Published on October 10th, 2016 | by Boman12l
Project: Snowblind – Steam Backlog
Over the weekend I completed Project: Snowblind. See this was a game that I have wanted to play for some ten plus years. Project: Snowblind is a game that came out on the original Xbox and PS2 back in 2005. Back then Halo 2 has king of the console shooter and video game publishers were killing themselves trying to get as many First person shooters on the market. Like most people, I too was playing plenty of Halo 2 online. While there were plenty of other FPS around at the time, often it was Halo or bust. For better of worst, publishers tried to copy the Halo formula to the best of their abilities. Many games featured generic future setting with space marines fighting bland emeries bent on destroying the world.
Games back then that subverted expectations and weren’t just trying to be a Halo clones did better. Beside Halo 2, Time Splitters: Future Perfect was another FPS I was putting plenty of time on. The game’s developers, Free Radical Design was composed of ex-Rare employees, in many ways the Time Splitters franchise is a spiritual successor to Rare’s FPS legacy. Time Splitters shared more with shooters of the previous generation mechanically and were not as self-serious as the vast majority of Halo clones at the time. Future Perfect, the third and final Time Splitters game, was a blast to play. The game’s primary protagonist, Sgt Cortez was a space marine with personality. He had a sense of humor, clear motivations and style. You enjoyed sending time with Cortex and his time traveling cohorts. I wanted more games like Time Splitters: Future Perfect and at the time I thought Project: Snowblind would fill the gap.
Project: Snowblind started life as Deux Ex sequel. It was supposed to be part of that universe, but when Deus Ex Invisible War performed poorly the game’s publisher, Edios Interactive, turned Project: Snowblind into its own thing. The game still contains a very (very) lose visual and thematic connection, if you go down the “cyber punk” check list: Near future, Asian metropolis, super soldiers with bio enhanced powers, doom’s day device. It was that Deux Ex connection that initially hooked me all those years ago. Deux Ex and it sequel Invisible War were known for their strong storytelling and player agency. The game’s mechanic allow for many different play styles. Clearly Project Snownblind wasn’t going to be the same thing, but I was hopeful some of those design philosophies would have been applied here as well.
I picked up an Xbox copy of Project: Snowblind not long after release, however my original Xbox console was not long for the world. Drive failure meant I wasn’t playing Project: Snowblind or any of my Xbox games anytime soon. With the Xbox 360 around the corner, waiting for the next generation was the better investment at the time. Now here we are – ten plus years and many Steam and GOG sales later – I have a PC copy of Project: Snowblind ready to play.
After a decade of curiosity, how does one approach a game? With everything, one should tempore expectations. Playing Project: Snowblind really is stepping back in time. While PC ports have never been a priority for publishers, that was defiantly the case of games ten years ago. Conveniences we have now were not always the case back then. In game configurations, controller support, numerous resolutions options won’t be found here. This was a game that was developed for the PlayStation 2 in mind and very little was done, to improve the stronger PC or Xbox versions. It looks and sounds like a PlayStation 2 era game, animations are clunky and faces animate with little nuance.
Project: Snowblind tells the story of Nathan Frost, a solider in the Coalition – a nondescript international peace keeping force stationed in Hong Kong. The city is on the verge of civil war, for reasons unknown. Frost is heavily injured during an attack by The Republic. His life is only save because he is given bio enchantments giving him super human abilities – which are a large part of the core gameplay. The story of Project: Snowblind is nothing special – a by the numbers action rump. Frost’s development is left to a few lines before his operation about being “lost” and hoping joining the Coalition would help “find” himself. The rest of his characterization is the standard “badass” solider who knows exactly when to drop one liners. It’s not a lot and the supporting cast in the Coalition doesn’t get much better. The relationship between Frost and his men, their reasons for fighting or and real sense of comradery isn’t there. So when characters start dying off later in the game, their deaths feel similar to random NPCs being gunned down and not major support characters affecting the world’s outcome.
Not much can be said for the Republic as well. Beside the big bad General Yan Lo, the Republic are there to be blasted away in various way by Frost. These guys start a civil war in Hong Kong, but there is no attempt to even explain what they are fighting for. It not long before it’s reveal that Republic also wants to destroy the world as we know it, by blacking out all technology.
So the story of Project: Snowblind is nothing special. Most video game stories are not. If the story didn’t hook me, something about Project: Snowblind had to hold my interest for the 8 or so hours it hook to run through it. Project Snowblind’s mechanics are solid, they create a gameplay loop that is fun to play and still holds up. Bucking the Halo trend, Frost can carry all the game’s weapons and grenades at a time. Of course the game weapons feature the standard assault rifle, shotgun, and rocket launcher. Project: Snowblind mixed things up with a mine launcher, an EMP gun and pulse rifle. It also features the post Half-Life 2 obligatory gravity gun clone. Shooting is satisfying. Each weapon has an alternative firing mode, along with the variety of guns, it is fun to experiment with eliminating waves of Republic soldiers in different ways.
Levels for the most part are small and compact. There is no auto saving or mission section. Each level has one save station about half way through. Even for a PC game in in 2005, dedicated save points are somewhat strange. The game is not too difficult, you will not find ourself dying or needing check-pointing often. Still if anyone is planning of replaying any of these missions, I would recommend making a new save for each section (there are eighteen). While the levels are small, often they allow to a few different routes. You can run through and blast everyone easy enough, or trying to stealthier approach. The Stealth isn’t the greatest. Its involves picking enemies off from a far, hacking a few security devices against the Republic or shooting everyone fast enough before a solider can press an alarm signaling backup. There times when the game encourages a stealthy approach, but the game’s core mechanics weren’t really built for that level of diversity in gameplay.
Frost has various special abilities, because of his bio-enchantments: he can see enemies through walls, slow down time, turn invisible, blast emp waves, turn on a bullet shield and a few other things They require bio energy to use, but running low is never an issue. Levels feature a surplus of heath and bio energy picks meaning most players are never low on resources. The powers unlock constantly throughout the story and the game wants to try all the powers; however, slowdown and bullet shielding are the two players will likely stick too. Both slow down and bullet shield, once activated, last long enough to take out most if not all threats around Frost in any given shootout. Enemy variety may be low, but mixing Frost’s bio enchantments with the game various guns results in a simple, yet stratifying experience. Project: Snowblind is not a challenging shooter, but it has other ways to engage players.
Waiting ten years to play Project: Snowblind, maybe not the best of ideas. Waiting ten for anything is going to lead to some mix emotions. If you see it on sale, give it a try. While I enjoyed my time with the game, unlike Future Perfect, I don’t see myself coming back to this one in the future. It runs and plays well enough but it’s a good shooter in the time of Half-Life 2 and Halo 2. A few days from I’ll likely uninstall it and Project: Snowblind will once again become one of those grayed out games in my Steam library. Only this time with play time behind it.