Shoot to chill.
If the reported extent of steroid abuse in the MLB is even marginally accurate, the future of the National League is one of balding batters with kidney failure, small testicles, big boobs and shattered homerun records. I'm glad I'm not the one responsible for sculpting those Hall of Fame statues.
Indeed, competitive people will go to great lengths to get a leg up, and although most of us don't stoop so low as to inject ourselves with creepy drugs, the military has been known to do that and more – at least according to the mythology of Eidos' upcoming first-person shooter for the PS2 and Xbox, Project: Snowblind. Set against the gritty backdrop of a futuristic, war-torn Hong Kong, this fragfest hopes to take the art of chemical enhancements to shivering new heights.
Project: Snowblind comes from a familiar name in game development – Crystal Dynamics, known by most as the crew who brought you the lauded Blood Omen and Legacy of Kain games, among others. Snowblind is their first foray into first-person shooting, but with almost twenty years of game design under
their belt, they seem well-equipped to enter the fray.
You play as Nathan Frost, a soldier who recently took one too many to the cranium (courtesy of a large bomb exploding in his lap). You are rebuilt from the ground up, Robocop style, and outfitted with all sorts of cool bio-enhancements; the 6 Gazillion Dollar Man, as it were. Your mission, should you choose to accept Project: Snowblind, is to lead your group of loyal men into the heart of the militia before they enact their evil schemes of world domination. Natch.
The best way to lead is by example, of course, and in this case, that means shooting, shooting and more shooting. Project: Snowblind gives you a ton of guns and gadgets, far more than what's normally seen in a FPS. Classics like rifles, pistols and shotguns cross paths with mine-lobbers, an EMP 'Herf' gun and the 'Kicker', a toned-down version of an anti-grav device that lets you manipulate small objects in the environment. Snowblind also gives you a generous helping of grenades (frags, flashes, EMPs, and some cool little spider-bot tracking devices) along with very handy items like the deployable Riot Wall. Instant cover – just add water and shake.
Unlike most first-person shooters, Project: Snowblind gives you more than big guns and cool gadgets with which to achieve your noble ends. Like Lee Majors, you're better, stronger, and faster than you once were thanks to some fairly successful bio-medical experimentation. In a nod to the great Deus Ex, Snowblind outfits Nathan with a variety of special nanotech augmentations. You'll be able to trigger short bursts of invisibility, slow down time with enhanced reflexes, and even see enemies lurking behind solid walls with uber-enhanced infrared vision. You won't customize your abilities like in Deus Ex; rather, Snowblind's augmentation system is built into the game seamlessly, functioning more as additional abilities than changing the fundamental flow of the game.
When taken together, the large number of tools leads to a myriad of ways to kill your enemies. You can go Rambo with a shotgun, or hang back and snipe, or go stealthy with the invisibility aug, or play the turtle with a Riot Wall. The options are legion and the resulting game is one that accomodates just about every play style.
As if the guns, gadgets and augs aren't enough, you'll occasionally enjoy vehicle support, including turreted autos and rather nasty mechs. They don't seem to play a particularly large role in the 11 mission single-player, but should prove useful in Project: Snowblind's robust multiplayer offering for both the PS2 and Xbox. Standards like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag will appear alongside more complex modes like Tactical Assault, in which gamers must rely on hacking skills as well as sheer firepower.
In its current state, Project: Snowblind is all about performance. Nice effects and good, kinetic gunplay highlight the game's solid engine, which hopefully will hold up under the strain of intense, 16-on-16 multiplayer carnage. We'll find out what's flowing through this super-soldier's veins when he storms shelves in late February.