Review by Rin-Coconut
Project Minerva is a military themed 3rd person shooter. In the world of Project Minerva, Minerva for short, the world is partaking in a war against robots. This game is a prime example of a good idea done wrong, and if you're expecting it to be anything like Call of Duty get those assumptions out of your head. Alright, lets get into it.
The game is structured into numerous missions and chapters. You basically get a selection of missions all increasing in difficulty that can be done in any order, clear them and you do a special story mission, clear that and you move onto the next chapter and round of missions. Majority of the missions just consist of killing a specified number of enemies, while other missions will require you to protect hostages, disable/plant bombs, and destroy certain structures or vehicles. The missions have time limits that they must be completed in but this game gives you absolutely absurdly long time limits, it will seriously give you 90 minutes to kill 20 enemies. Difficulty wise the game is either super easy or challenging, but difficulty is always subjective.
Assisting you in your missions are three teams of three. These teams help you in your battles and to help locate enemies. I will dive deeper on the team and enemy AI later on but for now the general controls. The way this game works is that you and your team members are dropped into large barren battlefield. You then need to locate and take out enemies, save hostages, or any other task that's asked of you. You have three tools: binoculars, grenades, and of course, your gun. You run around the field keeping an eye out for any possible enemy movement, when you notice something you search for the enemy using the binoculars. The binoculars have a crosshair which lets you mark enemies, this causes them to appear on the map and notifies all of your teammates of the enemy's presence and location. Its very important to mark enemies as sometimes your teammates will refuse to start fighting until there's marked enemies, even if the enemies are obviously in view. Its also important to strategize what enemies you mark and when, this isn't always important but in harder levels it can really make a difference. Now your gun, everyone in Minerva uses sniper rifles, so you will only be using a sniper (or scoped weapon) in this game. You can also only shoot while looking through the sniper's scope, you can't freely shoot while in 3rd person. The binoculars can zoom in but the sniper cannot. You also have your grenades which are basically useless. Basically all of your actions go to whatever direction the screen is facing, not what direction the character is facing. So when you go to look through something you always have to slowly pan over. This is especially annoying as you'll be facing one direction but throw the grenade in another, which makes it hard to aim as the camera has issues. The grenade throwing animation is slow and long. Making it even worse, if you take any damage the action quits, even if the pin has already been pulled the grenade will just vanish. You actually get infinite grenades (and ammo) in this game, but the grenades are quite weak and really aren't worth the trouble. Its also quite easy to blow yourself or your teammates up with them.
Controls in this aren't the best, definitely playable but aren't very well designed. As said before, all your actions go wherever the camera is directly facing. This gets worse with how the camera and controls work. Basically, unless you're moving straight into the horizon you're almost always not going to be facing perfectly straight away. When you turn the camera very slowly (if at all) will gradually turn with you. You can click a button to have the camera orientate to your current positioning but its constantly being rendered null as you keep moving. Firing the gun is easy, you may need to move around a bit though to find the enemies. The aim gradually moves upwards as you shoot but its easily adjustable, you also can shoot quite a bit before reloading. As it is a sniper you can't shoot semi-automatically, you have to click for each shot.
Now for the AI, the AI in this is laughable. Basically you have these small teams with you who are meant to help fight and locate enemies. You can somewhat control them but its basically just attack or fall back, you can't do any legitimate strategic planning or commands. The teams basically just run around in circles until you yourself find some enemies. After you mark the enemies the teams will go over to them to start shooting. Your teams can and will locate and start fights on their own but sometimes they will need you to mark the enemies, even if the enemies are right there. Your teammates will also just sit right in the enemies line of fire being shot repeatedly point blank. The enemies are just as bad, I've had enemies run right into my headshot-range line of fire. The enemies also will sometimes completely ignore you as long as you don't shoot, making it easy to bypass them to plant a bomb. They don't always do this though, it seems random so you still have to be cautious. The enemies though in this can get rather ruthless and difficult. Basically if they're shooting at you and you're in the range of fire, many of them will focus on you solely. You move slowly in this game so it can be quite difficult to escape fire at times. So basically this means to prevent losing all of your health you have to often fight from behind the lines, letting your teammates fight up close while you provide cover and support from a distance. As the scope cannot zoom this can sometimes be difficult when you're really far away.
Keeping up with the enemy topic, the enemies have absurdly high levels of health in this. You can basically be shooting at the same low-level enemies for easily 10 minutes. The enemies also have numerous bases that spawn more, these bases take an absurd amount of time to destroy, literally hundreds of bullets, perhaps even 1000, keep in mind you have to click each bullet and reload after 30 or so. This issue gradually gets more and more apparent as the game goes on. As soon as you unlock and can afford a high quality weapon you should buy it as it will alleviate some of this problem. You still will have to shoot way too many times but it wont be nearly as bad with a better weapon. The amount of shots it takes to kill or destroy anything in this though just bogs the game down, I don't really want to sit 500 feet away shooting at the same speck 300 times for it to die, at least with a higher level weapon it will only be about 20 or so times, a great improvement but still annoying. Also speaking of enemies, there is some variation but they're basically all the same, just robot soldiers shooting at you.
As said before, the game gives you a few different kinds of missions. The easiest and most common of these are just taking out enemies. The mission will clear as soon as you've defeated the specified amount, even if there's still enemies on the screen. The other missions are usually harder, these are bombs and hostages. In both of these, you will have people in tow that need to be safely transported around the map. These people are quite annoying to move around as they lag behind you a ton, are slow, and get completely caught up on anything forcing you to go back and sit under fire while they slowly figure out how to get on some stairs. They also have a low defense and will die after only a few shots. Hostage missions can take an absurd amount of time as its often impossible to transport the hostages safely without destroying absolutely every enemy and base within the vicinity. Often hostage missions take place in large structures or environments with buildings, and to do this safely takes a lot of patience. You basically have to find safe spots and keep your distance while slowly taking down any enemy you can see. With the way the levels are structured you'll run into trouble as you advance, so you have to take out as many enemies as possible just from the starting point, which is easier said than done. I would slowly locate and take down every enemy then go and transport the hostages after all of the enemies were defeated from afar. Bomb missions can get challenging as the enemies will often keep spawning and you'll always have somebody in tow. The person who's dealing with the bombs will sometimes just stand there if you aren't positioned in a way that both triggers the action and gives them space to do it, which is annoying when you're under fire and can't afford to mess around with the camera to see your positioning.
As you play you earn money, this can be spent on different items, weapons, and clothes. The clothes are basically all military clothes, mostly variations of the same outfit. This game also makes use of character levels, I'm assuming this has to do with health. Both you and your teammates can level up.
This game does have a legitimate story and isn't just a girl slowly jogging around shooting robots. Majority of the story is told through slow panning text that occurs after some missions. The game does have cut scenes but these are not very frequent and appear between chapters. The story mostly takes backseat and this game is gameplay focused.
The environments in this game are extremely barren, mostly just hilly fields or plains but there's also mountains, deserts, and forests. Some of the areas have tall grass that you can sometimes hide in and some areas have buildings you can sometimes enter and shoot out of. Majority of the battlefields though are just large open areas devoid of any structures. Graphics themselves were fine, D3Publisher as always produced cheaply made games so the graphics were expected, and I honestly really like cheap PS2 graphics so this was fine with me. The stuff looks fine. It can often be difficult to see the enemies while shooting from far away as they'll often blend in with the surroundings, but this is war so camouflage makes sense in this case. Graphics in the cut scenes were really nice, obviously very dated and just a joy to look at. Stylistically they felt more like a PS1 game than a PS2 game. I did not care for the design of the main girl though, her graphics are fine, especially on her face, but she looks like a weird Asian Michael Jackson in drag during gameplay. Also I dislike how every character is completely hunched over awkwardly at all times, I get it, they're ducking from fire, but it just looks silly and odd.
Music And Sound
Sound was fine, mostly just gunshots. The game is voiced in the cutscenes and the voice actors were good. Didn't particularly care for the music though, the entire game is basically two songs that are nearly identical. The whole game basically uses "military briefing room" kind of music, which works good for the menus but just feels really weird while in gameplay, it just wasn't fitting.
Overall, this game just isn't that good. Don't get me wrong, it had its moments, and I did have some fun playing this, but with how the controls are, and the tedious and repetitive gameplay, the game just grows tired. I also didn't care for how it forces you into playing from the backseat, you often have to keep your distance to prevent yourself from being killed. I honestly don't recommend this game to anyone, its subpar and has needless issues.
Product Release: Project Minerva (JP, 08/22/02)
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