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Project Snowblind

Project: Snowblind

Talk about a crowded genre. The near-future combat-shooting section of your average game shop is rammed to breaking point, creaking under the weight of terror, counter-terror, team-based, solo infiltration and military paranoia blasters set in grey versions of the world a few years from now. So why on present-day Earth do we need another one? What can Project: Snowblind offer that we haven't seen a million times before?

It's got enthusiasm and excitement smeared all over it, that's what. It wants to impress you. And boy, does it ever. Snowblind has the most action-packed opening we've ever seen, leading you through a pretty Hong Kong base as enemy forces attack and everyone's shouting, dying and shooting at you, each other and anything that looks vaguely unfriendly. "Go there!" your leader shouts, very excitedly, so you go. Things whizz down on zip lines, you shoot them, robot walkers stomp in, you take their heads off with grenades. All the while friendly troopers surround you, firing their weapons blindly as a whole world of panic erupts. That's just the first five minutes.

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When it comes to setting stalls out, Project: Snowblind does a remarkable job. And it never lets up, either. You'd think it would, but it doesn't. You'd think it would have a few bland sections, but it doesn't. Right the way though it's fast, furious and incredibly well directed. We were expecting another by-numbers shooter, but we didn't get one. Not only is Snowblind more action-packed than most, it's also better looking. Bland realism has been ditched in favour of a vibrant sci-fi movie look (part Robocop, part Starship Troopers), with colour, light, fire and extremely fashionable effects oozing and flashing out of the screen. It looks like a $100m Hollywood blockbuster.

Once you've got the balls-in-a-vice terror of the opening section out of the way, a Spider-Man-style thoughtful voiceover pondering the whys and hows of the situation kicks in, as our hero - Lieutenant Nathan Frost - comes to terms with his bio-mechanical enhancements and emerges as a true hero and upholder of the law. Think Master Chief with a less gruff voice and more techno toys and you're on the right track.

They can make you whole again
Events in level one transpire to leave you dead, before military experimenters bring you back to life again - in a techno-warrior, ultra-enhanced fashion. The Y-button triggers your 'augmentations' - futuristic superpowers, if you will, an extremely wide and creative range of upgradeable, downloadable and clever-clever techniques that have been built into your enhanced body to assist you in the art of killing. Your super-soldier augmentations are the shields, heat vision options, reflex boosts, invisibility specials and so on that your engineered new self has wired into it - opening up a world of new methods to protect yourself and slaughter others in numerous creative ways.

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You have access to a 'Reflex boost' that kicks in a kind of bullet time, while retinal enhancements let you see heat enemy signatures through walls. New features come online as you play, with Lieutenant Frost gradually upgrading his machinery as the adventure unfolds.

And these gadgets actually work. Your Energy gauge lets you use augmentations for a good 30 seconds or so, really helping you steer Nathan through the harder sections. Also, these special skills are interesting and new. How's that for a shock? The riot shields that fold out and form a transparent barrier for you to hide behind are completely fantastic toys, with each additional augmentation that comes online offering equally clever play options.

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