Designer: Mike Singleton
Midwinter was a 3D action-espionage game that attempted to be several things at the same time and came surprisingly close to pulling it off. First, there was the strategy aspect of the game, which took place on the 160,000-square-mile island of Midwinter, where you planned the moves of the Free Villages Peace Force in an attempt to stop the evil General Masters from taking over the island. Thirty-two agents with different skills were scattered across this vast environment, and you had to recruit as many as possible.
Meeting up with these agents required changing to the game's first-person action mode, where you skied across the frozen landscape, ever wary of enemy troops vehicles, and aircraft. It was possible to snipe enemies at long range in this mode, and as the game progressed you would eventually commandeer several vehicles that were fully controllable. There were snow-buggies for quickly traversing the white wasteland, ski lifts for quickly getting to the tops of mountains, and hang gliders for getting down from said mountains (and attacking enemies from the air). Like the skiing, vehicles were controlled from a first-person perspective. The entire island was rendered with shaded 3D polygons, and a gameplay area this large was unheard of in 1989.
If all this sounds a little lame, it wasn't, thanks to all the extra realistic touches the designers threw in that haven't shown up in similar games until recently. The sniping mode scope could be zoomed in, and the view would bob up and down as the agent breathed. Agents with better shooting skills suffered less from this effect. While skiing it was possible to hit a tree while zipping down a steep slope, which usually knocked the agent out and sometimes did serious physical damage.
Midwinter was one of the first games to model damage to specific body parts, and it affected performance in a realistic manner. Leg injuries slowed movement, and arm wounds severely affected shooting accuracy. There were no health packs to pick up - tired and wounded agents needed plenty of bed rest to recover fully, and the fact that you couldn't push your troops to extremes turn after turn created some unique tactical problems. It was like Jagged Alliance in that certain agents didn't get along with one another, so you had to be careful during the recruiting process.
In the end, Midwinter's learning curve was too steep for most gamers to put up with. Mastering the various vehicles took hours of practice, and the game became strategically tougher as more agents were added to your roster. There were so many things to do, and so many things to take into consideration while doing them (from the terrain to fatigue levels), that it was easy to get overwhelmed and just give up. Despite its complexity Midwinter did well enough to garner a sequel, and its more innovative aspects continue to echo across the action genre.