In Retrospect: Midwinter

Platforms: Retro

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Decades before the open worlds of Just Cause, Grand Theft Auto and Mercenaries, one game defined a genre. With one aim - to destroy the headquarters General Masters - the player was pretty much left to their own devises as they explored the 160,000 square mile island. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Midwinter was set on a world that was covered entirely in snow, created by a meteor strike in Burma in 2040. The island the game was set on is dotted with settlements and people who you, as Captain John Stark can recruit to help in your cause to stop Masters devious plans of world domination.

Forgetting the fact that it was possible to complete the whole game within 30 minutes if you just made your way directly to Masters' bunker with some dynamite, Midwinter when played properly was one of the most involving and deep games of the time. State-of-the-art 3D graphics helped bring the world to life and a selection of weapons ranging from sniper rifles to grenades helped you to build a formidable arsenal. Travel could be acheived by either the skis (or hand-glider, or snow mobile) you start the game with or by commandeering any vehicles you might find in the settlements and some vehicles carried weapons of their own helping to give the player a huge array of projectiles to cause death and destuction with. Every time you reach a settlement you could choose to switch to any other character you've recruited - each character gets two hours of game time which gives the impression of controlling simultaneous events.

imageThese days, the game is near unplayable via emulation thanks to blocky graphics and slow framerates. It hasn't aged well, but its legacy is one that has continued right through to the modern day. A game before its time, it set benchmarks and garnered so much critical praise that it was rightly considered one of the best games of the 16-bit home computer generation. It was bettered by its sequel, but the original set the bar for everything that followed and nothing released until much more recently came close to capturing the open world feeling that Midwinter conjured up in 1989. From the moment you're dropped into the action, every decision is down to you - whether you try and recruit a massive army, or take a more direct and solitary approach is entirely up to you. Every decision can bring you closer, OR take you further away from achieving your goal and as you get geographically nearer Masters' hideout, the more dense and aggressive your enemies become.

The game's designer, Mike Singleton went on to create two further games in the series - Midwinter 2 - Flames of Freedom, which spanned many islands and offers a massive variation in gameplay, vehicles and combat; and Ashes of Empires (more of a spiritual successor than a continuation). He was last seen working on GRiD for Codemasters back in 2008. We think the time is right for a return to the Midwinter universe, but only if Singleton is given free-reign to either give us the next chapter in his own vision or even more temptingly to recreate the original Midwinter games with today's technology.

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