See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Blood on the gameplay 

First-person shooters are a videogame staple like Hollywood action flicks. You can trace their origin back to such classic PC games as Doom, Quake and Castle Wolfenstein 3D. Over the years they’ve grown increasingly sophisticated, thanks to more realistic interaction and movie-like cut-scenes that have deepened the narratives driving the action.

Area 51, which features David Duchovny voice actuing and cashing in on his X-Files connection, is similar in plot to the game Half-Life. You’re part of a military HAZMAT team sent into a subterranean base to control an infection that’s turned inhabitants into gun-wielding zombies. Soon you discover a far-reaching conspiracy that reads like a compendium of sci-fi themes: cybernetic soldiers, dubious government agencies, aliens and mutant zombies and so on. It’s a convoluted mess.

But the incomprehensible story comes alive, thanks largely to great graphics and gameplay. After entering with your fire team, your mates are killed and you’re infected, allowing you to switch between a feral, hand-to-hand mutant and weapon-wielding soldier. As you hunt for the cure, you are telepathically haunted by the source of the virus (voiced by Marilyn Manson).

The gameplay is unrelenting, with crisp, finely textured graphics and eerie, realistic audio. The game is long, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the limited artificial intelligence (things tend to always rush you) reduces it to a pretty straightforward shoot-’em-up after a while. Along the way you are supposed to collect clues, but they aren’t integrated in a meaningful way within the game. In concert with the hodgepodge kitchen-sink plotting, the game is reduced to a series of involved and, admittedly, enjoyable firefights.

Cold Winter, on the other hand, has a terrific story that recalls a John Le Carré spy novels, but falls short graphically. You play Alan Sterling, a disgraced MI-6 officer rescued from a prison and enlisted by a shadowy figure in a far-reaching plot involving your now-typical madman in possession of nuclear weapons. The plotting works here, and is well-integrated with the action. The AI is strong, as enemy soldiers move in packs, employ cover, and are not above throwing a fragmentation grenade or using smoke to mask their advance. Their canny movements make killing them that much more enjoyable, enhanced by exploding limbs and extreme rag doll physics.

Unfortunately, the settings are drab and poorly rendered, while many of the levels are excessively claustrophobic. This limits replayability, unless you’re a real sucker for graphically exploding heads.

Like an action movie, first-person shooters Area 51 and Cold Winter provide standard thrills in an increasingly stereotypical manner. Both Area 51 and Cold Winter are sturdy, if unsurprising, escapist fare.

Chris Parker is a freelance writer. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Speaking of Games, Opposable Thumbs

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 2, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation