Project: Snowblind
dev. Crystal Dynamics
Now available for Xbox and Playstation 2

There's one question that any current shoot-'em-up has to answer: Why not play Halo 2 instead? Some games have good answers, such as the squad tactics of Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon or the varied-scale battlefields of Mechassault 2. But others, such as Project: Snowblind, shrug their shoulders and sigh. Unless you're really burned out on multiplayer Halo 2, there is no reason to buy this game.

Its intentions were good. Project: Snowblind started life as Deus Ex: Clan War, a shooter in the laudable Deus Ex series. At some point it morphed into its own setting, but it's hard to imagine what the fuss was about: The result is just as generic and listlessly inspired as any other sci-fi action game. In brief, it's the future and some guy has a doomsday weapon and you need to use your cyberpowers to stop him. Next.

The developers included hot-button features from other games, but they can't survive comparison. There are a lot of weapons, most of them you can easily ignore. (Halo 2 did this right.) There are vehicles, which are no fun to drive. (Ditto.) There are cyberpowers, which are rarely needed and not especially fun. (Psi-Ops is the gold standard on this.) There's even a physics engine with a gravity gun, whose only purpose is to occasionally shove a metal crate into position for footstool duty. (See Psi-Ops and Half-Life 2.)

More importantly, Project: Snowblind is too easy. After the first couple levels, you've met all the types of enemies you're going to meet for almost the entire game--and they're all cannon fodder. They die too easily and do too little damage, leaving them with nothing but superior numbers. So while you have this huge toolset of creative gear, the gameplay is easily managed with just the basic weapons. Ammo and health crates infest the levels like scabies, so resource management is never interesting.

The game picks up in the final levels, when the guards get improved armor and invisibility. There were multiple weapons in the game that I literally never used until that point, when each encounter was finally enough of a challenge that I had to start thinking. Had that style of play been introduced from the start, it could have been genius. Instead, it's pablum.

Speaking of pablum, there's a completely by-the-numbers online component: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and some other styles that are all dully familiar from better games.

Project: Snowblind's level layouts are often ambitious. Which is a good thing, because you'll traverse the same temple level at least four times during the game, as mission after mission repopulates it with thugs. The designers do their best to mix it up each time, but it's reminiscent of Halo's infamous library levels.

Project: Snowblind will satiate shooter-hungry players ready for a new fix. The rest of us can move along: There's nothing to see here.

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