There's also a convincing physics engine at work. Most objects can be picked up and thrown, and there's even a weapon called the 'Kicker' that sends a burst of energy out and lets you bash scenery all over the shop. This is good for knocking enemies over railings, creating cover for yourself or just generally messing around. Also planned are vehicles. These'll be used for rescues and as offensive weapons in both single and multiplayer modes. The game's got more layers than a giant sponge cake, which should keep it separated from funnel-like FPS nonsense like GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Well, that and the fact that it's actually very good.
The interface helps too. As we said, this is a genre usually more suited to mouse control. However, using the Dual Shock to access flip-down menus similar to Metal Gear Solid and to select items, weapons and biomods couldn't be easier. This is a prime example of the game's unique polish; every design decision helps ease the game along and it's remarkably streamlined for an FPS.
That said, there are loads of AI problems currently, but we put this down to the unfinished code more than anything. Enemies often inexplicably spot you even if you're crouched behind dense cover, seemingly completely out of sight, which disrupts the flow somewhat and makes a mockery of your attempts at furtiveness. Hopefully, this'll be ironed out before the game's release.
More good news - it looks fabulous. The first level we played takes place in a war-torn urban sprawl flanked by buzzing neon signs and lashed by acid rain. Steam rises from drains, helicopters whirr across the sky, immense skyscrapers stretch to the clouds - it's like something out of Blade Runner. And it doesn't end there - there are bombed-out cityscapes, lush jungles, ancient temples and large financial districts to shoot in and out of, all looking exquisite and complimented by a very effective 'depth haze' that makes far-off scenery blur into the distance to add a greater perception of, well, depth. If it's far away it actually looks further away.
Production values aside, Snowblind works well on almost every level, blending action, stealth and strategy to concoct a mix that's thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. Crystal Dynamics are also working on a 16-player online mode - though quite how such a tactical shooter will work online remains to be seen. Still, we're pinning our hopes on this one. If the designers can tighten the AI up and keep the rest of the game as consistent and entertaining as the levels we've played, they'll have a winner on their hands. Our PS2 gets wiser as it gets older.
Snowblind will be released for PS2, PC and Xbox in February