A game where the player is actually a super soldier? Wow, what a novel idea. It might even work! It sure beats the hell out of the idea of a normal soldier who can take a clip to the face but regenerates when behind a sheet of corrugated iron. And with that quick jab at CoD, let’s have a look at Project: Snowblind.
The idea behind Snowblind is a peacekeeping organisation in China, where there’s a civil war blah blah blah. It’s a typical war film set-up really. You don’t really need to know the proper backstory (Hell, Tony Blair just ignores back-stories), just to know about said civil war. I tried to work out the back-story, but Crystal Dynamics hired writers or introduction video creators that obviously decided that clarity is not important. I barely understood why this civil war had begun, which could be seen as a warning sign, and even worse is the fact there’s a line in the opening sequence which says ‘Events shown are historically accurate’. That wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s set in 2065.
The future is usually the chance for the crazy sci-fi writer to spend a week writing some cock and bull story where everyone is a cyborg. Thank god this didn’t happen. Imagine the current world, just with security bots that shoot you. And in the game. The idea of the game is that you’re a regular soldier in this civil war. In a lesser shooter (Avoiding all fish based acronyms to compare it with), this would just involve running and shooting people. However, Crystal Dynamics, obviously oblivious to the idea of a back-story, do understand that that is just boring. Hence the augmentation system. Nathan Frost (The protagonist) gets pretty much blown up within the first 10 minutes as the We’re-Not-NATO-But-Essentially-We-Are (otherwise known as the Liberty Coalition) base is attacked by the Republic (The other side of the civil war). To save him, and to make sure the game lasts longer than 10 minutes, Frost is injected/enhanced/whatever with biomods, making him (And I already regret the idea of typing this) the ‘Soldier of the Future’. Clichés are a wonderful thing aren’t they?
The augs are wonderful though, and it’s entirely possible to play through the whole game without using any of them if you’re that way inclined. They include a vision booster (Nightvision, x-ray and infrared), a reflex enhancer (Bullet time without the jumping), ballistic shielding, cloaking and an electrical storm, all of which require bioenergy to use. The writers have done a good job of the unlocking idea. Frost is a prototype, and is done in a rush. All of the augs (Except the electrical storm) are hinted at, but as the software behind the augs gets used to the idea of running, they all get unlocked. It plainly shows that the doctors weren’t entirely sure what to do when the head surgeon says ‘And here is ballistic shielding’ and junior squeaks that he couldn’t get it online.
There are neat little touches like that to Snowblind as well. When you get told to go find the hacker locking up the system, the two who tell you to go find it have a conversation about the fact that Frost is just looking at them. There’s also the neat writing with little touchs like being told that you should take it stealthily, followed by the operator saying ‘Or you know, I could just shut up’. The little touches like that make me want to find the writers and hug them close* .
Throughout most of the game, you’ll be doing very little hugging, and a fair bit of shooting. A wide array of weapons is at your disposal, all of which have an alternate fire, ranging from the pistol firing a missile that explodes, to the sniper rifle’s nerve agent that puts a single enemy on your side until they die, either because the others shot him or the nerve agent killed him. The great thing about the secondary fire is that it just uses your normal ammo, not any spare. Once you get to the end, and nearly everyone has flechette guns (Which fires out drones that seek out and kill hostiles), it becomes just as easy to use the alt fire and watch the mayhem. There’s also secondary ordinance, with EMP, frag, flash and gas grenades available for your leisure. And if you get shot too much, there’s a health and energy restorer you can use while you lie on the floor writhing in agony.
Issues? Well, I found it unstable at times. There are odd times it just crashes, which can be damn annoying. The saves are a bit of a nuisance. You can only save at the end of a level or at a save point. I’m alright with that idea. It’s just that usually the end of a level it asks you whether you want to save, after a plot twist or something and you just want to get on with the game. I’d rather they created a new save game at the end of a level than relentless asking. It breaks the immersion. There are odd drivable vehicles as well, but they don’t handle very well and aren’t particularly amazing. My main gripe is the hacking. You have to have an ‘icepick’ to hack a security console or similar, which can be hard to find. It’s usually best to turn off any tripwires, not only because the alarms are annoying, but they usually have grenades next to them which explode when the tripwires are tripped, spelling a quick game over when tripped.
All in all though, Snowblind has been criminally overlooked in my opinion. The idea of it having an augmentation reminds many people of Deus Ex, which is unfair in my opinion. Deus Ex is very good at creating stories and allowing your inner dickish self to materialise. Snowblind is a linear shooter (Albeit with the chance to sneak round if you want), and should be judged as such. If you haven’t played Deus Ex, and just want a quick shooter version of it, then I suggest Snowblind. If you have played Deus Ex, you’ll probably find Snowblind a dumbed down version. I think there’s still plenty of enjoyment to get out of it.