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Project Eden Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Core Design
genre: Action Adventure
P233, 32MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 500MB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Oct 08, 01
|» All About Project Eden on ActionTrip|
Wait, remind me again: are these the same guys that made all those Tomb Raider clones? I must admit I had my doubts about CORE's ability to do anything besides a Tomb Raider rehash, but now that I've played through Project Eden I can only say - why? Why did you make all those TR games that nearly ruined your rep, when you obviously had so much more in you?
In any case, the important thing is that CORE managed to shake the TR license for a while and do something different. The result of their effort is a very solid 3rd person adventure game (hey, at least the genre is still the same), which some might dub as an action-adventure, but it really reminds me so much more of a classic adventure, only without item mixing and heavy-duty dialogue. So, how is it a classic adventure then? Namely the puzzles -- they are intelligent, involving and cleverly designed, and the same can be said about the level design. What separates this "action-adventure" from similar games in the genre is the spirit of the tough puzzle - one that's right there in front of you, but it may take you a few minutes to figure it out. And you feel that sense of accomplishment when you do, which is really what classic adventures are all about for me.
Eden's world is set in a gloomy, bladerunnerish urban environment, with a lot of industrial motives and plenty of mutated monsters and religious fanatics to go around. Players are given control of four rather diverse characters, members of the UPA (Urban Protection Agency) - an elite security agency that handles any sort of trouble going on in the city: Carter (team leader), Minoko (team hacker), Andre (repairman), and Amber - your every day huge ass-kicking robot. The team is initially called in to investigate problems at the 'Real Meat' factory, in which all the equipment has started to simultaneously malfunction. Next thing you know, there's running and screaming and parts of the building falling off - just your regular day on the job for the UPA team...
Project Eden's storyline unfortunately didn't strike me as particularly good, since it's really rather clich' and too, shall we say transparent to really grab your attention (voice acting didn't help any, either). I don't want to give away any specifics, but let's just say that you've probably already seen a movie, read a book, or indeed played a game with a similar plot. At first, I didn't even feel like reading through the dialogue, or paying any attention to what the characters were saying, as I had this weird feeling I heard it all before. So, I just started out with a few great puzzles, eagerly awaiting some action-packed sequences, but what I got was this very "high-tech-gadget-oriented" adventure game with a rather slow-unfolding plot, and not a whole lot in the way of gripping action. I've heard whispers of low percentages in my head, and those whispers only got louder when I realized how painful it can be to baby-sit four characters in an adventure game. The programmers of course included the "follow me" option, and the interface is intuitive and very nicely done, but I frequently kept forgetting to bring along one or two team members to the desired location (or they simply refused to follow me). Their path finding routines are not the greatest you'll ever see (they have a tendency to get stuck), and on top of that, they can't jump, and seem kind of sluggish at times, which means you're bound to baby-sit their ass to the right spot every once in a while.
All these factors made me think of a rather mediocre score ... that is until I dug a little deeper into the world. The story is indeed clich' and slow, but it picks up somewhat, and it's the same with action sequences. The enemy AI is rather lacking and "unnatural," but it's I guess sufficient to add a little spice to this solid adventure game.
Indeed, the most important thing to remember about Project Eden is that you cannot judge it by the announcements and previews, as the gameplay is very different from what you might initially expect it to be.
Once you've dealt with some of the early pains and kind of realized that Project Eden isn't exactly what they said it would be in the brochure, you'll soon realize that in the grand scheme of things, the game has a lot of things going for it. Visually, Project Eden looks impressive. It's colorful - in a sense that it's rarely monotonous - unique, and it presents a nice balance between decent 3D code and artistic value. Most importantly though, I must again underline the clever design of the puzzles and the way CORE's made all four members work together on solving various crisis.
Ironically, Project Eden's team play feature can be considered as the game's greatest advantage, and at the same time, its most annoying feature. You'll have loads of fun making progress by getting all your four characters involved - they'll use their unique abilities and work as a team, and the excellent level design will make it so that you don't wander around the maps too much. Even if the team splits, there is a good chance you'll find a way to open a door, which gives access to a shortcut across the level. This of course makes the babysitting task easier, and that is probably the reason why I haven't been frustrated with the team play concept as much as I had initially expected to be.
As I made my way through the levels, my impressions of Project Eden only got better. After a while, I got hooked on the neat puzzle-solving, just as if I was playing one of my favorite classic adventures, and that alone can be a rewarding enough gaming experience. For that, I recommend this game to our readers. It's not a triple-A title, but Project Eden had some very smart game designers working on it.
Great level design, clever puzzles (also, using gadgets like fly cams and miniature remote tanks is loads of fun), nice visuals - it's fun to play!
Doggy voice acting, enemy AI, cliché storyline, controlling all four characters can be a pain. The action sequences are far from action-packed.
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