Monday, 25 March 2013

In Cold Blood (PSX)

In Cold Blood Playstation title
Today I'm finally taking a look at In Cold Blood on the PlayStation, after getting hundreds of requests for it over the past few months. Well two requests anyway, which is still a bit of a surprise to me because it seems like something very forgettable.

This is the fifth game by adventure game specialists Revolution Software (of Broken Sword fame) and this time around they've apparently tried something new and added a bit of stealth action into the mix. Fortunately I'm the kind of guy who likes to keep an open mind, or else I would've been predicting that this is going to turn out to be a total train wreck right about now.

The game opens with a CGI cutscene establishing that we're playing as Cord, John Cord, British secret agent, who is totally nothing like James Bond despite the slight similarity in his name. He's so unlike Bond in fact, that he's managed to get himself captured during a mission by what turns out to be a sinister pair of eyes.

To be fair though, James Bond generally treats his inevitable capture as an opportunity to learn everything the villain is up to and maybe even fire off a couple of bad jokes if there's time, while Cord on the other hand is already singing like a bird. A bit of water torture and he's ready to give up his whole life story. Or at least explain to his interrogator how he ended up in this predicament.

Oh I see how it is. Cord's leaving it to ME to spill all Her Majesty's Secret Service's secrets by playing through his mission in a flashback. Betraying his nation one puzzle at a time. First we reveal that we arrived in the shithole state of Volgia to search for a missing American agent called Kiefer.

I started off by walking over and having a chat with my contact Kostov, the leader of the Volgian resistance. This bought up dialogue icons letting me choose which topic to discuss. After running out of icons we eventually agreed that I'd have better chance of sneaking into this building if he was loud and annoying near the entrance.

You know, these graphics are actually fairly impressive for the PlayStation I reckon. The game has 3D characters over 2D backgrounds, Resident Evil style, though fortunately I'm not forced to play using Resident Evil's walking controls (unless I decide to use the d-pad, then I am.)

PC
Once inside, Cord proves himself to be the master of infiltration by tricking this guard into thinking he's a truck driver, despite making zero effort to disguise his posh British accent. The voice acting hasn't been bad so far, but there's something very weird about Cord's voice I reckon. He seems like a capable actor, but he just doesn't sound the part at all. He's supposed to be a dashing young spy, but he sounds like a 50 year old.

Oh damn, I just checked imdb. He really was played by a 50 year old! Well, fair enough then.

The guard points me towards the door on the top right, but I suppose I should go over and see what icons we have to chat about first. It's an adventure game, so I'm sure I'll need to chat to everyone, press every button, and take absolutely everything that I can fit into my giant endless pockets.

Oh shit, he just shot me! I wasn't even doing anything suspicious, I just walk over for a chat and he opened fire without warning! Then his friends heard the shot and poured in from the next room to shoot me a bit as well.

Meanwhile in the present day, Cord seems a bit confused by this turn of events as if he died here he wouldn't be alive to be interrogated later. He rewinds his story to the last save and tries again.

But first, 20 seconds of waiting. Man, I can see this getting annoying fast if I keep screwing up.


SEVEN DEATHS LATER.


Oh hi guys, I was just looking for the... oh he's already dead. Back to the loading screen. Killed just for entering a room, that's just fantastic game design right there.

It seems that some enemies need to be sneaked past and some should be avoided entirely. Despite the game showing me I could bullshit my way past armed guards in that screen earlier, it absolutely won't work anywhere else and if they catch me I'm screwed. I do have a gun and I can fight back, with Cord automatically targeting whatever enemy he dislikes most at that moment, but he can't last more that a few hits and the enemies pour in from the next room if they hear anything.

I've got a cool little radar gadget with me called a Remora (isn't that a fish?) that can locate enemies through walls, but unfortunately it tends to locate NPCs as well. Don't know which is waiting for me behind a door until the bullets come flying.

It would've be nice if this had labelled rooms and objects of interest marked on it as well, even if it was limited to places I've already been. My poor memory could use the help.

FREEZE MOTHERFUCKER! Oh wait, he's unarmed.

I tried shooting him anyway, but Cord has a thing against executing the innocent in cold blood so I had to resort to talking to him instead. Sadly there was no option to bring up that obvious red cable hanging by the window in conversation, so it seems I'm just going to have to leave it there... for now.

In the next room I found this thing sitting on the floor. It's a bloody particle accelerator! I went around looking for some subatomic particles to accelerate with it, but all I could find was a metal test bolt so I shoved that in instead. Funnily enough it actually fired it out the other side like it was some kind of gauss gun. Sadly this achieved absolutely nothing.


LATER.


Alright then, so far I've found a particle accelerator, a test bolt, and a lighter that I swiped from a guard, but no combination of these items has gotten me any closer to finding Kiefer. My next plan was to walk around pressing X on everything that looked like it might do something, but so far that has not been going well.

I mean pressing X on everything worked out just fine, I managed to find this computer to play around with, it's the walking part around that I've been struggling with. Holy shit does Cord control badly, in either control style. He bounces off walls, he has real issues making it through doorways, and I've even managed to get him to start walking down a staircase, turn 180 degrees halfway down, and then walk right back the way he came. It's bringing me to despair! I've literally been yelling at my screen because of how fucking frustrating it can be just to get him to navigate a corridor. And you can imagine how bad it is when I'm checking corners and behind boxes for items.

Alright, now I know Kiefer was last seen in Mine Section B. I haven't managed to unlock any doors so I'm still stuck in whatever section I'm in, but at least I've got something new to ask NPCs about. Like that bloke with the rope maybe.

PC
Alright, let's go back and see what cable guy knows about Mine Sec... wait, why is this box sparkling in the PC version? It wasn't sparkling in the PlayStation version. Hey this crate full of crap that looks almost identical to all the other crates full of crap I've been passing in the corridors actually has something I can take in it! Wow, that handy shine effect actually makes a pretty massive difference really.

In the PC game you don't have to search every piece of the background in every room as the usable items are clearly marked, which makes it much harder to miss things. Plus is this I can stealth past enemies and leave a room without worrying that they're guarding something I'll need to pick up. No sparkles around means there's nothing I need worry about.

Okay to be fair he does turn his head to look in the direction of things he can interact with. Which is very handy in a game where he spends half the time tiny or in shadow.

I learned that Kiefer got to Mine Section B across a ravine using a cable, which gave me the option to threaten the cable guy for his red cable. Asking for it nicely got me nowhere though, I had to point my gun at his head again before he'd give it up. Would've been nice if they'd taught me that trick in the tutorial.

Anyway I was going to look around for a subatomic particle to tie the cable to, but Cord automatically tied it around that pin I found in the crate before I got the chance. Fuck it, I'm gonna shove it all into the accelerator anyway. What's the worst that can happen?

I made it across to Mine Section B by firing the cable over the ravine and climbing across! Take that, the laws of physics and logic! The building on this side is lot like the last place I was at though really, with guards in every other room waiting to shoot me on sight.

But I have a cunning plan. I'm going to wait behind this box for them to turn their back to me and start patrolling down the corridor, then I'm going to run up behind them each in turn and knock them out with a single karate chop to the back of the neck. As long as I can get them before they see me, I should do alright.

Oh come on, I was hiding! You asshole! I'm just glad I've got into the habit of saving every time I'm about to enter a new room.

It took several more tries, (with 20 seconds of loading each time) but I eventually managed this room in the end. The hardest bit I think, is getting my attacks to connect as I can't really judge depth properly from this camera angle. Plus my unarmed attacks don't seem to lock on to the nearest enemy like my pistol does, so I can end up accidentally facing the wrong direction as well.

This is actually less annoying on the PC version fortunately. Not because they fixed the combat, but because it doesn't have the loading times. Failure is a lot more bearable when you can jump right back in instantly.

Finally I've reached the actual mines. Kiefer must be close by now for sure. But before searching the area, I'm just gonna take this guy out with a silent karate chop to the... oh come on, how am I never close enough to hit these people?

I quickly shuffled forward a step, knocked him out, then ran up and got his friend before he spotted me (after bouncing around the bridge a few times because of these bloody controls). With both guards taken out, I walked back across to search the area for items. Then got shot in the back by an enemy hiding off screen somewhere. I don't know, maybe he was alerted when he tripped over the body of his fallen friend.

I ducked in here to escape and surprisingly no one followed me, So I was safe to use a medkit and save the game. I got into the lift just out of curiosity and the technician shouted over that it's been  turned off upstairs. He also mentioned that I'll need to bring all the lifts to this bottom level and remove a fuse on the ground floor to stop the robots from murdering me during my escape. I'll get right on that when I feel like backtracking upstairs for no good reason.

Man, I bet these helpful NPC had no idea I'd be giving them all up to an evil interrogator after I got out of the mine.

Sinister Pair of Eyes: "So, the man who works in the lower elevator room in Mine Section B told you how to avoid the robots did he?"
John Cord: "Yes, that seems about right Or maybe I wandered off and got shot to death, I can't really remember."
Sinister Pair of Eyes: "Well then, we shall have to find this man and execute him for collaborating with enemy spies. Right after we send his entire family to the cells for life!"

Hey, I found Kiefer at last! He's a little bit more dead than I was hoping, so my mission's kind of a failure there, but the encrypted data he's carrying might just make all of this worth it. Or maybe not, I have no idea what it is, it's encrypted.

Alright, time to save the game and then set up these lifts to keep the robots off my back when I make my escape.

Oh shit, finding Kiefer is what triggers the robots? Well I am well and truly fucked then.

They drive in and shoot Cord to death and then it's all over. The moral of the story is, make multiple saves because you never know when a game is going to fuck you over.

After reloading and doing a bit of tedious backtracking to get that fuse out and the lifts in place, I got the encrypted data again and made my escape from the mine, Snake Eater style, thanks to an assist from my buddy Kostov. I guess it's important for Cord to keep mentioning the guy so that his interrogator is fully aware that MI6 is working with Volgia's resistance fighters.

I hope the plot twist at the end of this is that Cord is basically lying the whole time and the whole game is bullshit. This would be an excellent time for some unreliable narration.

And now I'm in a sewer level. Joy. Actually, I think this would be a excellent time for me to turn this off.


In my opinion In Cold Blood could have actually been a great game, if it wasn't for a few tiny little flaws holding it back from absolute perfection. For instance:
  • Cord stumbles around rooms like he's drunk, bouncing off walls.
  • It's an adventure game that uses the generally unloved Grim Fandango style of control instead of giving the player a cursor.
  • It's a third person shooter that uses awkward Resident Evil style fixed camera angles, and the combat is pretty bad in general I reckon. Tap fire until you win! Or most likely lose, as all the people in the next room come pouring out to join in.
  • It's a stealth game where you can't judge depth or tell which way enemies are facing half the time.
  • In the PS version it's unclear which items you're meant to pick up or interact with. Object hunting's bad enough in adventure games that let you sweep the screen with a mouse, in this it's even worse.
  • You can end up saving when the game's in an unwinnable state without any way of knowing about it.
  • It's not uncommon to walk straight into a room full of enemies and get immediately gunned down.
  • PS version is blessed with 20 seconds of loading after every fuck up.
  • The first puzzle (in a spy adventure) is based around shoving a rope into a particle accelerator and firing across a ravine into a wall with enough force that it can support Cord's weight without slipping back out. Well okay, you might not actually consider this one a flaw.
  • You can get shot at and injured in cutscenes.
  • "Go up to the switch room and turn on the auxiliary elevator. No there is no reason at all why we're making you backtrack up a floor just to press a button."
  • The game just isn't really that compelling so far and most NPCs aren't interesting enough to be worth talking to.
  • FOR FUCK'S SAKE CORD, JUST GO THROUGH THE FUCKING DOOR! PLEASE! I'M BEGGING YOU!
Okay maybe the game's not actually that great after all. I suppose you could even say it's a thoroughly miserable frustrating mess if you were feeling harsh. A total train wreck, if you will. Although I did like... uh, well the radar map was cool. Plus the visuals are pretty good, especially in the higher res PC version. I admit I only looked at the first level though and it may get far better after this, critics certainly seemed to like the game far more than I did, but I got no joy out of what I played and I can't recommend it.


If you have anything you want to say about In Cold Blood then you're in luck as there is a comments box right underneath this post for just such a purpose. You could even say things about my post, or the site in general, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. got this game after some reviews i saw, and i have to say that you managed to play a lot more than me.

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