Project: Snowblind

Gamestyle Archive Intro: time flies doesn’t it and when faced with the review of this game I couldn’t recall a single thing. Developed by Crystal Dynamics this is a gaming experience that has been consigned to the dustbins of time whereas it deserves a better fate. This review is from March 2005.

Project_Snowblind-DVD-PS2

Project: Snowblind marks a departure from the third-person adventures we’d usually associate with Crystal Dynamics, as it now enters the first-person market with mixed results. However, given the current state of first-person shooters on the Playstation 2, even mixed results can make for a potential purchase.

For those unaware, ‘Snowblind’ is military jargon for a complete shutdown of biomechanical and electrical systems (in the event of an EMP blast). And the name is particularly relevant because Project: Snowblind attempts to rival its nearest stablemate Deus Ex in terms of futuristic setting and human experimentation. In fact, it appears that the character modellers and environment designers have migrated to Crystal Dynamics (although initially the game had been feted as an extension of the Deus Ex universe – and even features a poorly-implemented hacking dynamic, should you question the connection).

Gamestyle welcomes releases that pitch themselves against the best in genre, and let’s face it, Deus Ex: Invisible War was pretty much the standard-bearer in 2004. However, this is no thoroughbred tale of classic cyberpunk, because the story requires no mental agility from the player. You simply assume the role of Nathan Frost who, for all intents and purposes, is the ‘Master Chief’ of this Playstation 2 outing. Interestingly, events take place in the Far East, which is in the grip of a civil war that is spilling out of control into neighbouring areas. Crystal Dynamics is well-versed in creating intricate storylines (see: the long-running Soul Reaver series), yet here any semblance of emotion and intrigue is suffocated by the high-octane action – which never lets up. Another drawback is the emphasis placed on feeding the character information and story nuggets during actual gameplay: you never really have a chance to soak everything up, and while the characters are futuristic, some have a decidedly ‘comic book’ air about them.

Nathan Frost is Snowblind’s catalyst and his actions trigger developments and sequences on a scale that is commonplace amongst World War II shooters. Unlike the Medal of Honor series, however, there is a real sense of danger and claustrophobia as you hug walls and corridors. Levels are well-designed, and full of opportunities to explore and learn from your mistakes. Nathan Frost may be a formidable fighter (complete with his own ballistic shield), but the volume of enemies and their AI certainly keeps you on edge. Adding to Nathan’s ‘human’ constraints are the lack of available save points – only when you’ve completed a level will you be offered a saving dispenser. Imagine progressing through a particularly difficult level, only to be sent back to the beginning again because of an error.

Gamestyle uses the word “error” loosely, because sticking your head around a corner to judge the terrain (only to have it blown off by a mech), doesn’t normally correspond with making a “mistake” in gaming terms. Crystal Dynamics’ inexperience with the FPS genre is shown by the physics model and use of weapons: everything feels too light (including vehicles), and there is a distinct lack of satisfying recoil and punch. In an era dominated by Halo and its dual-weapon principle, reverting to ‘one-armed’ payloads proves to be detrimental. And Project: Snowblind offers up a huge arsenal (including a physics-based weapon which no doubt owes a debt to Half-Life 2) – having to cycle through your weapons or bio-enhancement options whilst seeking cover is never a winning tactic. In fact, Gamestyle would question the viability of these weapons. Are they merely ornamental – or is it simply a case of quantity over quality?

This dilemma tends to impact upon replayability of the game, despite its stature as one of the better Playstation 2 shooters. For those able to, Project: Snowblind includes the option for online deathmatches. Here the game makes commendable use of a limited service by offering support for sixteen players (although Gamestyle would recommend a lesser number for a smoother experience). The modes themselves offer nothing new, and are typically a rehash of what we’ve come to expect from the genre. The strong visual style is yet again backed up by the all-purpose Renderware engine; environments are highly-detailed, the resolution is crisp and the lighting effects are startling. The sound too is impressive, with the lone exception of stilted voice acting (which reminded Gamestyle of the dire Street Fighter movie).

In summation, Project: Snowblind is a tad better than we’d envisaged, but somehow lacks the finesse to be considered an essential purchase. However, don’t be dissuaded because there is much to enjoy if you can overlook its obvious design issues. Those who enjoyed the Red Faction series might consider trying this after the disappointment of Killzone.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

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