Cold Winter Multiplayer Preview

Swordfish's upcoming PS2-exclusive shooter will ship with robust online multiplayer modes, and we recently had a chance to check them out.

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The last few times we've had a chance to take a look at Cold Winter, the upcoming PS2-exclusive spy shooter from Swordfish Studios, we've focused entirely on the game's story-driven single-player component. But the game's publisher, Vivendi, has finally taken the wraps off Cold Winter's multiplayer mode, and we recently got to go hands-on with the online portion of the game to see how it will stack up for FPS fans when it hits stores in April.

Cold Winter will be playable over a broadband connection in games with up to eight players simultaneously. Producer Ian Stevens told us that while other games might choose to offer more players per game at the possible expense of network performance, Swordfish has found eight to be the number that will provide optimal gameplay without failure. We got to see a game being played at a San Francisco-based press event against VU staffers in Los Angeles, who were themselves clashing with members of Swordfish located in the UK. It's safe to assume that anyone with a reasonably fast Internet connection will be able to get online and have a good time in Cold Winter without any major hassles.

The developer has given Cold Winter's multiplayer mode a ton of options for customization, but navigating through the menus where you set these options is a surprisingly painless process. The game will offer six multiplayer modes, some of them team-based: the requisite deathmatch; flag tag, which is a one-flag CTF variation; last man standing, which starts all players out with a set number of lives; domination, which has you vying with the other team for control of specific nodes; king of the hill, in which you fight for control of strategic zones on the map; and the aptly titled head match, which challenges you to be the player who carries a disembodied head (which you can even attack with) the longest.

Modes from flag tag to king of the hill and even head match will be available in Cold Winter's online mode.
Modes from flag tag to king of the hill and even head match will be available in Cold Winter's online mode.

Of course, Cold Winter will give you all the customization options you'd expect from an online shooter, such as weapon selection, number of bots (up to three), and so on. One of the most interesting variables is weapons damage, which can be set in a number of ways. Leaving it at the default will make the weapons damage mirror that of the single-player game. Setting it to 50 percent will make the game more like Quake, according to Stevens, as it will keep players up and running longer (and consequently collecting more weapons and ammo)The realistic damage setting will give you a Counter-Strike-like experience in which players will be able to absorb only a few shots (or only one from heavier weapons) before going down. Finally, the self-explanatory one-shot kill mode emulates the classic GoldenEye 007 game type in which every weapon is instantly lethal.

Cold Winter's wealth of weaponry will be fully available in the multiplayer mode. A whopping 30 weapons are on offer, from pistols and assault rifles to heavy machine guns, rocket and grenade launchers, and plenty more. Each multiplayer match can have only five weapons included, so you'll get to do plenty of mixing and matching to decide what kind of game you want to play--and weapon choice will, of course, play a substantial role in how the match plays out. A number of peripheral items will also be available, such as grenades, timed explosives, and so on. Interestingly, the multiplayer takes the "combined items" concept from the single-player a step further--you'll be able to combine these side items together in the multiplayer to create new mayhem. Timed explosives will combine with sticky bombs to create timed sticky explosives, for instance, and improvised weapons like these will certainly keep your enemies on their toes.

The core gameplay in Cold Winter's multiplayer felt strikingly similar to what we've tried out in the story mode. The gameplay has a fast-paced feel, with quick respawns and immediate visual feedback when you score a hit on another player. Running and turning speeds are based on the weapon you're carrying, so you won't be able to run at 90 miles an hour while wielding a rocket launcher, but overall the gameplay feels nice and smooth. There aren't really any physically modeled objects in the world for performance reasons, but at least the rag-doll physics are still in effect. Like the single-player mode, the multiplayer will emphasize the importance of collecting armor to keep yourself alive--though you'll still be able to find a hiding place and heal yourself with a medical kit, just like you can in the single-player game.

The graphics and physics are both looking impressive in the game's multiplayer.
The graphics and physics are both looking impressive in the game's multiplayer.

Cold Winter's multiplayer mode will ship with 12 maps inspired by locations in the single-player game and ranging in size from small arenas for just a few players to large-scale levels that will accommodate the full eight. Though last year saw a glut of first-person shooters hitting the market, by April fans of such games may be searching voraciously for their next fix. Will Cold Winter fit the bill? Stay tuned for more coverage on the game in the coming months.

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