 95®, Windows 98®, Windows ME®, Windows 2000® or Windows XP®.
  • A DirectX® 8-compatible graphics card of at least 32 Megabyte Video RAM.
  • A DirectX® 8-compatible sound card.
  • A Windows-compatible mouse, keyboard and CD-ROM drive.
  • At least 350 Megabyte (MB) free space on your hard disk.
Specials from Digital Download
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