Reviewed: April 24, 2005
Released: March 15, 2005
The PC has long been a mecca for first-person shooters; in fact it had held the sole market for the best shooters for a several years before they started porting over classics like Doom and Wolfenstein to consoles. Interestingly enough, I played my first FPS on the Genesis, a game called Zero Tolerance that kept me up many a night.
That strong tradition is carried on in Project: Snowblind from veteran company Crystal Dynamics, makers of the Legacy of Kain series and Gex. With Snowblind they bring us a solid Duex Ex type of FPS, but loaded with more action and graphical prowess than that classic shooter/RPG hybrid.
You are Nathan Frost, a highly trained bio-augmented super soldier. It is Hong Kong, 2065 and you must do your best to keep the peace in a civil war. The action is fast-paced and intense, and thankfully you have tons of gadgets and weapons to take care of your foes. Frost can see in an enhanced vision, kinda like a supped up night vision, slow down time (hello Bulletime rip-off number 8 thousand), deploy a shield and even turn yourself invisible, very handy for those stealth missions.
Speaking of these sneaky missions, sometimes games don’t do the best job in balancing action and stealth, take Shadows or Rome for instance, most people I know absolutely detested the non-action missions because they were just plain not fun and almost childish, and I couldn’t agree more. Thankfully in Project Snowblind, Crystal Dynamics seamlessly integrates both elements well.
It is a blast to use your powerful skills, almost Jedi like in their application, although many will say they were ripped directly from the classic Duex Ex game, which could be argued effectively, but in this day an age of unoriginality, it’s no great crime.
Sprinkled in from time to time you may even get the chance to drive some vehicles like an armored car or mech-like tank. Despite the variety of killing options, the developers left out alternate paths to victory, this is a linear game through and through.
Along with the hi-tech equipment you have to hack numerous security terminals or machinery to take control. This is pretty easy as you launch a small device that nearly instantly gets you into the system. Your enemies aren’t the smartest baddies around, but they at least serve as bullet sponges for your enjoyment, and that’s all we really ask. Sadly though, this game is short and may only take you a weekend to complete, but there is multiplayer that I will touch on in a bit.
While not technically groundbreaking, the level of detail and variety is very well done. Environments range from lush jungles to war torn urban areas, and all show a loving hand in creation. Weapons effects are also pretty cool looking; from electrical EMP to rocket launchers befit with generous explosions that send your enemies running for cover-all sparkled with bump mapping (used extensively in Doom 3) and real-time shadow effects.
The frame rates held up fairly well for my ancient PC (upgrade soon YIPPEE!) and I am sure most people these days should see some blazing fast frames. Unfortunately there are too many issues here to give it a passing grade. A lot of times you will see bland wall textures and reflections look a bit off. Also, the aforementioned real time shadows look jagged at times, even turned up to max graphical settings on my rig. Even the cut-scenes were pretty lame.
Project: Snowblind sound is a mix bag. While the weapon and sound effects decent representation of a Sci-fi world, the music is sparse only engaging during events really, and the voice acting is marginal at best. A bunch of the main characters lines were cheesy and didn’t seem to fit his Rambo-esque character. At least it isn’t Metal Gear Solid brand comedy…or *shudder the melodrama of RESIDENT EVIL -“Gaaaaaaarrrry Gaaaaarrry!”
While the single player is a short 10 hours or so, there are a wealth of multiplayer modes, from CTF, plant bomb and your standard deathmatch, that help breathe more life into this game. I managed to pull myself away from Planetside long enough to log into a few games and check out the scene Lag wasn’t too bad, surprising for a new game like this, even with the full 16 players it wasn’t noticeable.
The levels themselves are a bit unimaginative; too bad they couldn’t directly port sections of the game into multiplayer. Overall, a decent online experience, but most games these days offer too much for this to really compete, especially with the upcoming Battlefield 2 with massive 64 players, vehicles and commander mode, the days gamers being content with basic deathmatch are pretty much over.
With a short single player mode, as well as no frills multiplayer, Project Snowblind won’t turn many heads. But nonetheless, it is a solid FPS in a genre clogged with good and bad. If you were a fan of the Duex Ex series but hated the clunky controls and complex RPG aspects, this title may be more to your liking.
Snowblind has enough panache to carry it for an expansion pack or two-even the not so great Doom 3 just came out with one. Hopefully Crystal Dynamics can add more to this good, but not great sci-fi shooter.