Project Eden fails to deliver as an action-packed splatter fest, but it does fit the niche of a linear adventure game filled with some combat elements. Based on industry sales of adventure versus violent shooting games, the hype is somewhat understandable, but the game's combat element is a woeful example of third-person gunplay. As a result, enjoyment depends on your ability to appreciate the puzzles and tricks hidden within.
The concept isn't particularly original. You control one of four characters at any given time, each with unique abilities, as they navigate the dark and dangerous passageways of the city depths. Switching between characters is necessary to help the entire party progress. Gamers who have played The Lost Vikings for the SNES will recognize the premise, but, fortunately, it's one that hasn't been overdone.
Project Eden includes a number of brain-taxing puzzles that require careful consideration of each characters' diverse powers. For example, one character opens locked doors, another hacks into security systems, and a third is immune to toxins that would kill the others. The abilities are used cleverly, at least in the beginning, and actions must be orchestrated for advancement.
Unfortunately, the different abilities aren't used enough after the first few levels. In one case, a character's ability to talk to others to glean information is useful at the beginning, but the skill seems forgotten in later levels. Character abilities, though diverse, are somewhat limited, resulting in less than exciting gameplay as the adventure progresses and puzzles become repetitive. While it's initially exciting to tap into character abilities early on to open up new areas of exploration, eventually the limited roles begin to run together.
The linearity of the puzzles makes the game less interesting in the long run, since each has only a single solution and method of solving. With more variety, players could use logic skills and imagination, and the game might have approached greatness. As it stands, you simply run through the motions to get the hang of gameplay, clicking on one thing and then the next until it works. At best, it's frustrating, and at the worst, downright dull.
Compared to the puzzles, the combat engine in Project Eden is a serious black void. In fact, labeling it an "engine" at all is giving more credit than is actually due, as it's really nothing more than a point-and-click affair. Enemies, while programmed to dodge, duck, and move, have no concept of when to perform the actions. Most of the horrific monsters simply rush at you, making the entire process a kind of "last man standing" contest, with two opponents firing away until one falls. Furthermore, your character can regenerate at will at the numerous regeneration locales, while the enemy has no means to reacquire energy, making combat essentially pointless.
Project Eden is stable and should run smoothly on most up-to-date systems. Controls will be familiar to veterans of first- or third-person shooters, but movement isn't as precise as some games in the genre. The graphics are on par with other decent dark-and-gritty shooters, and the use of vertical space to depict a really deep hyper-urban setting in a very tall world is commendable. Textures are a bit blurry on a crisp monitor but don't ruin the experience.
Playing Project Eden at least once is worthwhile, but the linear puzzles, bad combat engine, and a multiplayer component that utilizes it limit hard-drive life considerably. Once finished, it's doubtful any gamer will return to the city depths.
Graphics: While not inspired, graphics project a good sense of environment. The textures are muddy and gamers with high-end machines and the ability to display beautiful visuals will not be impressed.
Sound: The complete aural package comes together in a way that generally lets you feel the sinister oppression of the ground-level atmosphere, though very little music attends gameplay.
Enjoyment: Bad combat is generally outweighed by some interesting puzzles, but the overall concept begins to wear thin in the long term.
Replay Value: Project Eden is definitely a "one-timer," and the awkward multiplayer component and bad combat engine don't hold promise for extended play.
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