Think of all the electronic devices that we use on a continual daily basis – the computer you're reading this article on, your cell phone to call friends and family, even the TV you watch your favorite shows on. It's a significant inconvenience when they don't have any power. Now imagine this power loss extending to a larger scale, so that even critical resources like hospitals suddenly lose electricity. Finally, extend this energy drain to an entire country, and, thanks to a deranged madman eager to topple governments, establish it as a way of life. Permanently. Welcome to the backstory behind Eidos' latest first person shooter, Project: Snowblind.
Snowblind takes place in a politically unstable Hong Kong in 2065. A radical terrorist group calling itself The Republic has seized control of the country. Not only have they started trying to destroy any opposition to their rule, they’ve threatened to detonate a massive EMP bomb. While it might not seem like a dangerous weapon, launching it into a rival country would send it back to the Stone Age. Attempting to halt this faction, the Liberty Coalition Army is dispatched to the region to eliminate any and all threats to global safety. Players are cast as 2nd Lieutenant Nathan Frost, a capable soldier who’s critically injured shortly after being dropped into the war zone. The only thing that saves his life is a radical operation that transforms Frost into a “super soldier”. He quickly becomes The Liberty Coalition’s last hope to destroy The Republic.
While his “bio-enhancements” are evocative of Tron, these luminescent lines aren’t just for show. Reconstructing his body from head to toe, they provide him with a number of powers that give him an extra edge against the overwhelming forces. Vision provides him with enhanced sight, along with infrared and x-ray images through objects. Reflex Boost allows him to increase his physical speed, making the rest of the world slow to a crawl. Ballistics Shield repels any incoming damage while it’s activated, protecting Frost against everything from bullets to explosions. Cloak Generator renders Nathan invisible, allowing him to sneak around sentries and other patrolled areas without being seen. Finally, Electrical Storm allows Frost to discharge bolts of energy to electrocute opponents. Each ability takes a certain amount of bio-energy, which Frost can replenish with energy packs scattered throughout the battlefields he fights through.
As a soldier, Frost is also highly skilled with firearms of all kinds. Initially, he starts out with a standard issue carbine given to all Liberty Coalition troops, and will acquire nine additional weapons. Each gun has primary and secondary functions. For instance, the standard issue carbine that he starts with can fire rounds quickly, but can also fire off grenades that bounce off surfaces before exploding. Due to the sci-fi nature of the game, most of the secondary fire functions have some pretty radical side effects. For example, the sniper rifle can be used to deliver a neural virus to opponents, forcing them to fight on your side. Similarly, you can fire homing flechettes that will seek out and destroy enemies.
Frost will also acquire a number of gadgets along the way to help him in his missions. He can set up portable energy “riot shields” to protect himself against ambushes or gun emplacements. The "icepick," can be used to hack robots, security interfaces and other electronic equipment. Once Nathan gains control, he can override safety protocols, attack guards with their own turrets, or gain surveillance info with cameras. Frost also has access to spider bots for additional support (or to serve as a distraction) Of course, if things get too dicey with the robots and electrical equipment arrayed against him, he can always hurl an EMP grenade, shorting out equipment and causing what's known as "The Snowblind Effect".
Snowblind is definitely an attractive game. Plenty of attention has been paid to the environmental details, so you have a definite sense of being in a futuristic Hong Kong. The mix of traditional architecture and futuristic buildings make Snowblind an interesting and appealing mix of level designs to fight your way through. Lighting effects, lens flares and the “Snowblind Effect” in particular are extremely well done. While the character models are nicely drawn, they aren’t the most detailed facets of the game. In fact, you’ll see the same kind of enemy through most of the game, which isn’t very engaging after you’ve killed your hundredth or two hundredth soldier. Music in Snowblind, while used to punctuate specific battles or add emphasis to cutscenes has a definite Eastern flair to it, although you’ll probably lose most of it within the gunfights. Sound effects are much more solid, with plenty of attention paid to gunshots, electrical crackles and static, and other sounds of battle. This is rounded out by some solid voice acting by most of the cast, which really enriches the story.
With all of that said, there are some significant issues that bring Snowblind crashing down. The first is the duration of the title itself. It’s possible to fly through this game in 10-15 hours, and since there are no additional difficulty levels to be found, a player can find a serious lack of replayability in the title. Although the game itself is an engaging storyline, there just isn’t enough to justify continually replaying this game once you’ve beaten it. Second, the game feels just a bit simplistic considering that you can go through the entire title using only one, perhaps two weapons and succeed. I managed to go through the entire title primarily using the carbine and beat the game before doing it again with another weapon.
What’s more, the weapons themselves are extremely overwhelming to the enemy soldiers. Considering that they’re not augmented like Frost, you can tear through them in no time flat using your powers and secondary fire. Once you gain the Flechette gun, the seek function can literally allow you to walk through levels. This isn’t challenging in the least. What’s more, it’s possible to go through without taking damage thanks to judicious use of the shield power. If the enemies were more varied or boosted enough to give you a run for your money, it’d be somewhat fair. As it stands, they’re more like fodder.
This isn’t to say that Project: Snowblind is a bad title or something that shooter fans wouldn’t enjoy. However, the radical game imbalance makes this one for the FPS hardcore gamer or the Sci-Fi player who loves futuristic titles. Other gamers might want to rent this one for size before entering this future battle.