Project Eden Hands-On

Core recently held a press demo for its upcoming squad-based action game, Project Eden. We were at hand to check out the puzzle-heavy game and deliver impressions.

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In development concurrently for the PC and PlayStation 2, Project Eden is quite a departure from the traditional first-person shooter. The game takes place in a somewhat near future that finds planet Earth stricken with overpopulation. To cope with the constraints of limited space, humanity has decided to expand upward, effectively elevating its metropolises thousands of feet into the air. As civilization ascended, savagery became rife in the world's forgotten lower levels, giving rise to ferocious gangs and mutants amidst the ruins.

In Project Eden, you take the role of a squad of police operatives sent to the lower levels of a huge metropolis to correct what appears to be a minor maintenance problem but soon escalates into something bigger. Leading the squad is Carter, a well-balanced, all-around performer. Accompanying him are Andres, the group's engineer; Amber, a shiny, hulking cyborg that provides sufficient brawn; and Minoko, a savvy computer specialist. All four team members can fight, and the game's interface lets you focus on any one at a time, while giving simple orders (such as follow or stay) to the others.

The game focuses on puzzle solving. As the environments are quite huge, you can expect to have your team scattered all over, quite often working independently of each other, though focused on the same goal. The game's puzzles more often than not involve the use of each character's particular skills, making strategic placement of squad members key to solving the puzzles. They also seem very drawn out and intricate, involving much travel up and down the environments and their many levels.

In its quest to develop an intricate puzzle-based game, though, Core apparently hasn't forgotten the lure of heated action. While the build on display wasn't completely populated by enemies, there were quite a few sprinkled here and there, which allowed for some decent firefights. Core admitted that the game's AI needed some heavy tweaking, and it showed: Enemies were often prone to firing while standing in place or advancing and retreating haphazardly. Squad members acted similarly. Combat can be enacted through either a first- or third-person perspective, each with its accompanying advantages and disadvantages. When you suffer casualties, your squad members will respawn at various regeneration points scattered throughout the game's levels. They're respawned at only half their normal energy levels, but fortunately energy is something of a group commodity in Project Eden: Squad members can transfer energy between each other, ensuring that characters key to certain puzzle elements will always be around when needed.

Energy is also used to power the game's many gadgets. Aside from normal weaponry, your squad is equipped with a handful of cool toys with a great many uses. Drones, both flying and ground-based, are available for exploration or aid in puzzle solving, as are mounted turrets, mines, and such. When you're done with using a given gadget, you can withdraw it, which lets you recuperate some of the energy spent in its activation. The assortment of gadgets seems to lend the game a deep, diverse feel, and they'll surely play a large role in its overall progression.

Project Eden, though still some months away in terms of commercial release, looks like quite a finished game. The game's environments are ultradetailed, not to mention huge, and at first glance, they're easily the game's most impressive aspect. The world of the future is bleak, hazardous, and intimidating in scale, and its inhabitants suitably savage and wretched. Everything moves at a brisk 60fps, in single-player mode, making its tighter resolution the PC version's only advantage over the PS2's. The frame rate takes a bit of a dive during the multiplayer games, but that's understandable; up to four players can play through the game's missions cooperatively, each one taking the role of a certain squad member. Some of the details of cooperative multiplayer--whether or not, for example, missions can be started multiplayer and continued solo--are still up in the air, but Core has stated that there will definitely be a deathmatch mode.

Project Eden looks like a very promising game. It looks to be simply huge and deep--60 hours' worth of largeness and depth, to be exact. The game definitely has its roots in PC gaming, so it will hopefully do much to indoctrinate console gamers into that style of play. We're very excited about that and are anxiously awaiting further word from Core. Project Eden is slated for an August/September release.

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