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New Movies, Old First-Person Shooters

Yesterday, I saw Hellboy 2. It was good in that it was more Hellboy, but it didn't stick with me in the same way Wall-E did. Despite being a G-rated movie and me being 31, I liked Wall-E enough to buy some shelf art, finish the PC game, and fully intend to get the DVD when it is released. Hellboy 2, despite having many of the same merchandise, doesn't have that kind of appeal. It's probably because the message wasn't as deep in comparison. Hellboy is a deeper character than most superheroes, but the superhero formula prevents me from calling the movie a Masterpiece for the Ages.

Smooth move Pixar, you spoiled me. Apparently I can't watch movies anymore without wishing they were Wall-E. I'll probably see Hancock sometime this weekend, and as Will Smith delivers a tremendous performance as some kind of hobo god trying to clean up his act at the cost of his own immortality, I'll be the one in the audience yelling, "OMG, this isn't as deep as that G-rated movie I saw a couple weekends back."

Project Snowblind
Anyway, today I finished off Project: Snowblind via GameTap, and that's cool for me because I rarely ever finish any games. I also recently played a bit of Painkiller via the demos, and that's weird for me because I rarely ever install and play 4 year-old demos. What follows are some impressions/reviews of each.

My interest in this Project: Snowblind was originally piqued when I learned that, before it split off into its own canon, it was originally developed as a more action-based perspective on Deus Ex. Awesome, Deus Ex is some kind of unmatched conspiracy/cyberpunk themed action first person shooter that you can only wish for more of, not unlike System Shock 2, BioShock, and Vampire: Bloodlines. Unfortunately, it seems Project: Snowblind was based on the overly-streamlined sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War. The console-hobbled interface, spider bot grenades, and repair bot/medical bot sound effects confirm this.

Project: Snowblind in action. This is a fairly tame early part of the game - later on, the action gets much more intense.

In playing it, I found Project: Snowblind to play like a cyberpunk Medal of Honor. The protagonist is pretty much engaged in outright war with an opposing Chinese renegade force through the entire game. There was some Deus Ex influence in that there was multiple solutions to the problems you were faced with: Do you shoot the guard robot, find a vent to sneak around it, or hack it and use it against the enemy? However, as Project: Snowblind was intended to be an action game, the protagonist is a super death-monger who can engage "bullet-time" slo-mo or even make himself invulnerable as he perforates dozens of bad guys neigh effortlessly... kinda makes stealth pointless.

There were other minor qualms throughout. The controls were hard to get used to, partly because they're a PS2 port job. There were vehicles which were underutilized, maybe because all of the levels were made small enough to fit in a PS2's memory while still having reasonable detail. I kinda liked the AI, it was smarter than their wooden animations suggested, but they were all pretty dumb and easily foiled. Finally, the way the 3D engine moved made me dizzy - but then, I'm noticing that with a lot of games lately.

Despite this, the game was decently satisfying. The cutscenes (while dated) added a good deal of story and sympathy for the protagonist, and I particularly enjoyed the creativity that went into the secondary fire modes of the weapons. Gotta love it when triggering secondary fire on the Flechette gun releases a swarm of tiny robots that seek, surround, and zap enemies. The overall balance and thought that went into creating Project: Snowblind was much better than Deus Ex: Invisible War.

I can see why a number of people remember this game fondly, and considering I got to play it essentially free through GameTap I can't complain. Unlike Deus Ex, however, I'm not so enamored with it that I want to come back and give it another playthrough someday, and I can take or leave a sequel. I gave it an 8/10, and that was probably being a point too generous.


I also played all three of the Painkiller demos recently. When it was fresh released, I was so put off by the terrible plot (you're a man consigned to purgatory and enlisted as God's hitman against the forces of Satan) that I ignored it. However, it seems Yahtzee liked it, and apparently so did the majority of reviewers, so I thought I'd give this 2004 game a spin.

Painkiller in action. Since I only played the demo, I never played this level nor had the opportunity to use the lightning/shuriken gun.

On the most basic level, Painkiller is a game of simple mindless FPS style fun, and that's fine. Under a closer look, it's stylized with bad guys who seem to like being mowed down in droves - they dress up in these ludicrous "I'm both Satan's handyman and enjoy being killed" outfits or otherwise are pathetic undead creatures who putting a 7 foot piece of wood through their head is doing them a favor. Coincidentally (as Project: Snowblind did this too) the dual-mode fire on the weapons is also extraordinarily well through out, to the point where the 5 weapons in the game play more like 10. Every 65 enemy souls collected temporary engages a "demon" mode which turns the screen freaky and allows you to send out badguy obliterating shockwaves for about 30 seconds.

Painkiller's a pretty solid game, even 4 years later. On the down side, the game is beginning to show its age. The environments were probably fairly impressive in 2004, but now they seem sort of artificial backdrops in which to frame the slaughter. This is thanks in part to the method of level progression, which blocks off certain routes and drags you by the nose to where you can trigger the correct wave of cannon fodder. The demo is stupidly capped in available weapons, preventing you from playing the levels are they are intended to be played.

Painkiller's definitely worth the $8 I could get it from GameStop for. Yet, I could probably get as much enjoyment playing Serious Sam for free off of GameTap. (Probably the first game or its expansion, since Serious Sam II turned out to be fairly tame.) Still, for old school fun alone, I'd expect the full version of Painkiller to be worth at least a 7/10 by even today's standards.

So, there's some reviews that may have interested people four years ago. I'm also noting here that I'm tweaking the Blog a bit, getting rid of a bunch of my recent Neverwinter Nights 2 altoholism and adjusting the labels and appearance a bit.

While I'm at it, I decided to kill the Digitally Forging Art blog. Much like a GameFly rental that's been laying around for weeks, I didn't use it enough for it to be worth keeping around. I'll just roll my creative endeavors to better gaming onto this blog and worry about starting a separate one if it starts taking over.
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