Revolution's latest release is a bold departure from traditional point-and-click adventure games the company is famous for (Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword games).
The result is a great spy thriller worthy of a James Bond episode, although with a darker atmosphere. As the game begins, you learn that you are a British secret agent John Cord, and you are being mercilessly grilled by an enemy after your capture. The game proper starts as one of the "flashbacks" -- details of previous missions you are forced to divulge. There are ten missions in the game, each with its own subplot(s). The development of uber-plot (i.e. the present-time plot that starts with you being tortured) is shown in cutscenes between each mission. This mechanism works well, and the plot is full of many interesting twists and not a small amount of political intrigue. Unexpected deaths and a lot of double-dealings abound - enough to make you keep playing just to see where the story will go next. Your first flashback/mission (infiltrate an enemy mine to investigate a disappearance of a fellow agent) soon becomes quite complex, as you uncover a plot against global freedom involving a new kind of mineral that could power a new kind of devastating superweapons. During the game, you will meet up with a resistance agent, a female spy, and several shady characters -- all of whom have their own secret agenda to follow.
Gameplay of In Cold Blood is reminiscent of Delphine's earlier Fade to Black, although it differs in that success requires much more stealth and planning than shoot-to-kill reflexes. In contrast to Revolution's earlier games, the adventure element has been vastly simplified: although you still have an inventory, most puzzles are very simple and straightforward. What makes In Cold Blood a lot of fun, aside from the gripping plot, is the excellent pace and balance of the action that mirror what real spies do (or what we imagine they do). You are equipped with only a handgun which is not powerful, and bullets are scarce and are hard to come by. This means that Rambo-style kick-door-down-and-kill-everyone tactic will guarantee certain death, as your enemies (typically guards) are better equipped, and often far outnumber you. This forces you to plan your route carefully and be very patient: often it is crucial to watch a guard on patrol for several minutes or more, in order to time the precise moment you can sneak behind his back. Similar to Thief, you can knock a guard unconscious with only one blow to the head if you sneak up to him from behind. Another similarity is that because you can both sneak and shoot, there is often more than one solution to the problem (which typically means answering the question: "how do I get from here to there with all those guards swarming inside?" If you want to get through a room occupied by guards, you can try to shoot them (not always a good idea if you're outnumbered), or duck behind objects and sneak around to the entrance to the next room without being spotted. In Cold Blood discourages direct shootouts much more than Thief, however. In Thief, you could survive an encounter with a guard or two, while in In Cold Blood the guards are heavily armed, and can kill you in a few seconds. The game also features a lot of spy gadgets to play with, chief among them being an essential wrist computer called the Remora. The Remora is used to record information about your mission, extract data from computer consoles, and solve some simple computer-based puzzles (e.g. unlocking a door, or disabling the security system).
Overall, I find In Cold Blood to be a great spy thriller-- one of the best games of its kind I've ever played. Fans of Revolution's previous games may be in for a shock, as In Cold Blood requires a lot more action, planning, and stealth than puzzle-solving skills. If you are an open-minded adventure fan who likes atmospheric games that may not fit the mold (e.g. Westwood's Bladerunner), In Cold Blood will keep you entertained for hours on end. After all, adventure games are about telling stories-- and this one is darn good. It doesn't require lightning-quick reflexes, although the ability to quickly draw your gun will come in handy. Two thumbs up!