Overshadowed at the time of its release by Resident Evil 4 – Cold Fear delivers jump scares and a perfect atmosphere.
A Russian whaler, The Eastern Spirit, rocks violently in the midst of an artic storm in the Bering Strait. For reasons unknown the game begins with a team of Navy SEALs landing on the ship. They are quickly attacked and mutilated by an unseen enemy. A CIA operative in charge of the decimated SEAL squad, baffled by the horrors of what he’s just witnessed calls for any type of backup he can get to investigate. Which is when we meet our protagonist, Tom Hansen.
In a move that would surely be considered some sort of act of war in today’s international climate, the United States Coast Guard answers the call and Tom Hansen and his boys sail right into the strait and climb aboard the whaler. Quickly, the entire team of Coast Guards are wiped out except for you. From there you play as Tom, shakily pushing forward to learn of the horrible mysteries and mishaps of the ship.
Now don’t get me wrong, this setting for a game is unique and cool as hell. I love the isolation of a terrifying emergency on a ship near the Arctic Ocean. But there are a couple of things that just don’t make much sense.
Doesn’t add up that there is next to no other Russian ships that ever come to the aid of this one. The game also never necessarily explains why the Navy attacked it in the first place. Calling in a swat team type Coast Guard unit is even baffling. But even with all of that aside – it’s a matter of simple nautical math.
The average ship travels at about 25 knots. The distance between the Bering Strait and Sakhalin (where the Russians in the game are drilling and weird alien demons appeared) is about 3,000 miles. Simple math implies that that boat trip is going to take about five days. Even if it was traveling at crazy speeds, the entire ocean is a gigantic swell. You’re not going anywhere. They make this entire trip in a single cutscene, by the way and the game’s plot basically seems to take place over a single night.
Maybe it’s an off shore drilling rig. They never say. But I don’t think they thought some moron would press so hard about it fifteen years later on an obscure blog. Let this be a lesson to em’!
There is a lot to love about Cold Fear but it isn’t perfect. The lack of any kind of map will have you running in circles for awhile. All of the doors and directions are in Russian (which your character can understand) but it’s an unnecessary and time wasting gesture to read it. Generally, when you’re running for your life from sprinting zombies you don’t have much time to stop and focus your aim on a Russian word before exiting an area.
Speaking of zombies. They aren’t zombies perse. But they’re fast, nimble and scary. Often equipped with a monkey wrench or meat cleaver they are aggressive, chasing you or evading your gunfire. You also will have the joy of running into fellow survivors on the ship who will immediately try to kill you as well, as Russians do. (Just kidding, beautiful Russian people.)
When the game was released it was unfairly criticized and compared to Resident Evil 4. But in hind sight this game feels much more like a tribute to The Thing than anything. It also was knocked for its short completion time (around six hours) which is why I would try to avoid recommending it, especially given how gouged survival horror playstation 2 prices will forever be, but if you do come across it I can almost assure you will enjoy it.
Overall: 86% (SILVER)