Saturday, December 02, 2006

When it first came out, Project Snowblind didn’t really hit my radar. I saw it on the shelves, but I hadn’t heard much about it. The game was written up in the magazines, but no one I knew was talking about it. Before I shell out $40 to $50 bucks for a game, I want to hear it’s great from someone I know. But somehow the buzz about the game never picked up.

The box art looks good, but at the time the shelves were filling up with first-person shooters wrapped in special forces lore. I figured it was just one more and took a pass. I think a lot of people did, which is a shame because it is really a great little game.

Project Snowblind was developed by Crystal Dynamics, the same nice folks who gave us the Legacy of Kain games, the Gex games, and the latest Lara Croft game, Tomb Raider Legends. It was published by Eidos, and Eidos has now taken Crystal Dynamics in a partnership.

This week we got snowbound in Oklahoma. Ice storm swept in and locked the city down cold. Two days without school, without the daily rat race of taking the kids somewhere they had to be. So my wife and I laid in enough groceries to get us through. She’s a school teacher so she was off work, and I work at home. On Thursday morning, being the beautiful and sweet woman that she is, she made a mercy run. Bought junk food, soft drinks, and Project Snowblind, which is appropriately named for the situation we were in (these are merely two of the several reasons I married her! The fact that she feeds us video games and has a wicked sense of humor!).

She and my nine-year-old promptly sat down and started wiping out the bad guys. I had a deadline so I couldn’t play, which was a real bummer. But I took the occasional peek at the game as they played. It looked good. It looked intriguing. They died in places I really didn’t think I would have.

Thankfully, I have strong willpower. I didn’t ask for a controller. I walked away until I got my work done. Then I sat down to take up the good fight, to save the world one more time.

In Project Snowblind I started out as Nathan Frost, a true warrior’s name. I was in command of a special forces unit responsible for helping restore the peace in Hong Kong after a band of terrorists calling themselves the Republic started causing problems. That was cool. I love hitting the ground running in these games.

The problem was, I kept hitting the ground. Dying. Again and again. Then I remembered that I had a team and quit trying to Rambo my way through the game. Maybe my reflexes aren’t what I remember them being. It had been a while since I’d played a game this demanding. So I started slowly taking the battlefield, inch by inch, and relying more on my team. After all, they were all around me and turned out to be pretty good shots.

So I was feeling pretty good about taking out all the bad guys in less time than it had taken my wife (she’s no slouch when it comes to gaming, but I have an edge on her because I don’t get vertigo from the spinning camera action from these types of games that she does; so I beat her time because my stamina is better; yay me). About that time, the game shifts to a cut-scene. Nathan Frost tries to save a fellow soldier who’s been wounded. Before Frost can get them clear, they get blown up.

I get blown up. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d done something wrong. But the military quickly scraped all my pieces together and rebuilt me into a super-soldier. (If I’d read the back of the box, I’d have known that. But I didn’t read the back of the box, and I never read the instruction manual. If a game is good, it’s got an interface that trains you on the job.)

I got cool vision powers and a type of super-speed to start with. But more powers kept showing up as I powered through the game. In short order, I could power up and become nearly invulnerable, see in the dark, revive myself after a death experience, and turn invisible. I was king of the battlefield. As long as I didn’t get too cocky. Because then I would get dead. Just to remind me that super doesn’t mean I can’t be killed.

The graphics in the game are really good. I play on a 42-inch screen and there was no graininess, only smooth color and movement. The camera angles overlap nicely, providing fluid movement and the best seat in the house for any engagement. The sound is also good, providing a lot of the immersive feel of the game.

The action is piled on, constantly throwing me into the path of danger. But that’s the only way I could play the hero to my troops!

Project Snowblind is a fantastic game for enthusiasts of first-person shooters. The game has a plot, and the characterization is deep enough to pull you in, and the overall storytelling compels you to finish the game – or die trying! I really liked the super abilities, but the game was designed well enough that those abilities didn’t make the game too easy once you employed them. In addition, you can drive vehicles, making for some hairy action that is a total blast. It’s not Halo, people, but then nothing is. But for a change of pace and some sheer fun, pick up Project Snowblind. I see it everywhere from $10 to $20, and at either price you get great value.

Just remember: shoot first, ask questions later, and keep your head down!

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