Cryostasis, A Walk Down Memory Lane...Sort of.
Cryostasis is a unique action horror game that has a lot of new ideas and narrative elements that give this game a feeling that will leave you saying "hey that's new." Now inventive game play mechanics and story do not solely make a good game but it is these qualities that make this game something that will be cherished by fans of the genre.
You play as Alexander Nestrov a meteorologist who was sent to investigate the shipwreck of the nuclear ice breaker the North Wind. The job seemed simple enough, until the you actually arrive at the North Wind that is. From the moment you first set foot on the ship you realise something is amise; and it's not just because of the blarring cold ( the feeling of which is better then in any other game) or the delapidated ship that your meandering through, it's the visions.
A large portion of the games story is told through the visions of the departed crew where you must, for lack of a better term, "warp" into the last moments of that particular crew member's life and change his fate by controlling him. It's a very cool narrative tool that works really well and it's not just for kicks, most of the time you have to save the persons life in order to be able to progress through the ship. An example of this mechanic is early on in the game when you come across a dead man who is frozen in a doorway. You activate his vision, which is done by touching his eerily still beating heart, and begin a race against time and fate to help this man survive. If you where succesful in this endeavour your congradulated with a newly unfrozen doorway; if not then it's another trip into memory lane for you.
The Vision concept is awesome, so much so that I don't think the experience would have been half as entertaining without it. Now there are other storytelling elements in the game such as diaries and pages from a folktale that are narrated but these just don't really cut it after being able to experience events through the visions. I found myself almost not paying attention to these narrated excerpts because they weren't as interesting and not to mention half the time when listening to these excerpts I was busy trying to find a way to stay alive.
If there is one thing you're going to get from Cryostasis it's that the North Pole is freakin' COLD! Never in a game have I felt so cold that I actually mentally pictured the pain that such terribly freezing tempuratures must bring. The visual cues are what make it feel this way. The colder it is the more it shows and not just on the enviroment but you as well. Your vision becomes frosted over as you wander through the cold frozen tomb of the North Wind. Your arms, gloves and even weapons become more and more encased by ice and frost as your tempurature drops, it's a very awesome looking effect. These aren't just visual effects either they change the way your character moves, shoots and reloads as well. Going from a cold dark hallway to an outdoor corridor where a blizzard is in full effect is amazing visually, but also deadly because if your not fast and don't get out of the cold and find a heat source you will die, and painfully I might add.
Another unique aspect of Cryostasis is the health and healing system, technically there is none. The way you survive and "heal" is by heat sources found through out the game. These sources range from small lamps to portions of the ship that have caught on fire. Now before you make a comment about the lamps just imagine yourself in the North Pole and your only heat source was a table lamp... yeah I thought so.These heat sources, some of which you must activate with a flip of a switch or push of a button, can also affect the enviroment and yourself but melting away frozen water and revealing what was left underneath. Again it's a very nice visual.
Now this game is not without it's flaws. There was many a time where I experienced crashes and on one occasion it actually froze my system. This all occured in the later part of the game, to be more precise the last hour or so and as frustrating as it was (VERY) I was already so enthralled with the game that I sucked it up each time and re-launched hoping that it would not happen again but time after time my prayers when unanswered.
Aside from technical issues the only other draw back is that fairly quickly all the melee weapons become obsolete with almost every enemy using guns and the abundance of ammo you have. It's a shame really because the melee combat I found was very satisfying and felt good to control. Don't get me wrong the guns all were top notch in both visuals and audio (much like the rest of the game) with animations being some of the best in the first person genre, I just hated the fact that with such great melee fighting I had to give it up completely about 3/5ths of the way in. With that being said you should not believe this game to be an FPS in the same way F.E.A.R. 2 is 2 is an FPS. It's much slower, the enemies are not that abundant where you're having great shoot outs in over the top action set pieces and the amount of guns is limited ( there are five firearms, 4 if your not counting the sniper/iron sight versions of the mosin nagant.) Overall don't expect this game to be a fast paced FPS, it's more in line with Resident Evil then Bioshock in terms of it's Shooting.
In the end Cryostasis is a gem of a game that many will enjoy but before you can enjoy it completely you must accept the notion that this is not a straight FPS but rather an action game. I see this as being a game more in the lines of Penumbra rather then Bioshock and once you get that idea into your head you will have a blast playing it.