“snow-blind´ (snó bl?nd´)
Yep, there isn’t a real snowflake in sight in Project Snowblind, the only snow you see is when the enemy use EMP weapons on you to mess up your vision, and ruin your day. High tech gadgetry and futuristic weapons are the name of the game here, and Snowblind plays a lot like Deus Ex Invisible War's hyperactive, slightly dumber, but infinitely likeable younger brother.
adj : Military jargon for a complete system shutdown of all internal electrical and bio-mechanical systems. Generally created by an EMP blast or similar electrical disturbance in the local vicinity.
Set in a near-future Hong Kong (the year is 2065). You are 2nd Lt. Nathan Frost, just a regular grunt until he volunteers for a super-soldier transformation for an international army called the Liberty Coalition. Painful surgery gives Frost extra-normal abilities via implanted bio-augmentations, which make him the Coalition’s main bio-weapon warrior in the battle against a destructive and ruthless regime (a bit like the Labour Party then). A military coup leaves you stranded in hostile territory and cut off from command with only a handful of men, you must stop the militia from using their secret weapon and plunging the world into darkness…
And talking of ‘plunging’ – you get plunged right into the action in Snowblind – none of the gentle intro/training level type stuff that you get in Half Life or Halo, that comes a little later – here you get thrown into a life or death battle as an ordinary grunt as your squad get caught in a violent rearguard action against invading airborne troops. The explosive nature of the first level of Snowblind really gets your attention, and some tidy graphics combined with the now mandatory lively physics attached to both enemies' bodies and some destructible scenery means bodies and debris are soon flying everywhere and make for some entertaining deaths…
As in Deus Ex you get a selection of weapons, but almost more important that these are your bio-enhancements; Infrared Vision, Reflex Boost (think: Bullet Time), Ballistic Shield, Invisibility, and the amazing Electric Storm, which does just what it sounds like. Hand weapons are your basic pistol, carbine (with grenade launcher), Flechette Launcher, Shotgun, H.E.R.F. (a sort of lightning gun), Sniper Rifle, Rail Laser, Rocket Launcher, Mine Launcher, Icepick (allows you to hack computers, turret guns and robots), and the Kinetic Kicker, which allows you to shift heavy objects around remotely. Many weapons have secondary fire modes too, and these form a formidable arsenal, that you somehow mange to carry with you at all times. The mixture of heavy weaponry and stealth gear means there are several different ways of completing levels, and you can’t say that about many first person shooters of late.
Added to all this offensive and defensive firepower, you also have thrown weapons/shields; Frag, EMP, Gas and Flash grenades, and also cute spider bots that scuttle around and protect you, or riot shields to form a temporary barrier. You can also use the collectable Nanoboosts to top up your health, or even revive yourself when you’d normally be “dead”.
If that sounds like a lot of toys and firepower to play with that’s because it is, and you’ll often be spoilt for choice as to which weapon to use on the enemy – thankfully although there’s a normal selection method, you can also use the ‘back’ button which brings up a full selection menu and pauses the action too, which allows you to choose the best ‘setup’ for the action ahead.
Snowblind’s maps are mostly of the high tech installation or ‘decimated urban sprawl’ type, but as with a lot of first person shooters these days a Halo-esque collection of vehicles allows for some variety in the transport stakes. The Phoenix SUV, and Hydra armed jeep (think: Warthog) and a Titan tank all make limited appearances, and can also be used in some of the multiplayer maps, as can the large ED-209 look-alike walkers.
So then, a substantial and exciting campaign mode (that I played avidly to the end) combined with 16 player online action over 10 maps (1 downloadable), supplies a frenetic gameplay experience. Game variants include: Deathmatch, Hunter, Team Deathmatch, CTF, Fast Flag Capture, Tactical Assault and Demolition. The game also has scoreboards and excellent clan support. Sadly when compared to the likes of Halo 2, there don’t seem to be a lot of people playing Snowblind at the moment, but the complex and well-designed maps make for exciting deathmatches that, if you’re a fan of Bungie’s game, you really should experience.
Snowblind’s downsides are the previously mentioned feeling that you have too many toys to play with at one time and whilst the story is mostly well told and acted, the character models in-game are rather basic by today’s standards – Sgt. Major Chung for instance, looks like an over-the-top action figure, and acts like one too.
Whatever you initially think of Snowblind, you’ll soon find yourself having so much fun blasting or stealthing your way through the cleverly designed levels that you forgive it its minor faults, and I certainly enjoyed the game more than the visually superior Doom 3 – in fact I even found myself going back through a level and completing it in a totally different way just for the fun of it…