Another month comes to a close, and another first person shooter is released. But what is the point, right? I mean no of these are gonna come even close to Halo 2 as far as greatness. The fact is that the only thing that is going to take Halo 2 from the top of the first person shooter mountain is going to be Halo 3 (the preceding announcement was paid for by the fine people at Bungie). All game studios know that they have major expectations to meet and exceed if they want to make any kind of profit. So the people of Crystal Dynamics decided to focus on exciting additions and enhancements to couple with a traditional first person shooter formula. The end result will have players stand behind a one man army with amazing weaponry and abilities capable of taking on an entire army single handed. Now ask yourself if you are ready to no longer be a simple man, but a super warrior as you have become the latest subject in an experimental procedure. Welcome to Project: Snowblind.
How many games do you know that start with your death? This is the first that I could remember (sending me emails quoting otherwise is really not necessary). Well, to be completely honest, its not quite the start of the game, but comes shortly their after. Step into the shoes of Lieutenant Nathan Frost as he begins his newest assignment in Hong Kong as a member of the Liberty Coalition. Too bad before you have a chance to settle in and get to know your fellow soldiers, your killed during a daring attack on your home base. Thankfully, through the technology of 2065 military doctors, you have second chance as a super soldier thanks to some fancy new features. These features include the ability to see enemies through walls, to slow time (bullet time like in Max Payne and Matrix), and cloaking. Dont expect to get all these abilities at once. You learn to master them as the game proceeds. Armed with these abilities and futuristic weapons, can you be the one to lead the Liberty Coalition to victory and restore peace to Hong Kong?
Project: Snowblind may have a familiar feel to players. This is because Snowblind was originally supposed to be a spin-off of the Dues Ex game series, but because of complications, Ion Storm (producers of Deus Ex) dropped the rights to Snowblind and Crystal Dynamics picked up the ball and ran with it. Besides both being released under Eidos flagship, there is no direct relationship between the two games. While everyone has been drawing comparisons between Snowblind and Deus Ex based on gameplay, I would compare Snowblind to a cross between Breakdown, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. The freedom of movement and interaction with objects around Frost is compared to Breakdowns ability to interact with everything. Action wise, the controls and stealth elements seem like they were lifted directly out of Chronicles of Riddick. Finally, the execution of your enhancement augmentations is similar to the method of using your psychic powers in Psi-Ops. I guess you could include Deus Ex into the mix by comparing weapons, but if you do that, then a whole bunch of other games need to be included. See, this is the reason why I hate comparing a game to another game. Look at what happens!!!
Gameplay wise, Project: Snowblind has many pluses and only two real drawbacks. The variety of weapons and gadgets makes the normal combat flow much smoother. Items like the Kicker, used to move and pull items, and the ice pick, opens locked doors and can be used to reprogram robots to do your bidding, will become more valuable at times then your primary weapon. Speaking of weapons, you have your standard sort of arms (shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher, etc.) plus some specialtys available. The Herf Gun fires electro-magnetic beams that can take out a number of enemies at close range and the Flechette Rifle used to fire swarms of flechette rounds that seek out bad guys and wont stop until everyone in their path is down and out. Couple weapons and items like these with your bio-abilities and being able to commandeer vehicles and mech-like creations for your own destructive use, and you dont need your Liberty Coalition brothers anywhere near the action. And the action is fast and furious for most of the single player campaign, but there in lies both the problems of Snowblind.
Game length almost kills Project: Snowblind right from the start. Like most games of the first person shooter genre, the single player campaign is short. Not just short, but really short. Most players, even ones with little to no experience when it comes to first person shooter, will finish through the campaign in about seven or eight hours. And to make matters worse, the AI has some big time issues, mostly from your fellow coalition members. One of the most annoying problems is that while you are firing on a group of enemies, members of your own team will run in front of you and begin firing on the bad guys. This could be because they were programmed to go to a specific location and I keep ending up in the same location. Even if that is the case, there is still no excuse for this to happen. Thankfully, all is forgiven once I broke into the Live play. First off, thank you Crystal Dynamics for the gift of having clan options. Second, there are a number of different kinds of games available to play besides deathmatch. Third, there were no frame rate problems. Add content downloading for future maps, and it dont get much better then this.
Concerning Controls, there is an awful lot packed into the Project: Snowblind package. With all the different types of controls for each element of attack, players will want to play around a bit in order to learn all the different button layouts. Just be patient and youll get the hang of it. Your inventory select system is controlled by the directional pad. To go between weapons and items, use up and down, to select your abilities, use left and to select secondary weapons, use the right. It is a good strategy to have what youre going to want active before you go into a room full of enemies because reselecting can make you an easy target for enemy fire. Everything else is standard to the first person shooter layout. Right trigger fires you primary weapon feature while the left trigger fires your weapons secondary weapon. Out of ammo? No problem, just press the left thumbstick to use your hand-to-hand attack. With the action as intense as it gets at times, some sort of roll or dive move to evade fire would have been a nice addition.
Graphically speaking, everything looks great. Any game that uses the same graphics for both cut scenes and actual gameplay is alright in my book. The bulk of the cut scenes are interactive and remain in first person mode, but players will be able to give their ever cramping hands a break when the occasional third person perspective cut scene comes along. The environments are really incredible, from the amazing detail of a meditation fortress set in the midst of a modern city, the underground sewers and the decaying rot of a city block rocked by war. But of all then things that I can say about the graphics, the lack of frame rate problems in both the single player and multiplayer campaigns. With the intense action sequences found in Project: Snowblind, I found myself waiting to see some sort of freeze up or graphical burp to hit, but none came, not even during sixteen person Live action with heavy explosions going off every other second. I really cant ask for more when it comes to smooth action.
Sounds like the world is crumbling all around you. A true sign of great sound is when my neighbors threaten to call the police because it sounds like a war is happening in my place. The sound effects will literally shake the room when coming through a surround sound system, almost deafening at points, especially when manning a turret gun either on the ground, or especially from inside a moving helicopter. While there arent any well known actors providing voices in Project: Snowblind, but the ones found do a very good job. Even the grunt soldiers sound distinctive and dont fall into that dumb grunt voice category. Although, Nathan Frost could have used a bit more personality and emotion in his voice, there is still the presence of a battle hardened soldier that is ready for just about anything the advisory can throw at him. There is music present, but it really does nothing more then add a bit of suspense to the action. Nothing memorable and no major bands to report, but lets face facts, its all about the action here.
So whats not so good about Project: Snowblind? First, the length of the single player campaign borders on laughable. Even if you do push it and take your time and get to the eight hour mark, it is still inexcusable to produce a single player campaign less than twelve hours in length. Sure, it may have been just repetitive action after a while, but for the players that dont play Live, then why should they pay fifty bucks for a game that will last less then a third of a day? The second problem is the lack of any AI in your fellow Liberty Coalition members. Sure, simply acting as human shields with no firing skill is one thing, but the fact that these guys will actually step in front of you while you are firing a weapon. This is just sad that programmers would not have found a way to program your partners to move next to or behind you instead of in front. You have no idea how many times I wanted to just take out every member of my team right at the start of each mission just so they would stay out of my way.
Overall, Project: Snowblind makes a great effort at pulling gamers away from Halo 2 for a change. With unique weapons and gadgets, plus the addition of your newly acquired augmentation abilities, Nathan Frost can give Master Chief a run for his money. The action remains intense from start to finish will being carried on the back of an interesting storyline and the incentive to learn new abilities as time goes on. Sure, the single player game is really short, but the online multiplayer games more then make up for the game length. The separation of classes will make players think before they just randomly pick what type of player to have on the team. Controlling Nathan Frost may take some getting used to, but once you do, the controls flow great with the action. With impressive graphics and wall shaking sound effects, Project: Snowblind makes a decent bid at overtaking Halo 2 and becoming the first great first person shooter of 2005.