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Project: Snowblind
game: Project: Snowblind
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Eidos
developer: Crystal Dynamics
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 19th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 19th, 2005

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Recommendations as of late may seem either jaundiced or misrepresented in regard to first person shooters on any console.  Play this game because this game is great!? shouts the ethereal masses, and yet you're left unimpressed or worse, jaded to the world of shooters.  This might be unlikely given the material out now, but work with me.  If you're tired of the same-old-stuff, or just need a change of pace, you're not alone, friend.  And Eidos might have the solution.  Given that all shooters eventually have you shooting things, if you're just jaded from shooting things entirely go pick up a pinball game.  But if you're looking for the next exciting thing - a shooter with a brain and some clever ideas - then listen here.  Allow me to introduce you to the game formerly called Deus Ex: Clan Wars, now removed from the Deus Ex franchise in more ways than just a new name.  Project: Snowblind has a fresh take on first person shooters.

Project: Snowblind is the story of soldier Nathan Frost, who gets near-fatally wounded in battle and awakes to find 500 million dollars worth of advanced technology integrated into his body.  Now the government's super-soldier, Nathan Frost has to battle the madman general who is threatening to unleash Snowblind,? a powerful EMP weapon with the capability of permanently rendering electrical systems useless.  The general is intending to sort the weak humans from the strong humans in a kind of technological genocide.  What I am most intrigued and excited about regarding Project: Snowblind is this storyline.  While it seems a rather clockwork story - there's bad guy; go kill bad guy - don't discount Crystal Dynamics' ability to throw a wrench in to see if things still turn.  Also, I wouldn't be surprised if they bring in the moral dilemma, you're a 500 million dollar super-soldier for the government, what happens if you disagree with what the government is doing??  Or, how much of your body is still yours??  Remember, they're the company behind the successful Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, so a tight storyline will likely be part of Project: Snowlind's appeal. 

It seems in the future, while we can make super-soldiers, we still can't get along with our fellow man.  And so, fittingly, Snowblind takes place in a futuristic Hong Kong in the year 2065, where the nation is not a peace.  The general, leader of a military regime known as The Republic?, takes advantage of the situation and triggers a civil war in the divided nation.  Needless to say, you're caught in the middle, cleaning up the mess.

Project: Snowblind is a much different game than Deus Ex: Invisible War, and that's a very good thing.  Where Deus Ex: Invisible War gave you the unguided, do what ever you want: it's your choice? type of gameplay that was - in actuality - not terribly well executed, Snowblind never offers this kind of moral chicanery in order to cover up bad plot devices and level design.  Snowblind is still the kind of game that can create intrigue as seen through the eyes of the soldier-gone-super-soldier Nathan Frost.  The storyline is linear and focuses first on action, second on gimmicks.

But you're probably thinking, I thought you said this was a shooter with a brain!?  Hold your horses.  We're getting there.  Yes, you'll be blowing stuff up in Snowblind, but it's the means by which you'll do so that relates to the brain.?  If you were a fan of the original Deus Ex (not Invisible War) and enjoyed how the game would present you with a problem - say, removing terrorists from Liberty Island - and left you to your own devices for dealing with it, then you might be in the right place.  Project: Snowblind allows you to go in guns blazing, stealthy, or computer hacking (for an example of some options), but it never puts too much emphasis on whether it's necessary.  Nevertheless, it is no Deus Ex, and allows you to use varying abilities to solve the problem, yet without quite making them into necessities.  There is no RPG building here, and no inventory.  This is still a shooter, yet Snowblind seems to assimilate myriads of options into gameplay mechanics instead of gameplay gimmicks.  The options are there, if you feel inclined, but they're not the focus.  The focus is the action - dealing with each and every enemy as they swarm like locusts.  But you can hack, you can go stealthy, you can control robots, and the like, through bio-modification (more on that later) and various weaponry. 

Another satisfying addition to the game is that, though you're a super-soldier, you'll rarely fight alone.  There will be a number of AI alongside you most of the time, which gives the game the feel of Call of Duty (for the PC) mixed with the cyberpunk settings of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division.  The levels feel more like battlefields than just levels with a plum, war-torn sky, buzzing neon lights, and crude cement barricades built in haste to hold the enemy back.  The sense of ambience and detail will help to keep the player immersed while they're thinking up creative ways to deal with bad guys.  These details are what give Snowblind another leg up on other shooters, in my opinion.  That and I am a sucker for science-fiction settings.  The atmosphere is faithful to the storyline in a way Deus Ex was, without delusions of grandeur, yet with the appeal of a world on the brink of destruction.  Think Half-Life 2 mixed with Deus Ex and you'd be half there.

The audio tracks the game has to offer (you can listen to them at Projectsnowblind.com) infuse the levels with a distinctly electronic, eastern ambiance that will help to establish mood and tension.  While only snippets of what we can expect, they're decent and unique enough to warrant a couple listens.  It's too bad they're not in their entirety, because there was one song (track 2) that really intrigues me.  Being an audiophile, they seem to have placed the correct emphasis on ambiance instead of out-right metal or techno songs which could have been problematic.  Instead they're all pretty eerie and cool.  I can't wait to hear more. 

I mentioned that Nathan Frost had the ability to use bio-modifications: special biological enhancements to different parts of his body.  You'll be able to do the standard fare like Reflex Boost (aka. bullet time effect), create a ballistic dispersion field (a shield), and a short term cloak to name a few.  All of these abilities are tied in to a meter that will have to be replenished.  These, plainly, are the biggest gimmicks present in Snowblind, and serve as a sort of diversion for the player.  Though you'll probably use them, they're not absolutely necessary or have a heavy emphasis placed on them (like in Deus Ex: Invisible War).  And despite ripping them off of the Deus Ex franchise, Snowblind appears to be using the bio-mods in such a way that keeps the game challenging and varied.  If you need stealth, for instance, you'll have the opportunity, but we can only hope that the action won't be an unguided, do-whatever-you-want mess.  For this, Crystal Dynamics, I thank you in advance.

As for weaponry, you'd be hard pressed to be bored with Snowblind.  There's the standard fare - pistol, submachine gun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher - but each has a special secondary fire that is not at all related to the gun's primary function.  For instance, the plasma carbine has a skip grenade secondary, and the sniper rifle has a shot that causes biological targets to attack friendly targets.  Aside from the usual frag, flashbang, and smoke gernades, there are spiderbots (taken directly from Deus Ex: Invisible War) and riot walls which, once thrown, expand to create a shield wall.  There are some neat non-lethal weapons and devices that are worth noting, such as the ice pick? which allows for remote dominance of electronics, or the kicker? a Half-Life 2 inspired push/pull gun. 

On top of that, there will be vehicles to drive.  While I've only seen videos of Nathan Frost driving a futuristic car, I wouldn't doubt if there will be a number of vehicles to control when the game releases.  But speculation aside, we'll have to wait and see.

Many people think that The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay had an excellent single-player mode, but since it lacked multiplayer its staying power is slightly diminished.  Project: Snowblind isn't going to commit that same mistake.  You'll be able to take Snowblind online with up to 16 people in classic deathmatch, capture the flag, and assault modes, not to mention specific Playstation 2 only and Xbox only modes.  While the multiplayer looks to be frantic, it's also class-based a la Team Fortress Classic; unlike said game, it might be more important to run-and-gun than to strategize. 

It's been a while since I've been excited (dare I say, hyped) about a game that doesn't have a bazillion-dollar budget, and has been in production for God-only-knows how long.  While there may be definite pitfalls for Snowblind to overcome (the plot development is as of now, mostly unknown), it's the potential storyline, immersion, and action that keeps me thinking about the game.  Seeing it in action, the game looks gorgeous, utilizing some bloom? effects to give the game a somewhat dreamy look. 

I'm more excited about the single player game than I am about the multiplayer, as I am a storyline nut.  But that said, the multiplayer might be the extra push Snowblind needs to compete with the big boys.  From what I've seen, Playstation 2 owners might have a solid shooter to call their own, while for the Xbox and PC, Snowblind has more of an uphill battle.  Either way, Project: Snowblind is going to give console and PC gamers some more variety very soon.

Project: Snowblind is blasting into stores for PC, Xbox, and Playstation 2 February 22.


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