Project Eden

I chased after the Death Heads gang across something like five chapters; through a synthetic meat factory, power plant, and abandonded mall. I thought as I approached Death Head HQ that I was approaching the finale of the game. But slowly I realized I was only about halfway through.

I felt nowhere close to finding the missing police officers I was sent to find. Nowhere near understanding why I was being confronted by mutant dogs ready to go Resident Evil on me. No one had even mentioned the eponymous Project Eden yet.

And I was not at all motivated to endure another five chapters of PS2 era jank to uncover the answer to those mysteries 😭

In interviews, Gavin Rummery cites Judge Dredd as an influence on Project Eden’s design. This is rather clear from the first half of the game. You find yourself navigating a towering, futuristic cityscape and more importantly chasing after and indiscriminantly murdering unnamed, literally faceless gang members. While playing, I took to shouting “DRUG USERS” during encounters because I did not understand why else, as a UPA agent, I had to be killing these people or that they saw fit to shoot on sight when we approached.

It’s very much a Robocop, Judge Dredd view of urban life, that there are murderous gang members out there and the police are fighting a literal war on drugs.

Side note one member of team actually is a robot cop, for fucks sake.

I personally hate Robocop and Judge Dredd because of how they portray crime and punishment, but as a love letter to those stories Project Eden is a success. Is this game cyberpunk? Maybe, by the end of it? But through the first stretch you’re just a squad of jackboot cops. The meat factory mission pokes a bit of fun at our relationship to our food supply, sure, but if the story calls anything else about the player characters and the world they inhabit into question it takes way too long in doing so.

Project Eden, to its credit, also executes well on a simplistic implementation of coop play. Each team member has their own special ability, whether it’s repairing things, hacking… having the keycard..? Or… being made out of metal?? Where Core Design shines is level design, and making good use of each team member to set up some interesting puzzles. It’s how you can tell that this game and the first Tomb Raider are cut from the same cloth.

I bet this game is great if you get four people together to see it through 🙃

But if you’re Mr. Lonely™️ you have to endure the sometimes frustrating experience of switching between team members to advance through levels. It’s hit-or-miss. Sometimes it’s very easy. Sometimes you switch to the wrong team member or accidentally discharge your weapon. But some environment interactions end up being tedious because there is just no efficient way to do them as a solo player. Many times you have to leave a team member behind, to hold a switch for example, and then later run them all the way through a level so they catch up with everyone else.

But the worst example from my incomplete playthrough was an elevator, stuck in constant motion, that I could only get team members onto one at a time. I had to ride that fucking elevator four times, making sure I didn’t miss the brief opportunity to hop on/off lest I have to ride the elevator with that character once more and try again.

That elevator was the moment any hope I had of finishing this game died.