Project: Snowblind Multiplayer Hands-On
We go a few rounds in the online mode of Crystal Dynamics' almost-complete cyberpunk FPS.
The upcoming Project: Snowblind will present a war-torn future world in which combat robots and nanotech augmentations are commonplace elements of everyday life. But after you're done with the game's story-driven single-player campaign, Snowblind will also give you a fully featured online multiplayer mode that will accommodate up to 16 players. We recently got to go hands-on in a few online rounds of the game and were impressed by the diversity of gameplay on offer.
Snowblind's multiplayer will have a number of available multiplayer modes, and we started off by jumping into a game of good old-fashioned team deathmatch. Like the single-player game, the multiplayer is easy to get a handle on if you've played console first-person shooters for any length of time, and we were off and fragging in moments. The various weapons and special abilities taken from the single-player game seemed to translate into the multiplayer setting well, including the less-conventional ones like the flechette cannon and the HERF (high energy radio frequency) gun. We were pleased to see that all of the alternate-fire modes were also preserved.
We got to try a couple of the more esoteric game modes as well. Fast flag capture, for instance, is a variant of traditional capture the flag that lets you score by bringing the enemy flag back to your base even if your own flag isn't present at the time. This made for a much more hectic version of the classic game and both teams were able to rack up points very quickly. We also got to try the demolition mode, which had both teams fighting over control of a bomb. The object was to take this bomb to a specified point and then defend it until it detonated. The catch here is that the bomb was on a one-minute timer, and it didn't regain time after the other team took control of it, so it was possible for the losing team to grab the bomb at the last second and then easily score a point.
The designers at work on Snowblind could have taken the easy route with the multiplayer by simply shoehorning the existing single-player weapons and items into a deathmatch setting. However, they went a little further than that by making the game's online modes a bit strategic. Before you enter any online game, even if it's just basic deathmatch, you'll have to choose a character class to play as. These classes are differentiated by the weapons and special abilities they can use, all of which are taken from the story campaign. The grunt comes equipped with a standard assault rifle, for instance, and he can use the damage-absorbing energy shield as its special power. The heavy class, on the other hand, uses a rocket launcher as its main weapon. There are also other varied classes like the sniper, who naturally uses a variable-zoom sniper rifle, and the scout, who prefers the shotgun.
With the default rule set, there are no weapon pickups on the map, which limits you to the weapons associated with your chosen class. Naturally, this makes your choice an important one based on the circumstances of the game. For example, the sniper will come in handy on maps with wide-open expanses, while the scout will be especially useful in maps with tight quarters. If you prefer a more traditional competitive experience, you can set a rule that will allow you to pick up the weapons of downed players. However, we found the default to be a nice change of pace from other games that made us think a little harder about what kind of character we wanted to play.
We were struck by the number of things there are to do in Snowblind's multiplayer matches beyond just killing each other on foot. A few of the levels we played had a Battlefield 1942-like feel, thanks to the availability of several vehicles scattered around the map. Some of these vehicles were fairly typical, such as an armored four-wheel ride with a turret on top that a second player could control. Others were less conventional, however, like the giant bipedal robot that we hopped in and then used to stomp around and destruct the players on the other team. This robot had a main turret and a secondary fire that unleashed a flurry of cluster missiles, which were great for rooting out enemies that were trying to hide behind cover. The character classes really come into play here, as we discovered when the other team's players became aware of our rampage, at which time they selected the heavy class and soon brought us down quickly using a few well-placed rockets.
The last time we went hands-on with Project: Snowblind, we were impressed by its visuals, especially on the PlayStation 2. Not surprisingly, the multiplayer mode's graphics are equally enticing. We played on a wide variety of maps in the PS2 version, which all seem to be styled after the single-player maps without actually being carbon copies. One map was set in a tranquil Chinese temple area, while others took place on war-torn city streets and in dingy industrial areas. The game makes excellent use of light blooming and other visual effects to give its levels a distinctive, futuristic look that underscores the action nicely.
Based on initial impressions, it looks like Project: Snowblind's multiplayer mode will give fans of the story campaign plenty to do after they're done saving the world. The game is due on shelves in about two weeks; look for a full review then.
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