Watch any classic Wild West movie and it'll likely end with the hero and villain, both trained gunslingers deadly in any fight. Two people standing apart from each other, waiting for high noon before both draw their six-shooters and gun the other down quick as they can. Cold Iron has taken this dramatic moment and built a game around it, having you face off against many different opponents in this classic format. Is it enough to carry the game, or was more necessary?
The game puts you in the role of an unnamed gunslinger. After your father is cut down by a bandit clan you find his old revolver and go to avenge him. It isn't long before you discover that his gun is possessed by a bloodthirsty demon known as Cold Iron and that it was your father's quest to destroy the demon. Deciding to continue his quest, you set off to find the mysterious Gunsmith, who is the only person that can destroy Cold Iron. The plot itself really isn't that strong. There's an attempt to give mid-level narrations, similar to games like Bastion, but it feels like a halfhearted effort at best. This is not going to be one of VR's memorable stories.
The game takes place as a series of duels in different settings. At first, there's nothing that weird about these duels. All you have to do is point the gun down so it remains holstered until a bell rings, then quickly draw and fire at the enemy. If you draw too early or miss your shot, then you'll get a strike against you. Draw quick enough and hit your opponent, however, and you'll win that round. All duels are done in a "best to five" format, so one loss won't end it for you.
Naturally, it's not that simple, as each enemy has its own gimmick to try and throw you off. One enemy whistles while waiting for the bell, trying to throw you off and make you draw early. Another will teleport to one of three locations, depending on the color of lightning that appears before she attacks. Most of the gimmicks were clever, and at least tried to stop the gameplay from getting too dull. There were a few that really didn't click. The worst was a sniper who would vanish to somewhere really far away, forcing you to play a game of Where's Waldo to find her. The idea is okay, but the distances were often extreme and the game wasn't really accurate enough to make responding to them much fun.
The gimmicks try their hardest, but it wasn't long before I was bored of Cold Iron. The central gameplay mechanic feels more like a minigame from a full FPS rather than something that can carry a full game. It's not like it needs to carry it for long since the entire running time of Cold Iron is somewhere around an hour, but it can't even seem to manage this meager amount. At one point I actually nodded off while playing the game and was awoken by the bell. The game isn't helped at all by a terrible checkpoint system, which clumps fights together in groups of three. Screw up on the third fight when the game introduces a new gimmick you need to learn, and you have to redo the first two fights. It becomes frustrating, especially during the last few fights in the game that often require insanely fast reaction speeds.
After every world, you get to play a little shooting gallery minigame where you have to try and shoot watermelons as they're launched into the air. This is really little more than a distraction, and it's an exceptionally strange one at that. As far as I can tell there's no point system or reward for this minigame, so I'm not really sure why it exists. By the third one, I was just letting it play out in the background while I did something else.
Cold Iron doesn't really have much of an appealing art style or consistency to go with it. The game feels all over the place, to the point where it comes off like a weird Unity asset flip. The main character just sort of teleports to new zones and it feels like the justification is more to use assets rather than anything plot related. At one point you just end up in the middle of a modern-day city fighting a robot ninja because I guess those were sitting around in a folder somewhere unused.
While I can see what Cold Iron was going for, by the end I wasn't really that impressed with the game. The dueling mechanics would make for a solid distraction from a bigger game, but quickly get old here. Combined with a forgettable story, a strange inconsistent art style, poor checkpoints, and a short run time, and there's nothing really special here. Heat the iron up next time.
Cold Iron was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Cold Iron's central mechanic isn't strong enough to carry a game. Combine this with a boring story, poorly made checkpoints, and an art style that has all the consistency of a Unity asset flip, and all you're left with is dish that would have been better served hot.(Review Policy)
- A Few Clever Ideas
- Gameplay Loop Gets Boring
- Annoying Checkpoints
- Forgettable Story
- Inconsistant Art Style