We were able to get some quality time with the development team at Crystal Dynamics to talk about their console first-person shooter, Project Snowblind, which is set for release this month. With all of the rage about Halo 2 and a slew of shooters due out this year, we were more than eager to find out how Project Snowblind is going to differ from the pack.The first thing that I have to get out of the way is the title of the game. What is the origin of the name, Project Snowblind and how does it relate to the game?The term Snowblind refers to the complete shutdown of all internal electrical and bio-mechanical systems. To know what this really means, you need to know Nathan Frost, our main character. He starts the game as a 2nd Lieutenant in an international peacekeeping force, stationed in Hong Kong to help quell turmoil in the region that has recently erupted. During his initial briefing at the Liberty Coalition base, the regime, the Republic, launches a surprise attack. Mortally wounded in the onslaught, Nathan is rushed into experimental surgery where he is reborn as the future of war – a one-man army capable of wielding experimental weaponry and fantastic abilities that far surpass the average soldier.As the Coalition attempts to pull out of Hong Kong, Frost and his cohorts uncover a plot that threatens the safety of the entire world. As Frost, players must take charge of the situation and come to terms with his new abilities.Nathan has access to abilities that far exceed those of his peers – but he has a unique Achilles heel – an EMP blast. Something as simple as an EMP grenade that would barely harm any normal human can potentially cripple Nathan. It reduces his abilities to nothing, blinds his vision and drains his bioenergy reserves.Console first-person shooter fans are currently getting their fill with Halo 2 and the action doesn’t slack off in 2005 with the upcoming releases of DOOM 3, Unreal Championship 2 and Pariah, just to name a few. How is Project Snowblind going to stand out in this blizzard (pun intended) of quality console shooters?It was very important for us to bring some new thoughts and ideas to the genre with Project: Snowblind. As you might have noticed, we’re really pushing the envelope with the concepts of Smart Weapons (more on that below), battlefield intensity and visual quality. We feel very strongly that we’ve got something special and unique in the FPS space. By combining the abilities of the player with the player’s vast a**nal, all within a very frenetic environment, we think you’ll agree.What are some of the development team’s favorite FPS games?Well, Project: Snowblind, of course! J I think it is pretty fair to say that the team plays and studies just about any FPS they can get their hands on&h**ip;There has been a fair amount of press on the weapons. Can you describe some of the weapons (including the secondary firing modes) and tell us which ones you feel will be the most popular?We’re particularly proud of the vast a**nal that Project: Snowblind puts at the player’s disposal. Between the player’s main weapons (and their alternate fires), secondary weapons and special augmentations, the player has over two dozen weapons and abilities at their disposal.Because the game takes place in a near-future setting, these start off relatively straightforward – shotgun, rocket launcher, carbine and so forth. As the player progresses through the game, they get gradually more fantastic, such as the HERF gun, which is a bit like an electrical version of a flame thrower or the Flechette gun which fires high-speed energy projectiles that the player can bank around corners to take out hidden enemies.Every weapon in the game also has a more fantastic Alternate Fire. Most of these are vastly different from the weapon’s Primary Fire and really change up the overall gameplay. The Flechette, for example, fires off an intelligent swarm of Attack Drones, capable of searching the level and neutralizing enemies on their own. This is an example of one of our many “Smart Weapons.” Weapons that run AI driven behaviors to a*ist the player in dealing with the hordes of enemies on screen at once.The HERF Alternate Fire sends out an Electric Mine, which sticks to terrain, dynamic objects, vehicles or anything, and then sends out electric arcs to attack any enemies in proximity.Beyond all this there’s also a full complement of secondary grenades, which includes everything from your standard explosives to mobile cover that the player can deploy anywhere.Needless to say, Project: Snowblind will place a lot of firepower at the player’s disposal, but we also tried to make sure that all these abilities interact in unique ways so that players can continue to discover new strategies right up to the end of the game.Will all of the levels be full-blown shooting action or can we expect some stealth action in the mix, similar to the varied gameplay that Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay offered?There are a few different “styles” of missions. First and foremost, there are “Total War” missions. These missions are characterized by a few things: density and friendlies. In these missions, you are dealing with anywhere from 12-20 guys on screen at a time. As such, they characterize the “feel” of the battlefield that we’re going for. Aside from your weapons to help you out in these situations, the “Total War” missions have friendlies that help the player through the engagements. They are a valuable fighting force; they’ll engage the enemy, dynamically reason for cover, etc. And because of all this, you’ll want to keep them alive so that you can keep the firefights in your favor. If you don’t cover their backs, you’ll end up facing the squads of enemies alone!We’ve also got “Solo Battle” missions, which are very similar to the “Total War.” In these, you’re, as the name of the mission type suggests, alone. So, you have to learn to rely on your abilities and weapons a bit more than you might have initially expected&h**ip; While you can survive these alone, you’ll no doubt have to be a bit more careful.Finally, there are the “Infiltration” missions. In these missions, not only are you alone, as in “Solo Battle,” except you have to deal with security systems, trip wires, cameras, auto-turrets, enemy robots, patrolling guards, etc. These missions will offer you a great opportunity to experiment with your a**nal&h**ip;In some missions, the goal will be to stay alive with your friendlies, in others you might have to hack into enemy servers to get at some valuable intel. In others, you’ll disable huge rail lasers that are cutting your troops apart.Will you have teammates fighting along side of you in the single player campaign or is it solo only? Is there an opportunity to play as different characters in the game or is it just one character?As I mentioned above, there will be friendly characters that fight alongside the player. You’ll spend the game in the shoes of Nathan Frost. However, you’ll also meet some special friendlies like Specialist Pitney, who will help guide you through the course of the game with valuable intel and hints. He’s no slouch with a weapon either&h**ip;What type of vehicles can players drive in the game?In the single player game, the player will have the opportunity to drive everything from a small car, to a rocket launching combat buggy to a 12-foot mechanized walker, called the Ogre. One of the cool bits with the Ogre is that often times, if you’re not careful, the enemies will beat you to the punch and use the Ogre against you. Nothing worse than losing a footrace only to be staring down the barrel end of an Ogre’s rocket launcher.The Bioenhancements in the game sound similar to Deus Ex and Psi Ops. Can you give us some examples of these enhancements?Sure&h**ip; aside from the player’s weapons and grenades mentioned above, Nathan Frost has access to a variety of augmentations – everything from enhanced vision to the ability to emit lightning.There’s also Reflex Boost, which will allow the player to slow time to gain the advantage on the enemies on the battlefield. You’ll also be able to cloak yourself by turning invisible – something that can come in rather handy in an infiltration mission. There’s also a shield that will absorb damage so that you can preserve your health&h**ip; and then there’s my favorite, Electrical Storm. E-Storm is a very aggressive augmentation that actually emits lightning from Nathan’s body. It is another example of our “Smart Weapons” by which it scours the battlefield looking for enemies, hidden or otherwise, to destroy.The augmentations are especially fun to use in conjunction with your weapons. Turning on Electrical Storm while spraying the area down with your Flechette is one of the many effective ways to hold your own in the chaotic firefights you’ll come up against in Project: Snowblind.What game types will be available in online multiplayer?The first thing to note about the Project: Snowblind multiplayer experience is that it is class-based. Players will pick a class to play: grunt, sniper, heavy, scout, berserker and agent. Each class has a set loadout, 2 weapons, 2 grenades and 1 aug. It pays, obviously, to find a balance of classes to play as some game modes are much more fun if you fill a role for your team. Of course, in the individual mode of deathmatch, pick a class that suits your playstyle best. JIn terms of game modes, you’ll see some familiar classics: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc. And then, for the more contemporary tastes, there’s: a*ault, tactical a*ault, demolition and hunter. Each of these modes offers something a bit different, from Deathmatch to the ever-changing Hunter mode.I find Hunter mode pretty interesting – whoever dictates the game mode, possesses the Hunter token. If you hold the token, you become the Hunter: an all-powerful player on the battlefield with access to every class’s weapon, grenade and augmentation. And&h**ip; you’re permanently cloaked. The Hunter scores points for killing anyone else on the map, while the non-hunter characters gain points for killing the Hunter. As you might imagine, this makes for some pretty chaotic gameplay as 15 people are all gunning for 1&h**ip; To make it a little easier on the others, the Hunter shows up as a blip on everyone’s radar – so you’ll always know, generally where he is hiding&h**ip; even if he is cloaked.Supporting the online community was very important to us. In order to do this, Project: Snowblind tracks relevant player statistics, has a fully integrated clan and friends system. You and your friends will have no excuse to not play together. J The Xbox version will also have downloadable content to keep things fresh for the hungry FPS fans out there.What are the scheduled release dates for N. America and Europe?We’re currently scheduled for release on 2/22/05 in America and 3/4/2005 in Europe.Thanks for your time in answering our questions and good luck with the game’s upcoming launch.