Perseverance, likely a good character trait for a spy during the Cold War. Sadly, it’s also something you need to play Cold War from Mindware Studios. Originally released in 2005 this game throws you into the world of Matt Carter, a freelance photo-journalist, in Moscow for the scoop of a lifetime. As you might imagine, events unfold unpredictably for Carter.
C IS FOR CONTROL
Cold War attempts to provide a playground for improvisation and stealthy evasion. However, the lacking player controls leave you exposed and often dead. Moving around quietly and without detection is a tediously slow affair. There are four walk speeds, sprint, light jog, walk, and creep. While crouched and creeping you can sneak up on enemy combatants. When you crouch-sneak and are hidden in shadow the enemies are unable to see you. No matter how ridiculous this is. While it’s good that the system is predictable, it’s very generous when assessing what (or who) is in an enemy’s field of vision. On one occasion I was able to knock out a guard from the shadows while another guard stood just a few feet away, completely oblivious. What I found more frustrating was the inability to look around your surroundings effectively. You could argue this is more immersive but if you want to play stealthily you will find it very difficult. Enemies often appear from behind closed doors without warning and combat becomes inevitable because of this. Acquiring the x-ray camera helps as you might expect, but the range on the device is fairly short which reduces its usefulness. Its use is also limited by a timer. Both of these limiations make the experience more frustrating than helpful or enjoyable. At one point while escaping a location I ran into a bug where a knocked out enemy’s footstep audio continued to play as if he was still walking his route. This led to much sneaking around at an incredibly slow pace as I failed to locate the non-existent guard.
C IS FOR COMRADE
The game does try to be creative and mix up the third person stealth with other ideas. There is a crafting system (before every game was about crafting) where you can make weapons and healing items from things you find. One early section sees you guiding a new friend through prison corridors while you monitor guards via CCTV. The 007-like x-ray camera is a solid idea, even if the execution isn’t quite where it needs to be.
Graphically that game doesn’t look bad, although the lack of support for 1920 x 1080 resolution is strange given that the Steam store page screenshots are in that resolution. I ended up playing in 1600 x 1200 contorted to fill the screen. Something to consider if you are looking to buy. I was unable to find a way to force 1920 x 1080 through editing the configuration files but it is possible to play the game windowed if you prefer. Also of note are the comic book style cut-scenes which are stylish if a little low budget. For a game that is over 10 years old, the graphics hold up better than the game-play has fared in the same time frame.
Fortunately, there is no need to board the cruise ship Maxim Gorky off the storm-lashed coast of Malta, as Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush did in 1989, to declare this Cold War over.