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Have You Played... Cryostasis?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Cryostasis belongs to the same class as the S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Metro series, namely weird-as-heck Eastern bloc shooters. As an FPS it isn't as good as anything either of those series’ offer, but the story it tells between the gun bits is satisfyingly mysterious and surprisingly touching.

You do need to get past the phrase "psychic meteorologist" to enjoy it, however. Alexander Nesterov is the clairvoyant weatherman in question, sent into the Arctic to investigate the nuclear icebreaker "North Wind" which has become trapped despite its essential qualities as a ship. He discovers the crew frozen to death and, in some cases, returned to an astonishingly creepy un-life by radiation leakage from the decaying reactor.

Nesterov can revert parts of the disaster through his "Mental Echo" ability, which lets him delve into the memories of dead crew-members and alter some of their actions. This is used to construct puzzles and obstacles, but its main function is to communicate the story of the ship's captain, an affable old man who is nevertheless responsible for the ship becoming trapped, and whose authority dwindles as the situation becomes increasingly untenable. Through Nesterov's eyes we see the crew abandon him one by one, old friendships torn asunder by ambition, doubt and desperation.

The elegiac tale is complemented by a frightfully icy atmosphere and a neat little heat equals health mechanic that combine to emphasise how unbearably cold the ill-fated vessel is. The hideous performance problems that plagued Cryostasis on release should no longer be an issue, so if you can tolerate the spongy shooting, Cryostasis will make for an absorbing few hours during these bracing winter nights.

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Rick Lane

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