Cryostasis First Look

Set aboard a vessel trapped in the artic circle, Cryostasis has you trying to survive against the bitter cold and the horrors aboard the ship.

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While 1C is best known for its strategy and simulation games, such as IL-2 Sturmovik, the company also publishes a small number of first-person shooters. And with Cryostasis, 1C is planning to release its most advanced shooter yet. Cryostasis is a variation on the haunted-house style of shooter, as you'll be placed in a very dark and mysterious environment and must use your wits and reflexes to survive.

The game is set aboard the North Wind, a nuclear-powered icebreaker that's frozen inside the artic circle. You play as Alexander Nesterov, a meteorologist who is somehow trapped aboard the vessel, which provides the only shelter from the deadly cold outside. However, you aren't alone, because the North Wind was being used for some kind of weird mutant experiments. Of course, those went badly awry, and now you've got to get out.

In Cryostasis, your character's health bar is actually a heat bar, which shows your body's internal temperature. If you venture outside in the cold, the heat will quickly drain away. To make things worse, the mutants on the ship are able to use cold as a weapon. The only way to heal is to find a heat source and warm up. These can range from life-saving heaters to a simple light bulb, though the latter can't restore a lot of warmth. Still, every little bit of warmth will help.

Your challenge will be to navigate your way through the ship while staying alive. This will involve going outside to get from one section to another, as well as working your way through the ship's dark and complex innards. 1C says that the level designs are based on real-world Russian icebreakers. In addition to battles against the enemies you encounter, there will be a pretty intriguing puzzle system that's based on the idea of a "mental echo." Basically, your character has the power to approach a dead body and mentally tap into its last memories. This lets you "move" back in time and see what the deceased saw right before he or she died. Another twist on this is that you can try to influence events in the past. The example that was given was that you may find your path blocked by a crane. There may be a body nearby, and by seeing its mental echo, you can not only watch the events that caused the crane to block the path, but you can change those events to prevent the crane from moving. Then, when you return to the present, the path will be clear.

Thankfully, you won't be completely unarmed as you make your way through the ship. You will have a handful of weapons. We saw an old bolt-action rifle, like the kind used in World War I or World War II, as well as a pistol, and there are about eight weapons in the game. Meanwhile, there are 15 enemies, ranging from what looked like mutant zombies to a formidable heavily armed opponent clad in what looks like heavy armor.

The visuals in Cryostasis look great, because the game uses an advanced graphics engine that's comparable to other high-end shooters. For instance, advanced lighting and shadowing effects will be important to help establish the mood, and we saw swaying lamps that cast their light back and forth across a dimly lit corridor. There's also very sophisticated water simulation in the game, and liquid water will actually freeze to ice in real time.

Cryostasis is being developed by Action Forms, and 1C says that the game has a lot of work left in development. We can expect Cryostasis to ship either late this year or in 2008.

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