Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Cold Shot Is Hitman Horror

It’s always on that one last job when things go awry. Cold Shot places you in the shoes of an assassin, whose one well placed bullet away from retirement. Your workspace is all set up. Rifle is aimed, target is planted in front of his computer, and the night is dark. All you need is to pull the trigger and confirm the kill. Simple enough, ordinarily. But not this time around. 

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

Power dynamics between a player and the game are a critical aspect of horror. One that, for the most part, does not really get considered, since it’s usually a pretty subtle facet. Generally, a game will have a straightforward power dynamic. You’re either DOOM guy, who will annihilate 1000 demons with ease, or you’re Amnesia guy, who’s scared of his own shadow (rightfully so, to be fair). These dynamics don’t really change throughout a game. But when a game does, it becomes very interesting indeed.

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

The gameplay for Cold Shot is very much like classic survival horror. Most of the game is a walking simulator, exploring the house and finding clues. The rest is an FPS, but still somewhat slower and more methodical. In a way, this makes it feel like a first-person Resident Evil 2, especially during the frantic moments of combat. 

What Works:

Cold Shot goes to some lengths to make the player feel in control. Not the least of which is putting a golf ball sized hole in a man’s head from 200 meters away. But even then, as you go to investigate his home, you are equipped with a gun and plenty of ammo. Even with the foreknowledge that this is a horror game, you feel safe. Or at the very least, prepared. Once you’re inside the house that changes 

This is what made Cold Shot so especially interesting to me. You play as a hitman hitting a man. Pretty clear who is in control while you’re staring down the scope of a rifle, right? You enter the home, and find that the large pool of blood of which the body is supposed to be on is vacant. The notes he left indicate that the madman knew he was about to be slain. By you. And his walking corpse has nailed the doors shut locking you inside. It turns from a game of cat and mouse to a rat in a rat trap. 

Oh and the style and writing and atmosphere is really good too. Cold Shot looks like an assassination taking place in Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. The weird visual filter goes perfectly with the creature and character models, giving the whole thing an uncanny and uncomfortable feel. Overall, Cold Shot is, for lack of a better term, a masterfully executed horror experience.  

What Doesn’t:

For one thing, the power dynamic change is already weakened by the fact that your character pulls out a handgun when you visit the house. Obviously you wouldn’t need a gun if there wasn’t anything to shoot. So too is the effect diminished by the foreknowledge that Cold Shot is a survival horror game. Though in that regard there really isn’t anything that can be done.

Beyond that, the game is divine. Just about every facet of Cold Shot is well polished and intriguing. Especially visually, since according to the itch.io page, Cold Shot is a collaborative effort of one game developer, two musicians, and 70 artists. 

How To Fix It:

The only change that I would possibly make is in regards to my first point in the section above. Have the gun holstered until the time is right. Cold Shot could certainly catch people by surprise when it quickly turns from exploration to survival horror. But that’s a small detail, one that absolutely does not take away from the overall experience. 

Wanky Musings:

Contrasts are important in all forms of art. In a horror game, it’s important to contrast the feeling of safety with the feeling of vulnerability. The safe rooms in Resident Evil are equally as important as the unsafe rooms. Cold Shot is just one small but well crafted example of the necessity of power dynamics, and how a developer can use them to their advantage. 

Play Cold Shot for free on itch.io by clicking here

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