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Project Eden
Score: 86%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Core Design
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Multitap)
Genre: Puzzle/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
A third person action/adventure game from Core and Eidos called Project Eden? Gotta be a Tomb Raider clone right? That's what I expected at first, but it appears that they have taken a new approach at the genre and it actually works.

Throughout the entire game I couldn't shake the feeling that Project Eden looked a lot like Deus Ex, and that is not actually a bad thing at all. It has a very dark underworld look to it that makes you wonder what is really going on under the surface. Your team of four characters look superb. The three human characters all look different enough so that you know which character you are playing as without thinking about it. The robot character I found, looked very similar to Robocop though... only it's female. I don't know exactly how sex gets assigned to robots, but in Project Eden I trust (hey, it's the future). The environments are equally well done, but I'm afraid that I can't tell you what the sky textures looked like. It's not that I didn't to bother to look up, but the fact that the entire game takes place underground. Project Eden: rated Teen for blood, violence and the onset of depression. Because of the lack of sunlight, you would expect Project Eden to look like a dark and creepy game, and it does. Core did their job well in trying to make the underbelly of the city feel like a seedy, dirty place that only people like Marilyn Manson, Mike Tyson and that weirdo from Silence of the Lambs would want to hang out in. Not Hannibal, but that other guy who was making the suit o' skin, mind you. Besides, Hannibal is a man of the arts, a man with taste. Alas, I Digress. The point I'm slowly making is that Project Eden carries a feeling of atmosphere which easily sets the mood for the entire game. As to be expected from the next generation titles on the PS2, Project Eden sports plenty of impressive graphical perks like smoke, explosions, and laser blasts.

Sound in an action/adventure game can be very important in determining how to solve a puzzle. (I'm still working on getting my boss to include a 'smell' section to our reviews, another important but commonly overlooked videogame sense.) In Project Eden the sound does not disappoint. A sparking noise can often mean a shorted out something er rather, hinting that it needs to be fixed. A lot of the sound effects are very well done and you can notice differences even between the footsteps of your characters. Also adding to the mood is the fact that there is no music, but instead a constant dripping/creaking/blowing noise.

If you have ever seen the movie The 5th Element you should be able to grasp the setting of Project Eden pretty easily. Cities have grown to gargantuan proportions, not only horizontally, but vertically too. Beneath the high class upper levels of the city exists a seedy, dark neighborhood. It works a lot like the slums in Final Fantasy VII. There have been reports of abductions and a meat factory going offline in the lower levels and it is your job to guide a team of four government agents in a quest to find what is going on. I was expecting a copy of Tomb Raider, but it luckily wasn't. I found that the game played more like Oni than anything else. For those of you who didn't play it, it takes place in the third person and you have to control both the direction your character walks, and the direction that they look. This works well for puzzle solving because you can easily look around and take in everything while you walking. If that's not to your taste, you can always switch to a first person view like Quake and Red Faction. Kudos go to Core for letting players have the choice. As previously mentioned, you lead a team of four. You might be wondering how it would work to have to carry three people around, right? Ever play Ico? That's right, you have to walk around holding them by the hand (not literally, but with follow commands). Most of the time it works well, but there were often times when teammates would fall behind and get lost. Fortunately you can spot all of the characters on the radar and easily go back and get them. Another question that I had was what happens if one of your characters die? It turns out that instead of making the entire team start over, only the character that dies is sent back to the last recharge station. It works pretty well, but a couple of times I didn't notice that someone had fallen off a cliff, and I either had to take the entire team back to get them, or switch to that character and make them catch up. Aside from the minor problems with character AI for following, having a team of four added a lot more thinking to the puzzles. Each member of the team has their own special skills such as weapons, interrogation, computers and physical powers. It took me a few times of incinerating my team before I realized that I should send in the robot to flip a switch to shut off the flames. There are a lot of puzzles in the game, but most of them revolve around a few molds. The first mold is the puzzle in which your group can complete together like opening a door. Then there are puzzles which demand that you split up. These puzzles usually involve having one of the characters hold a switch while the others do something else. The last puzzle solving mold includes puzzles that use a characters specific skill. For example, having the toxic proof robot wade through a pool of radiation to hit a drain switch. Those molds may sound very basic, but the developer put those rules to good use to make a lot of varied puzzles. Also, if you aren't happy with the AI of your computer controlled teammates, you can plug in a multi-tap and have your friends control them.

With an unlimited lives policy, one would think that Project Eden is a pretty easy game. The thing is though, this isn't a game where your main intent is to mow down bad guys, but to complete puzzles, so having unlimited lives doesn't make the game any easier. That doesn't mean that the game is easy. By having a team of four members, the puzzles take a different dimension of thinking which in turn adds a different flavor of difficulty. Even though Project Eden revolves around puzzle solving, there are still some combat elements in the game, and they can be quite difficult. The difficulty of the combat comes from the controls. As you can imagine, it's very hard to aim with one thumb and run around with the other, all while trying strafe and shoot at the same time. Luckily, you have teammates that are shooting right alongside you to even out the difficulty a little.

Game Mechanics:
If there is anything that I like about Project Eden it is the saving of the game. More specifically the fact that your characters stay in the same places when you load the game. I like this so much more than starting from the beginning of the level because it means that you don't have to go back and do the puzzles over again. Added to this the fact that the saving/loading process runs swiftly and smoothly, and you have one technically sound game. The levels are huge and luckily, they take close to no time to load. The only gripe I have with the mechanics of Project Eden fall into the control department. The fact that you have to control both the walking and looking direction of your character makes it pretty hard to effectively shoot anything. After a while you can get used to it with practice, but I like the fact that you have the option to switch to a first person view. But be warned - the first person view is a double edged sword. While the controls are superb, you may not notice the little details that can help you solve a puzzle.

What Guys Thinks: This game is one of those top notch titles that will probably go unnoticed because it shares a launch month with two new systems and Metal Gear Solid 2. However, if you are looking for a good bet after the dust has settled, definitely check out Project Eden.

-Joe Guys, GameVortex Communications
AKA Joe Labani

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