Last year gamers embraced several
first-person shooters (FPS) that varied in quality from dismal to stunning.
Crystal Dynamics dared to release Project:Snowblind at a time when the
genre is brimming with good titles on about any platform you might have. When
you dare to tempt fate with such arrogance, you had better produce something
that deserves the effort. More than just deserving it, Snowblind stands
out and even manages to have enough freshness and originality to keep you
wanting to keep coming back to see where you can go next.
Playing as Nathan Frost, you must
save the world in a futuristic Hong Kong setting. Recently, you were saved from
an early demise (compliments of another fray) by some Government
Scientists/Surgeons. You live the experience through his eyes, right up to
realizing you now have been bestowed with "bionics" that would make Captain
America (another famous super-soldier – from the comics) look like a
paper doll. Your glowing-blue inner self reminds you that you are extremely
strong, fast and thankfully resistant to pesky things like bullets. No, you are
not invulnerable, but darn well equipped for potential damage at the hands of
the bad guys. A walking, talking cyborg with good-looking threads. More human
than robotic, but you never forget that you are "augmented" for maximum potency.
In addition to the hand-held weapons you can gather, your body itself is loaded
with weapons – which can work against you in certain events. Hint: Electro
Magnetic Pulses can cause electrical devices to malfunction. You ARE a
electrical device. Get it? Hence the name "Snowblind" – the effect of getting
phased by such a blast.
Back to Hong Kong, which is a war
zone from 2065. If you’ve seen the new incarnation of "Battlestar Galactica" on
TV, you can imagine what this world looks like. Lavish landscapes and war-torn
terrains deliver all of the necessary vibes you need to get into the game,
fully. The only thing missing is the smell, which you can almost imagine with
all of the detail provided, otherwise. Not a loner, you are accompanied by
capable troops that are more than just scene fillers. Unlike many games that
inject combat soldiers to assist you, these guys actually serve a purpose: they
HELP you. By that, I mean that you do not have to micro-manage them into doing
what they need to do – they just do it. They possess a great AI, which helps you
focus on utilizing more stealth and strategy. You know, with pretty good
confidence, these guys will help you when needed. I was able to engage the enemy
with more success by having these guys at my side. It’s wonderful to be able to
step out into the open and take that extra second to better your aim and
take out a shooter at a good distance – because your men are providing some
cover-fire. Very nice! I love taking sniper shots, and not having to rush
to try to get one off.
Like the many weapons you accumulate
along the way, there are super-nifty motor "vehicles" to use. While interesting
to meddle with, these can be more annoying to maneuver than they’re worth. They
operate, functionally, way inferior to the rest of the game’s mechanics. If
Frost himself was as glitchy, the whole game would be a disaster. So, while
there is some fun to be had messing with the vehicles, I was always eager to
return to simple, bio-butt kicking Frost on two legs.
There are different multiplayer
games to played. "Death matches" and "Capture the Flag" to name a couple. There
is also "Hunter." If you are the Hunter, you get some nifty abilities such as
cloaking (a la Predator), full weapons and bio-arsenals. It’s like a
bloody version of tag. If you are taken out, the shooter becomes the
Hunter. Tag – you’re IT!!
The audio is amazing. They pulled
out all the stops to enable the sound folks to ice this killer-cake with rich,
fully engrossing effects and music to suit the mood. The futuristic weapons
pulsed with authority through my 6.1 surround space. I was really emerged into
the game and not distracted by misplaced music that sometimes ruins an otherwise
great experience. Someone was paying attention to what they were seeing – to
match it so well with what could be seen.
The graphics are lush and full of
detail. The XB’s abilities were fully utilized as they should be. Too many
times, I have seen game stop short of the goal line by not making full use of
the power of the XB – and they end up dumbing it down to be like the
less-capable PS2. The defects here are more with the people, themselves. They
still come off somewhat blocky at times, which is OK because I was usually too
busy admiring the scenery – just before pulling the trigger and making it nice
and messy. Enemies at a distance were clear and vivid, which makes sniping
easier to accomplish.
Project: Snowblind is proof that a
well-saturated market can still be added to without it being glazed over as a
mere copycat of something else. Although certain areas and scenarios are
familiar, the game mostly has enough freshness to have its own flavor –
without stealing from another brand. With what I experienced, I look forward to
an obvious sequel down the road. It’s not often that you hope for a follow-up,
but some games just warrant that response. This is one of those games. As long
as they continue to grow with creativity and build upon what makes it different,
I hope this isn’t the only Frost-experience I’ll have.
You have a lot of player-controls to learn, and each new weapon requires
getting used to. The manual is very thorough, and was often-used by me. It was
nice to have that detail in writing for quick-reference when needed. You move
smoothly and tasks are easy enough to execute once the objective is realized.
Aside from some quirky looking close-ups and sharply chiseled features, it’s
a beautiful game that often makes you want to freeze and look around. The
landscapes look great, and the battles draw you in with smoke, light and mist.
It’s all very real, or surreal, I can’t tell which.
The rich effects and pulsing music give this game more depth than a simple
war-game. It envelopes you and with a good sound system to help out, you will
feel totally emerged in it from the start. The voices are sometimes robotic, but
fortunately this isn’t a game that feels the need to fill itself with cutscenes
and useless banter to cover up other shortcomings. Talk is cheap, this game’s
The game is not easy in any mode. However, having the capable comrades
helping you makes it easier to get good at certain tasks while still advancing
in the game. The team is a great asset instead of being a bunch of useless,
whining wimps as in other games involving combat soldiers. The game-saves are
there at the completion of each level, as well as in certain marked areas that
can be missed if you’re heavily engaged and just trying to survive.
Crystal Dynamics did the impossible by making a FPS on the heels of at least
two great recent releases without making it feel tired and worn. Instead, the
freshness and kick-butt gameplay will have the player feel tired and worn –
in a good way.
With XBox Live, you can play the various games as described above. There is
16-player ability with System Link alone. Hunter, online, was a blast
although I wish I could brag about being good at it. There’s always tomorrow!
This a great addition to the mantle of FPS games out there. Clever enough to
feel special, yet familiar enough to get the player involved without much of a
learning curve. Whether using the ice-pick to HACK a system, or reeling from the
effects of a "Snowblind" disorientation, you feel involved in this game 100%. It
also boasts good replay value, as there is more than one way to get through some
areas. Try them all! Like watching a good, moving motion picture, this is a game
that leaves you wanting to do more with the character. Maybe the nice folks who
suped-you-up will be kind enough to give you some more augmentations –
while still leaving the thrill of knowing you’re not immortal. Why make it too
easy???!!! Until then, I hope to grow as a player online. There is a vast ocean
of playing to be done with this one. That will have to do until the sequel I am
hoping for. You’ve got to love a game that has a seizure-warning on the
first page of the instruction book!