Project: Snowblind (PC)

By Phill Parker

Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Graphics: 6.50
Sound: 7.00
Gameplay: 8.00
Replays: 4.00

Arrgh! Project: Snowblind is a prime example of a fast-paced and fun 3D shooter dragged down by technical troubles. It’s such a shame, too, because almost all the elements are in place to make Snowblind an outstanding entertainment experience on your PC. So what’s the problem? One word: Crash! No matter how many settings you fiddle with, nothing can stop this game from crashing every 15 minutes. Seriously, didn’t anybody play test this thing?

Instead of issuing a much-needed patch, publisher Eidos and developer Crystal Dynamics advise users to disable the Full-Screen Effects option in the game’s setup utility. Too bad this answer doesn’t stop the problem of random crashes.

Although sometimes it seems crashes aren’t so random. During a fight against a big boss man, I thought, “The damn thing is going to crash just as soon as I beat this commander dude.” Sure enough, down the game went, right after I finished this tough fight, and before I could save my progress. I actually had to re-start this specific sequence four times – not because my character died, but rather because the game maliciously prevented me from proceeding.

I accessed the Eidos forums, where I found a post that promised a patch would be coming in May – five months ago (followed by posts from irate gamers cursing the company for failing to deliver on its promise). Then I wrote an appeal to Eidos’ public affairs. No response. I think we can officially consider Project: Snowblind to be abandonware.

That’s too bad, because Project: Snowblind is a lot fun, when it works. The game puts you in the boots of Lieutenant Nathan Frost, a foot soldier with the Liberty Coalition Army, caught in a war against the evil Republic, set in a near-future Hong Kong. You’re wounded during a surprise attack, and healed by doctors who transform you into a super-soldier with bio-augmentations that give you some pretty cool abilities.

The list of powers includes Enhanced Vision (a combination of night vision and X-ray eyes to see through walls), Cloak (near-invisibility), Reflex Boost (think Max Payne-style bullet time), Electrical Storm (reach out and shock someone) and Ballistic Shield (a personal force field). As a natural-born $!#+ disturber, my favorite augmentation is Cloak – undetectably punching someone in the head never gets old. Yeah, baby!

The weapons in Project: Snowblind are neat, too. Besides old standards like a pistol, shotgun and assault rifle, there’s a flechette launcher with an imaginative alternate fire mode that shoots glowing, insect-like energy balls. This whirling swarm intelligently seeks and surrounds a nearby target, wearing its health down like a school of ravenous piranha. In fact every weapon has a useful and effective alternate fire. The sniper rifle’s secondary mode allows you to infect bad guys with a neural virus that turns them against their own forces. The shotgun doubles as a burning-explodo thingy.

In addition, you can hack into computer-controlled cameras, security robots and ceiling turrets, using these gadgets against their makers. You may commandeer vehicles like the Ogre, a hulking, two-legged mech with multiple rockets, and also man heavy machine guns and four-barreled anti-aircraft cannons. Altogether, it feels like there’s an endless number of ways to blow stuff up real good, and generally spread mayhem.

Now, elements such as a gravity gun, drivable vehicles and fixed gun positions aren’t particularly original, since they’ve appeared in various other first-person shooters before. However, Project: Snowblind wraps them all into one great package.

Not so great are the graphics, which constantly remind you the PC version of Project: Snowblind started life as a humble console port. Fuzzy, washed-out textures and low polygon models scream “PS2!” I wish Crystal Dynamics had been given the budget to include the graphical bells and whistles high-power PC rigs are capable of rendering. Other combo console/PC games have certainly made a more successful leap from one platform to another – for example, Star Wars: Republic Commando.

Multiplayer in Project: Snowblind offers a variety of different game modes. These consist of deathmatch, capture the flag, tactical assault, demolition and hunter. Tactical assault pits two teams against each other, with players defending their own shields and generator, while striving to destroy their opposition’s hardware. Demolition is a contest to plant/defuse a bomb, while hunter pits one invisible uber-player equipped with every weapon against a pack of weaker opponents.

These game types are fine in theory, but the problem is that virtually no one is playing Project: Snowblind online. On any given evening, you’re lucky if a single server is running. Often the list of games is blank. Bots for offline play really would have come in handy, but these were not included.

My theory is that many users experienced the same disappointing crashes during the single-player campaign, and simply gave up on Project: Snowblind. Eidos could have fostered a community (and franchise) around this game by providing a patch to stop the incessant crashes, but if a publisher isn’t going to support its customers, why should they support that company’s product? Don’t hold your breath waiting for Project: Snowblind 2.

Overall Rating: 6.50

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