Review by skunknuts

"A great concept with so-so execution"

PROJECT EDEN for the PC

Premise
In the cities of the future, real estate is at a premium. Instead of building out, people now build up, and cities have become many-leveled hives of humanity. Those who are rich can afford themselves a sunny spot on top, but the less fortunate members of society must live below. Go down too far, and the once marvelous megalopolis slowly transforms into a wasteland of abandoned buildings, non-functioning equipment, and roving bands of thugs. Go down even further, and you may encounter strange things you didn't even know existed. It is here in the city's depths that Project Eden takes place. Some murders have occurred at the Real Meat plant, located on the fringes of decent society. The Urban Protection Agency ( U.P.A., essentially a futuristic police squad ) have been notified, and you will command a four member team as you attempt to solve the mystery. Sounds simple enough, right? Follow me...

Graphics - 8
The game is a 3D adventure, and can be experienced from either the 1st or 3rd perspectives. I've played both the PC and PS2 versions of this game, and naturally, the PC version looks superior, especially when all the bells and whistles are turned up high. Get the latest patch for an additional boost, as it will make the flashlight each character holds actually work ( this looks good and will significantly add to the game's atmosphere ). Project Eden's visuals are quite effective - this game had some nice art direction. There are many textures, and although they usually aren't that sharp, they all do a great job of conveying a dark mood. Your team will make their way through collapsing structures and rusted out shells, and you can sense the faded glory in some of these locales. Each level feels like a new creation - you won't find yourself running down cookie-cutter hallways. The developers obviously took lots of time to model each area with detail. Every so often, you'll even get a little extra touch that goes above and beyond what you were expecting, such as reflective mirrors and water. Most characters and enemies are modeled effectively, but once in awhile the animations look a bit silly ( wait until you see a Death's Head gang member running around in the crouched position, and you'll know what I mean ). The four main characters were done especially well, I think, and each have their own distinctive look and personality. Weapon effects look competent, and the "Time Shock" gun is probably the most visually interesting, but there's nothing spectacular here.

Music & Sound - 8
The sound design for Project Eden is a spot-on match for its dark, technology-in-decay atmosphere. The soundtrack really couldn't even be called music, but is more a variety of distant metallic sounds, echoing wails, and some occasional eerie electronic synth sounds. This is all very effective in combination with the visuals, and can add to the tension of the situations your team will find themselves in. The sound effects are also well done. Your footsteps will fall heavily in the near deserted underworld. As you emerge from a cramped hallway into a vast, cavernous room, suddenly your footsteps reverberate into the distance, much as you'd expect they would. I thought this was a simple touch that was incredibly immersing - it's so natural and realistic that it only serves to draw you into the game world further. There is a fair amount of voice work present, and most of it is believable ( your team leader who chimes in from a remote location from time to time is especially convincing ), although there are some lines that are laughable. I also noticed that some lines of dialogue sound strangely muffled, but it's all understandable. Gun bursts and explosions are all as you'd imagine, but a few of the more exotic weapons you'll acquire later in the game sound extra interesting.

Playability - 7
As I mentioned before, you are in control of a four person team, each member of which has their own unique and useful special ability. You can control any one character at any time, and switching between them is quick and easy. Without utilizing each member to their fullest, you'll never succeed. Project Eden is a giant puzzle waiting to be solved, and to do this, all four team members will have to cooperate. Sometimes they must stick together and watch each other's backs. Other times they have to split up to take care of business, and sometimes they have to rely on their remote control scout robots. Managing this dynamic can be quite a task and will lead to some seriously head-scratching sessions. The game's puzzles are completely natural and practical, and rarely consist of finding "Red Keycard" for "Red Door". You will often need each team member in a key area performing a key function in order to succeed. Progressing through a tough section will keep you thinking on multiple levels, and when you eventually triumph, it's a satisfying accomplishment. Despite all the glowing things you've read so far, this game does have its faults. The controls, for one, are quite touchy. Due to the intricate nature of some of the maps, the clunky controls will certainly cause you to fall to your death more than once. Characters can sometimes become "stuck" in objects or areas, and this can also cause their death. Combat is disappointing. Gunfights usually lack visceral punch, and the enemy A.I. is incompetent at times, simply parading out in front of you and allowing themselves to be blasted to bits. The game is also buggy. When playing the PS2 version, I encountered a serious problem where any attempt to save the game would cause a total lock-up. Before playing the PC version, I downloaded the latest patch and installed it, but some problems still popped up. Through the last half of the game, the entire game would become choppy ( framerate AND audio ) when numerous enemies were present in the level, sometimes to the point of being almost unplayable. Trust me, it ain't my hardware's fault. I also came across some objects in the game that didn't perform their intended function upon use, but opened up the menu instead. Frustrating, but not game ending. If you really want to, you can see your way past all of these obstacles and finish the game.

Summary
Project Eden is a great concept with so-so execution. The story is intriguing, and players who don't make it past the halfway point in the game won't even begin to scratch it's surface. Great puzzles will exercise your flabby brain, and the game is dripping with atmosphere. If only the programmers could have polished up the controls, added some "umph" to the combat, and squashed some more bugs, the game would have taken on a more universal appeal and had a shot at becoming a true masterpiece. If you can look past the program's technical issues, you'll find a good game underneath, worth every minute you can spare. Halt!

Overall - 8 out of 10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/31/06


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