It's rare for a game like Project Snowblind to appear on PS2. The plodding strategic combat and crouch-creep gameplay is far more suited to a PC mouse-and-keyboard setup than your favourite console. We're startled that Crystal Dynamics have even had the guts to attempt such a game on PS2. As to the fact that it looks like it could be something outstanding, well, we're positively shocked. But in a good way.
Maybe it's the way that it toys so successfully with familiar FPS convention? Our first play resulted in an embarrassingly abrupt death. Only seconds had passed. We were in a Killzone frame of mind, you see, and tried foolishly to shotgun our way through a cluster of entrenched goons. In seconds, we were bloodily taken down and forced to start again, humbled. Snowblind demands the player adopt a much more methodical approach to problems than simply embarking on a Serious Sam-style blasting frenzy.
OK, this time. We equip a sniper rifle and crouch behind a bollard to observe. Our teammates are laying down covering fire - a perfect opportunity to sneak around and find a sniping spot. We flick on a biomod that enhances your character Nathan Frost's (Frost? Snow? Geddit?) vision and makes enemies appear bright yellow. The coast is clear. We make a dash for a shattered building to the left and enter. Upstairs, we find a security computer which we duly hack into and use to deactivate a couple of automated turrets outside. That's one problem solved for a start.
Now for the goons holding the street below. We peer through a hole in the wall and equip our rifle scope. There are ten or so. We snipe a couple at the back but come across a close-knit group of soldiers just below us - if we shoot one, the others will flush us out. Our eyes dart around the room - aha! We discover a box of explosives. One shot to the side and it's ready to blow. In a flash, we pick it up, hurl it at the soldiers below and, in a haze of red, orange and flailing ragdoll corpses, the area is clear. Problem solved, no health lost, no sweat broken. Easy.
It's like a puzzle game in a way, albeit one that revels in its violence and gunplay. Lateral thought and logic take precedence over skill and reaction. That's not to say some problems can't be solved with pure firepower - if you're toe-to-toe with a pair of combat bots there's little else you can do but equip a chaingun and get medieval on their mechanical asses. In the long run however, you'll spend more time sneaking and sniping than blazing away with your guns. Those seeking immediate, visceral thrills will be put off, but the thinking man will appreciate the tactical nuances of Snowblind's relentlessly exacting game engine.
Elsewhere the variety of gadgets and biomod powers really lifts the game. There are several types of grenade; frag (for men), EMP (for robots and mechanical things) and, best of all, spiderbots. These little bombs unleash a tiny robot with a laser gun attachment and it'll scuttle about clearing out enemies for you. Chuck a few of these around and you'll have your very own army of tiny robotic death slaves catering to your every whim. Very satisfying. Also just as useful, your nano-augmentations and implants bestow upon Nathan several powers including thermal cloaking, the aforementioned enhanced vision and increased reflexes that let you dance between bullets like Riverdance bod Michael Flatley in a drive-by. These sap up bio-energy but you can pick up power cells to keep you replenished.