I had heard about this game previously mainly because it is a Resident Evil 4 clone (or as some call it, Resident Evil Boat or Resident Evil 4 Lite). This is not too surprising when you consider that the studio that made it, Darkworks', previous horror game before this was Alone in the Dark: New Nightmare, another Resident Evil-clone game. In fact, the studio seems to have this big thing for horror, as they have released six games in the last 15 years, and half of them are horror titles (the newest one they released was I Am Alive).
Cold Fear plays like possibly the truest form of new Resident Evil meets old Resident Evil I have seen. The game switches up between a Resident Evil 4-style camera (when you're aiming, during certain gameplay segments), and fixed camera angles (ala' old-school Resident Evil). Assuming you aren't horrible with fixed-camera angle controls, the transitions were done pretty well and weren't nearly as disorienting as I thought they might be. They were handled and placed well in my opinion. A few good subtle scares, mixed with shoot-shoot, bang-bang, but with some limited ammo edge (though not extensively). And while it isn't the prettiest game around (even back for when it came out in 2005) it is not a bad-looking game, and had a few special effects throughout I thought were pretty ace.
The audio was also pretty nice. The voice acting was surprisingly okay to good, the music fit the mood perfectly with a few rather unnerving tracks, and the sounds in the environment did a lot to help build up the couple of locations that appear in the game.
I also have to mention now that I love ocean settings, and though Resident Evil Revelations most recently took place on a ship in the RE universe, this game handled its ocean setting much better I feel. They included things like furniture sliding around based on the turn of the ship (yes, the ship occasionally will churn itself back and forth), waves that sweep up onto the ship decks you have to watch out for or else they might sweep you away, actually pretty good rain effects, Some slight sea-fairing mist in a few places... The setting felt a lot more believable and more oceanic, which is good in my eyes.
Probably the single most surprising elements for me was how interested I got into the story. Not so much the character drama (which there's a bit of, and not many of the characters are that-well fleshed out) but the story told in the files in the game. While it wasn't mind-boggling and there wasn't any twists to be found, I found the background story and papers about the monsters and people who were here immensely interesting, probably the most interested I'd been in a horror games files in a long while. There was one file towards the end of the game that was a bit stupidly long, but they were mostly well-lengthed as well. Unfortunately the game has one of the most disappointing endings I've experienced in a while as well.
The combat in the game felt a bit like a poor-man's Resident Evil. It was serviceable and fun, but not anywhere near RE or Dead Space levels, though I must give credit that a lot of the monsters were rather original for this type of game. What is unfortunate is that some of them were almost hilariously cheap. The lesser 'cheap' enemy of the two I refer too is actually one of the main enemies in the game, which is this parasite thing that kind of looks like a starfish with extendable limbs. Ala' RE4, these things sometimes pop out of enemies when you kill them (they make a distinctive chirping sound). What is cheap about them is how ♥♥♥♥ing tiny they are, and how stupidly long their reach is. They can crawl on walls and ceilings, and can be hard to spot, but from several meters away (like, the length of five grown men from head to toe) they can extend their limbs to attach onto you and start rapidly draining your health away. They won't let go until you either get out of their range, or kill them, and they can drain health fast. And they almost never appear alone, they usually have a pack of themselves around.
The second annoyance, and the biggest gripe for me in the game, is an enemy takes on the form of a dog-like thing. He appears in the second half of the game, and HE IS CHEAP. This enemy can crawl on ceilings, usually appears in really dark locations (where you can only see its eyes), can crawl into vents and appear elsewhere (this was before Dead Space, so wasn't inspired by that), and is the fastest enemy in the game. This would all be fine, EXCEPT when the enemy gets two meters close to you it will ALWAYS, ALWAYS trigger a one-hit kill move. There is a chance to avoid it with a REALLY quick QTE, but it's hard, and this enemy does this so ♥♥♥♥ing much, and it doesn't even make sense as the attack takes about 2-3 seconds to do, which would be enough time to get away from the ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, but the moment he triggers it you're locked into an animation with him and can't move. You don't face many in the game, but god dang it, they killed me more than anything.
And it wouldn't be as bad, but the saving system in this game only happens at story intervals. Sometimes you'll go long segments of gameplay without a saving point, sometimes you'll get a save point almost immediately after the last one. Typically appear around cutscenes, but think something more Resident Evil 1 or 4-ish would of worked better here, especially as you do some backtracking in this game (like the older Resident Evils).
But outside of my complaints above, I actually really enjoyed the game. Some of the enemies were really interesting (and most pretty fair), some of the scenarios and scares were actually pretty well-done. It was a pretty good length, and while a few rough edges, I would say the game was a pretty decent knock-off, worth it for those who like this sort of style of horror game. It has an action-survival focus, but it was scarier than any recent Resident Evil game I can recall. And like a lot of good horror games from yesteryear, and though I couldn't say it's a 'great' game, I think it's a good game that is worth it for anyone who is interested in this type of thing. It's well-priced for what it provides, and I honestly do think it's a shame this game never got a follow-up.
But it also reminded me of how I actually miss the days of games like these being circulated. Horror games have never stopped circulating with clones (just look at all those Slender, Amnesia, and Dear Esther clones out there), but game's like this, maybe not amazing or groundbreaking, but competent and entertaining B-tier games that have a bit of heart in their soulless ripping-off methods and some twists to everything to make it their own... A reminder why the middle-tier game almost being non-existent these days is so disappointing. Even with the horror genre on the up-rise again, it doesn't seem like these type of games will be continuing anytime soon.
But modern sentimental feelings aside, I think this type of game might be more appreciated now as it was really one of the last of its kind before developers decided that the horror genre was dead and that middle-tier games are a dying breed. I'm even impressed to say that Resident Evil Revelations, which I thought was a pretty good game, is at ends with me on Cold Fear, as I feel Revelations does some things better, while Cold Fear does other things that tops it at times.
Tl;Dr: I played a boat with zombies on it. Starfish are ♥♥♥♥♥es, and I am sentimental about B-tier and horror games like this. Spare the time to give the game a good checking out if this type of thing is up your alley, though some frustrations do await.