Review: Project Root (PS4)

project-root-review-banner

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Project Root
Format: PlayStation Network Download (354 MB)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Reverb Publishing
Developer: OPQAM
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Project Root is also available on PlayStation Vita and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on PS Nation Podcast Episode 421 – Redcoats in the Civil War? of the podcast.

I’ve seen Project Root at events like PSX but I only played it once in its pre-release form. At the time I thought it had potential but it was still pretty rough. When you only get hands-on for five to ten minutes you never really know how the full game is going to turn out, so I’ve learned to reserve judgement until the game finally hits the virtual shelves.

Gameplay:
There’s supposed to be a story here, but for the life of me all that I can figure out is that my partner and I are the heroes and we’re fighting some evil organization called Prometheus Corp. The publisher likens Project Root to a classic SHMUP (Shoot ‘Em Up), but really it’s more akin to the old Strike games from EA on the Genesis.

You fly around in a ship armed to the gills and able to be upgraded over time. You move with the Left stick and turn left & right with the Right stick. Instead of simply flying in one direction like most traditional SHMUPS, this is more of a controlled free-roam. You’ll begin by flying in the general direction of a target indicated on your radar but what you’ll quickly realize that you have a lot to destroy before you ever get there.

There are a mix of fixed ground units, rolling units, and enemies in the air. R2 fires your cannons and L2 fires your ground weapon but basically you’ll simply hold both triggers almost constantly. You’ve also got special weapons that drop from fallen enemies occasionally which can include an almost useless EMP, a swarm missile strike, and a beam weapon that helps quite a bit with level bosses. All of this is played from a skewed overhead perspective, again quite like the Strike games back in the day but the camera is pulled farther back.

project_root_screen_01project_root_screen_06

Unfortunately, the game is a mess. Movement is stiff and the overall gameplay is incredibly monotonous and repetitive. Aircraft fly in predictable patterns that start before they even appear in your field of view with only a yellow indicator and a shadow to give you a heads-up. Ground units are also plentiful but predictable as well. Thing is though, it’s obvious that the air units appear semi-randomly because you see it happen occasionally. Even worse, enemies will actually materialize into the side of the cliffs lining the sides of the terrain and even though you can’t hit them, they can definitely shoot you. The action can actually get pretty hectic too and it’s those moments that are the actually fun, but even then, everything just drags along too much.

The worst part though is that you rarely know where you’re going. All you have is a red blip on your radar but making your way to it reminds me of a quote from Naked Gun 33 1/3: “Like a blind man at an orgy, I was going to have to feel things out.” There’s nothing to tell you where you need to go or even if you’re going in the wrong direction. Instead, the game just hopes that you find your way, which in later levels gets pretty tedious and confusing. At one point I resorted to simply following an outside wall on my right all the way around until I finally found my destination which took me roughly twenty minutes. There’s no map to help you at all and since the set pieces are all pretty similar it’s almost impossible to remember landmarks etc.

… hit detection is pretty sloppy …
The other problem is the pacing. Even the first level can take upwards of forty minutes to complete and they just get longer from there. After a certain point I found myself begging for the level boss to appear so I could know that it was almost over.

Between missions you’ll be able to spend XP that you’ve earned on six different upgrades, but since I’ve never seen a way to earn more or less XP per level the upgrade path is already rigid. It just seems pointless to make it seem like a player has control over their XP and upgrade path when really they don’t for the most part. You can still choose which upgrade to purchase, but since some cost more than others and you can only do so much after each level. Like I said, if there was some way to earn extra XP the system would have some merit but the way it stands in the game, it’s rather pointless.

project_root_screen_14project_root_screen_19

Visuals:
The highlight of Project Root is in the visuals because it looks great. The framerate is solid and everything else is well done. Textures are clean and the explosions are fantastic. Enemy fire contrasts nicely with the environment making it easy to keep track of everything that can take you down.

Things aren’t perfect though as it can be a bit buggy at times. As I mentioned above, clipping can be a problem, with enemies firing through walls at you and even enemies flying right through shields. The environments themselves look really good too, with some great depth in spots, and varied seasons and terrain. The thunderstorm at the end of the second level is quite memorable as lightning illuminates everything wonderfully while thunder crashes all around you. Alas though, hit detection is pretty sloppy with a hot-box around your ship that feels like the Titanic.

… the execution just isn’t very good …
Audio:
The audio in Project Root is quite the mixed bag. First off, the soundtrack is good but it doesn’t fit the game at all. For what action you’re going through it almost sounds like someone just put a random record on in the background instead of you getting a soundtrack made for the game you’re playing. I found the experience to be much better when simply playing some of my own music from a USB drive or from Spotify.

On the other hand, environmental and weapons sounds are really well done. Explosions fill the speakers and things like thunder help bring you into the action. It’s not all perfect though, as the gun sounds on your ship are pretty generic. Like I said, a mixed bag unfortunately.

project_root_screen_22project_root_screen_28

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
One thing that I haven’t mentioned that’s even a bigger travesty is that even though the game is Cross-Buy between PS4 and Vita, there’s no way to transfer your save to and from the Cloud. As much of a trudge it is to get through the levels, I don’t see myself ever doing it a second time on the other console.

Project Root is a cool idea that hasn’t been done before but the execution just isn’t very good. There are some bright spots and some people may really get drawn in to this one, but for me I doubt I’ll play it now that the review is done. There’s just not enough to compel me to keep coming back.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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