Project: Snowblind was one of those games that got my attention simply because of where it originated. Snowblind was originally titled Deus Ex: Clan Wars. I am a fan of the Deus Ex series - they had a type of unique gameplay that felt right to me. At least the first one did, anyway. Maybe, on some unconscious level, I was hoping this Deux Ex bastard child would make up for the lackluster Deus Ex: Invisible War, adding some much needed action, while adhering to the tight storylines of the Deus Ex games. Unfortunately, my hopes and dreams for Snowblind went mostly unfulfilled. On some level it still does feel like Deus Ex, but it just isn't. What it is is an exhilarating action-packed game with some interesting weaponry and bio-mod skills, but a lackluster plotline keeps it from greatness. It's akin to actor Jean Claude Van Damme - he can kick your ass, but don't expect him to read Shakespeare.
When entering the world of Project: Snowblind you'll notice the presentation. There is an uprising. There is an insurgence of rebel activity. Troops scuttle onto the street, giant military robots whiz missiles into crowds, and tanks slog through the streets like armored elephants. You play Nathan Frost, a soldier-turned-super-soldier who will end up leading the army against the uprising. As the game introduced itself (Project: Snowblind, this is the player; player, Project: Snowblind), you'll notice that the visual effects - light bloom, explosions, level design - are all top notch, that the sound effects are likewise, and that the music is moody enough to set the tone, but not to annoy. The cutscenes are decent, but put a delay on the imminent action at hand. What people will (or should) play Snowblind for is the single player action. The in-game presentation is fantastic and frenetic.
Borrowing somewhat from the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series (and maintaining a cool Eastern theme), Snowblind puts you in the thick of two armies. Meanwhile, bullets whiz by, bombs explode, and chaos in general is all around you. Friendly soldiers will battle beside you and yell to you. Developer Crystal Dynamics liberally uses special effects - such as the snowblind effect - to keep action heavy and downtime to a minimum. Thankfully, though you'll be fighting among legions of military guys, you won't have to control them. The AI is smart enough to fight guys off by themselves, though they can be annoyingly unhelpful. They don't do very much damage and shoot in short bursts, waiting for you to deal with it. And if you don't, they'll likely die, but that's okay; there's an unlimited supply.
At times Project Snowblind is best described as a futuristic Call of Duty, but these influences end when the shooting begins. This game isn't nearly as realistic as the aforementioned: Nate Frost can survive any number of rocket blasts or machine-gun emplacements. Snowblind makes you focus on what gun you'll use and what skill would be most effective for the situation. There is a generous array of weaponry, grenades, and emplaced guns you'll be able to use. Some weapons, like the flachette, have no grounds in reality, while others¦actually, they're all highly improbable. The standard carbine rifle is probably the most reality based¯ with a standard automatic fire and a secondary grenade launcher. But if you're playing Snowblind for the realism, that's bad.
As for the guns, they all boast primary and secondary fire - the secondary usually have nothing to do with the primary. For instance, the flachette gun I mentioned earlier fires electrified rounds with the primary fire and attack drones with the secondary. There's one called the H.E.R.F., as well as a pistol, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, mine layer, etc. Some gun functionality is obvious, others are not so obvious. Figuring out which guns do what, and which guns you like to use, is half of the fun of Snowblind. The other half of the fun, obviously, is using them.
I was pleasantly surprised that the spiderbot grenades taken from Deus Ex: Invisible War were implemented much better in Snowblind. Also, the grenades on the whole feel a lot more useful, though novice players will likely ignore them (finding the Xbox's black button in the thick of combat is tedious). There are riot walls, flashbangs, EMP grenades, and the obligatory frag grenade. These grenades came in handy in multiplayer as opposed to single player - setting up barricades with riot walls is a blast.
The skill list is nice, but I found a few to be more useful than others. Combat reflexes allows you to slow time a la Max Payne, while ballistic shielding makes you nearly invulnerable. There's one that allows you to see enemies through walls, another that turns you invisible¦they're all interesting and serve their purpose, but never are made absolutely necessary. In fact, I went through a good portion of the levels without using them, or just using them to show my friends what nifty things I could do. Combat reflexes is my favorite offline skill; online it's invisibility. These bio-mods¯ are never the focus of the game, giving Nate a more military¯ - as opposed to cyborg¯ - feel.
You can also drive vehicles, but I'd suggest against it. They feel strangely weightless, as if you were pushing Hot Wheels around. The physics are just bizarre and will turn-off those of us babied on Halo 2's vehicles.
What Project: Snowblind does best is keep you intrigued and engaged, right up to the somewhat disappointing ending. There's no difficulty setting (which would have been nice, Crystal Dynamics). It's good that the online multiplayer is there to rescue you after the single player game drops off. Whether it's over Xbox Live or Sony's service, there is little lag even with 16 players. Online you'll find that players have their own strategies for specific maps - obviously. And so finding your own niche is important. Give it a few games and you'll start figuring out your own strategies - will you use the H.E.R.F gun to lay down electronic globs to stun opponents or will you sit in the shadows, invisible, with a sniper rifle. Snowblind definitely gives you choices.
I found that having no split-screen multiplayer is a serious hindrance to Snowblind. I'm not sure if Crystal Dynamics was trying to force people online, but having the option to split screen deathmatch would just make Snowblind better - there's no reason to leave it out. Likewise, finding a friend who owns it and wants to system link is equally as frustrating because you can only have one person per television. So you'd theoretically need 16 TVs, 16 copies of Snowblind, and 16 Xboxes linked together through many switches to have a system link game. Hrm¦
Overall, Snowblind is a blast to play single player and a blast online. On the Xbox it has tougher competition (Halo 2, Timesplitters: Future Perfect, Chronicles of Riddick, etc.) but on the PS2 Snowblind is at the top of the lot. Keep this in mind when purchasing, because you'll likely grow tired of the merely good¯ multiplayer of Snowblind in favor of Halo 2's great¯ multiplayer. The single player can be beaten in 10 hours the first time through, so it's not terribly long, and though the single player, in my opinion, is the best part, the brevity of it might be enough to scare away some. The game itself is deep enough to invest hours in, online or off. The gameplay is hectic and never lets up - for good or ill. Give Snowblind a chance - at least a rental - and see if it grows on you, like it did me.