Cold As Hell Special Edition

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Paul
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Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Paul » Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:57

Introduction:
- Not many mods out there try to introduce new elements of gameplay. Much rely on the same old running and gunning. I, a man who likes new challenges, was very pleased to see Cold as Hell feature a whole new amount of gameplay techniques, from level design to bleeding and monster combat. Unlike other Doom mods that rely on reflexes and dodging to combat monsters, CAH forces you to think strategically – wander through areas to find ammunition that is quite scarce, rely on helpful NPCs or protect them. CAH is also driven by a storyline. All these changes contribute to making a mod that plays pretty much nothing like good ol’ Doom, so if it doesn’t suit you you’re better off finding some more old style action, but don’t misunderstand – CAH is intense as Hell.

WARNING – there be spoilers ahead!

General:
- First off, we’re driven by a storyline. We assume control of gunnery seargent Henry Mills who retires at a base in Greenland. During the trip via an airplane something goes wrong and the plane crashes. The player, miracly surviving the catastrophe, proceeds to the military base and finds it overrun by hellish creatures. The fight of survival begins.
Cold as Hell can only be described as a survival horror. The creepy storyline, told via objectives, cutscenes, tape recorders and notes sends a chill down the spine, while we’re still fighting good ol’ imps, demons and Hell Knights. Watch out, these monsters are very different from their versions we all know.
- All this forces the player to think a lot more than while playing Doom, instead of relying on instincts, reflexes and shoot outs. Ammunition is scarce and so is health. We are required to perform a number of objectives and can travel between the maps to solve various puzzles, including deactivating a generator or finding several access codes. The objectives screen really helps in this case as one might easily get lost, not knowing what to do next. The several maps took about 3 to 4 hours per an average player (that’s me) to finish and provided a lot of fun and tension.

Aesthetics:
- As a Gzdoom wad CAH utilises most of its cool features, including dynamic lighting, 3d floors and models and while this could’ve been taken a step further no one can complain. The base really feels realistic – we got messes, crew quarters, power rooms and naturally the rest rooms. The places feel desolated and are rendered as victims of a terrible incident that swallowed many souls and awaits to consume even more. The creepy storyline and intriguing designs stick to the computer and spawn a desire to uncover all of the secrets of the game. Yep, CAH really grabs you into itself, which is always good!
- However, a lot of areas feature exact decorations and it is easy to get lost in the base. To make things worse the automap is not available. Sometimes it takes a while to explore an entire level, searching for ammo or key items. The areas could really use more signs or decoration variation, so checking them out wouldn’t be a wandering and a goose-chase after that particular room, opened with this here Brass Key we just found. The Staff Housing level is a good example of a confusing design.
- The outdoors look amazing, with the snow and trees (provided you have a powerful enough computer to witness them) and the beatiful skyboxes. Basements are creepy, with eerie lighting and stuff. Plenty of indoor areas however feature same textures and furniture, so seing the same offices for the sixth time isn’t really the most attractive thing.
The final levels are quite surreal, in contrast to the initial ones, but personally I preferred the original version with the reddish skybox instead of the pure blackness that is there now.
- Graphics look good and that’s enough to work. The game reuses plenty of Doom resources, but the way the story is told and stuff they all have a seriously fresh feeling.
- The story builds a seriously dark atmosphere. However, the moment I saw the other soldiers the atmosphere got ruined. This is because other NPC’s made me think that if they are present they may somewhat help me in my struggle against the enemies, they might be relied upon (and they are somtimes, well, reliable). If you’re searching a base, crawling with monsters, with some good guys behind you, you feel a tad more safe – someone can help you. If someone survived the monsters aren’t really that lethal. They can be outrunned and outgunned. If you’re searching the same place alone however, everyone else is dead, then it contributes to a helluva scarier atmosphere – you’re thinking that whatever is here no man out there could’ve handled it, so why should you? Now that’s fear! CAH isn’t so scary after you’ve seen the survivors as it was before you ran into them.
- As a last note, the ending felt kinda like being pulled out of the hat. Who cares what happened after the game? Leave that for the sequel, in my opinion. CAH should’ve ended the good ol’ B-movie way, with Henry Mills being saved by some rescue squads, but I can’t really complain. I simply didn’t pay much attention to the ending as it was, more or less, useless for the game.

Gameplay:
- The gameplay still relies on running and gunning, but this time we have to be cautious. Weapons have recoil and need to be reloaded. The player, when wounded, starts bleeding and unless a bandage is used the health continues to drop down until it is stopped or the player dies of blood loss. Quite a cool feature.
- Scarce ammunition and stronger and more dangerous monsters force a more tactical approach to situations. This is mostly because Henry Mills is slower than the Doomguy, so dodging enemy fire is sometimes not the best solution, not to mention some enemies throw fireballs at random directions, making dodging them extremely difficult.
Ocasionally one will have to rely on NPC’s help to get through an area. The new weapons are all hitscan ones (except the Flamethrower) and if they run out of ammo you have to stop firing to reload them, giving the enemies a chance to counter attack. Sometimes such can render you dead.
- There are ocasional moments of swimming and riding a jeep even – all are, more or less, enjoyable. Thankfully there are no stupid jumping-on-stones most people hate and I’m thankful for that. CAH, in general, plays excellent.
Unfortunately, there are some design issues that can literally piss a player off. I know they did that to me. First off, with the player being so handicapped (slower, weapons requiring a reload) teleporting in monsters into an area may not be the best idea, especially when bastards suddenly appear behind you and in front of you. Such a situation gives you very slim chances of making it out alive and, dead, you’re more pissed off at the designer for putting you in such a hopeless situation rather than on yourself and the lack of your skills. Monster teleporting into areas we’ve previously cleaned up also can be rather depressing. You’ve spent several minutes, sweating your forehead off and the place suddenly got reinfasteted by baddies. Now you ask yourself - wasn’t all that shooting around poinltess? Certainly feels this way. In my opinion, the author should’ve spawned in monsters rather rarely. An occasional, random spawning of an imp somewhere on the map (like the Ettins in Hexen do) would not make an annoyance, but rather a sign that the monsters are present on the map despite our attempts to eradicate them, so we have to keep ourselves on guard all the time. If repopulation of an area was necessary, why not have the monsters be spawned outside the main area of a map, like outside the fence, and have them swarm the place so we hide in a building and try to make it out while taking care of them? In Staff Housing there was such an element where monsters appeared out of one of the buildings and we had to hide in it, while capping baddies into oblivion. It was one of the coolest moments of the game, but a rare one unfortunately. Instead we get monsters teleport into hallways right behind our backs. Argh, just argh.
- The learning curve of the game is extremely unfair. Right from the start we’re overswarmed by adversaries and we don’t have enough time to master the new gameplay mechanics with the slower player and stuff to properly combat the enemies. Not to mention that the monsters are now tougher. In Doom a demon took 2-3 shotgun shots. Here it takes 3-4. It isn’t a fatal issue, but it comes to the fact that what we’ve learned by Doom does not have a use here and the monsters behave differently from what we would imagine them to be. The best example is the Pain Elemental. When I encountered it I immideatly rushed to it to block its ability to spawn Lost Souls like I usually do in stock Doom levels. Instead the bastard fried me with fire. Now who would knew it now spits our fireballs? Who would’ve guessed? Hell Knights, on the other hand, are weaker. This all would’ve been remedied if the author did some slightest changes to the monsters’ appearence so they would not remind us of their old behaviour, which leads to confusion and mistakes in the gameplay like the one I described above. Even changing some colours on the monsters with the DECORATE pallette transitions would’ve sufficied. Upon seing a grey demon we would think “hey, a new monster! What does it do?” instead of relying on combat techniques we knew, but those that don’t work in CAH.
- The game steps up the difficulty so fast we don’t have a chance to try it out. The ocasional moments of different combat (riding a jeep for example) are sometimes extremely unfair. The shootout by the old base when sgt. Malloy (is that a System Shock 2 reference? :) ) is fixing the jeep is a good example – I used the BAR to fight the enemies and when its ammo dropped down I just abandoned it and relied on the Thompson. Now who would’ve told me the Machine Gun refills itself with ammunition right after you let go of it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just make it have infinite ammo? I had to die three times before I realised that, before I learned that.
- And the final levels are just too difficult in comparison to the earlier stuff. You have to employ completely new tactics to defeat the pilot phantoms. The final fight is a real killer, especially when you get shrunk. This would have not happened if there would be a slightly slower learning curve, introducing new monsters as alone examples rather than as a part of a large group, or giving the player more chance for a different combat approach to the situation.

Summary:
- Cold as Hell is not flawless, but it is nevertheless a really fine WAD, certainly deserving that Cacoaward it gained. If you’ve downloaded this, brace yourself for a couple hours of some good gameplay. That is, if you like new types of gameplay introduced into Doom. Certainly CAH is a wad you will not forget, not even after a couple months. Very creative and inspiring, this is a wad you must have, but once you have it, and are playing the game, seriously consider playing it, for the first time, at a lower difficulty that you usually play the game on, or risk frustration overdose. This isn’t a mod only-for-eagles like Hell Revealed 2, but it is so different you gotta learn it before you master it, even if you think of yourself as a Doom Master. As a final note, I beg of you, turn on the new features (no auto reloading, bleeding etc.) – they were designed with a purpose of making the game even more entertaining.

Final Marks:
Aesthetics: 8/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Overall: 8.5/10
Comments - A must have, quality Wad.

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Rex Claussen
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Re: Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Rex Claussen » Fri Sep 11, 2009 13:29

Very well-written review.

The only point I'd like to make is that you gave Gameplay a score of 9, but in the write-up you spent more time discussing the negatives than the positives. I'm guessing that, for you, in the final analysis the good aspects of the gameplay were actually significantly better than the annoyances.

Regardless, thanks for a thorough and detailed evaluation of the game.

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Enjay
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Re: Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Enjay » Fri Sep 11, 2009 14:25

A good and fair review which I mostly agree with, but I also take ReX's point as well and agree with it.

I said "mostly agree" because, for me, I didn't feel the loss of tension when I found other survivors/NPCs. I liked finding them and in some ways the we're all in it together feel added to the tension. ie, there are a lot of us in the brown stuff, not just me, and we are still out numbered. I agree that the learning curve of CaH is steep, but I don't think that I found it as steep as the review implies.

However, a good and fair review of a good and significant mod.

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Paul
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Re: Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Paul » Fri Sep 11, 2009 18:17

Thanks for the pointers guys.
@ Rex - indeed I spent more time discussing the negatives. I pay more attention to the flaws and cons of something I'm reviewing so that perhaps something can be learned from discussing the problem. They are after all my opinions, but I hope that flaws pointed out may be of help to authors so they dont make the same mistakes again in other mods. But like I said, they are still only my opnions and personnal views (such as the NPC case).

@ Enjay - well, I found it a tad unfair because I kinda suck at fighting hellspawn (get frustrated too quickly) and I shouldn't be reading notes on an opened field where monsters who missed my sight can throw that fireball at me ;)

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Pluck101
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Re: Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Pluck101 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 22:27

Where might i be able to download and then precedeingly enjoy this exciting map? Link please! :biggrin:
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Re: Cold As Hell Special Edition

Post by Starscream2 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 22:50


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