Cold Zero: The Last Stand is Drago Entertainments stab at combining the ideas of a FPS such as XIII for instance, or a 3rdPS like Splinter Cell with a 3d isometric gameworld.
Simple enough, you're an ex-cop who was framed by the Mafia types and now finds he's acting as a mercenary, settling old scores and taking mission after mission to pump up that bank account. Eventually you annoy the Mafia again and they decide that you would be better off putting caps in their enemies than messing in their affairs, you don't want to work for them? Tough, it's cement shoe time if you don't.
Cold Zero brings a number of elements from such wonderful games as Thief and Splinter Cell, you can sneak around, and pick up the bodies of fallen foes hiding them in the shadows. John, that's you, can sidestep left and right, climb and jump from roof to roof, thanks to a handy icon and context sensitive move system. It's worth experimenting around windows for instance, looking to smash them and then sneaking in through the gap. John can also move and shoot, since the game revolves around a multiple-choice path in each mission, it's wise to learn to stealth around. So you don't have to go in guns blazing all the time.
A little careful experimentation can reveal a ladder or a new way into another area, allowing you to get the drop on the enemy and kill them silently. John can also fire from cover, hold down a key, click on the enemy and the hero pops out, fires a couple of shots and zips back into cover. Not the kind of thing you expect to see in a 3rd Person game of this type.
The enemy have fields of vision, which can be indicated via a quick tap of a key and hovering the mouse over the enemy, they also hear movement - so rather like the other stealth games of the FPS genre, CZ has a sound-meter as well as the light-meter, since you can also shoot lights out, mirroring the antics of Sam Fisher.
CZ also borrows RPG'ish elements and allows John to improve his skills, based on mission performance and experience, you can get more experience for leaving enemies incapacitated rather than dead and achieving bonus objectives. So I'd put the gameplay between a 3rd Person Isometric Tactical game and a FPS with a dash of RPG more akin to the recent UFO: Aftermath.
Gameplay takes place over pretty big levels, some of them linked above ground and below ground, with sewer systems and rooftops. There are 16 missions and the variety in them isn't too bad, I found overall that I was enjoying the game and I am a picky sod when it comes to this kind. There are also around 100 weapons and numerous items to be found, some of these can be pawned off in the hub-level and generate cash, for the Matrix fans amongst us, there's even a set of clothing that has John looking like Keanu.
Graphics and Animations
I can't complain, there are some nice textures and models in this game, they're crisp and they're not prone to blurriness, warping or other such problems. There's not much I can say about them really, there's only one big let down to the graphics of CZ and that's not really their fault, the big problem I found was the camera at times.
It's awful and often you find that even though it's free roaming and fully 3d, you're being shot to pieces and you can't see by whom. It tends to show the whole level and there's no fade out. So if an enemy is pegging you with lead, you're wondering where from, you often take more damage than you would have as you struggle to find out the location of the shooter.
The Animations in CZ are however very nice indeed, they're full of character and classic movements, there are no skipped frames and the various things that John can do are performed as you might expect.
Cold Zero's level design is sweet; I like it a great deal because I feel the developers have actually tried to think how their various environments come together. They have a respectable amount of secret locations, where you can get better guns or some goodies for later trade and some of these have to be found by careful exploration of the map, looking into places and seeing if John can climb, crawl into a pipe or sneak in through a broken wall or window. It's touches like this that elevate CZ from a mundane seen-it-before game into something that's worth checking out. Often dropping in through a newly broken window can lead you to getting the drop on the enemy that's lurking outside a door, if you're careful enough you can take them down silently and move on. There's also a variety in the levels, early stages are made up of urban environments, moving from cramped buildings to sewer tunnels and eventually later stages of the game take place in outdoor environments with forests of trees.
Enemy AI varies from mind-numbingly stupid to extremely intelligent and some AI can spot you from a mile away, this I feel is where the game looses a lot of points, I'd like to see a patch that fixes this to be honest, rather like the genius AI in MP Vietcong.
Passable, really, nothing stands out - the rattle of gunfire is nice and atmospheric, some pistols sound more like pop-guns but the whole ensemble is pretty well put together.
Voice Acting and Script
Once again, it's passable and the script's not too bad, there's a number of typical clichés but the whole genre's full of them anyways, so they're acceptable and in some ways welcome. I feel that you can't break the archetypes too much, since you loose any frame of reference.
CZ's score is quite nicely done, it matches the mood and feel of the game, it's not going to win many awards if any, but again it doesn't drag you kicking and screaming out of your willing suspension of disbelief and there's some nice musical moments to be had.
What can I really say, it's been done before by games such as Shadow Company, but it hasn't been done with as much attention to detail and style as in this game. It's a tactical action strategy game, with a Multiplayer element for those who want to go online and play - however I wasn't able to test the MP properly at the time of this writing since CZ does not support Gamespy and I feel that is a serious oversight in some ways. Still, I expect the MP could be a lot of fun with human v human teams, lots of stealth and backstabbing tactics ahoy.