Review by RedReticle

Reviewed: 05/20/05

Project Zero Release

As Miku, you are on a mission to find your brother Mafuyu within the decaying Himuro Mansion. Not an easy task though, as violent ghosts populate the mansion, mainly of the people murdered in the infamous shrine ritual massacre. According to the box, Project Zero is a based on a true story, but does it hold substance? Various photos of the Himuro mansion can be found online. The Mansion looks creepy enough, looking a lot like its videogame counterpart but the plotline for the game (namely the shrine ritual massacre) hasn’t been verified so details could go from fact to fantasy quite easily. A lot like Hollywood movies actually.

The characters of Project Zero have been wonderfully rendered in 3D, although Miku does bear a lot of resemblance to those porcelain dolls you see at the markets. The ghosts of this game, frightful facades re-created in all their terrifying glory, are another matter altogether. These badboys are the type you wouldn't want to encounter during your many explorations throughout the Himuro mansion.

Project Zero’s animation is okay, there isn’t a drop in framerate throughout the game as the opponents are kept to a minimum with regards to battle, but the character animation could do with a little work as Miku tends to look like a stiff corpse whether walking or running. A little more fluidity in her movements wouldn’t have gone astray but ultimately, the pace of the game makes this flaw inconsequential. The movements of the ghosts in this game are definitely well defined, with varying movement speeds; the spirits definitely look creepy as they do their fair share of scaring you.

For a game that is based on a single location, Project Zero’s level designs are actually quite intricate. The Himuro mansion is finely detailed right down to the bare Sakura tree located in the courtyard, being primarily a Japanese game, there are a lot of cultural references within the architecture and decorations of the various rooms and places on the Himuro family estate. There are also a fair share of hidden doors within the house (which also happens to be littered with ghosts).

Project Zero’s camera angles are much like a lot of other Survival Horror series. The game also suffers from the same flaws that afflict other third person games. Lots of the camera spots are fixed and don’t allow for too much flexibility, especially when hunting around for objects or running away from ghosts. The third person perspective can be quite tricky to navigate around at first but as you get used to it, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

The Camera Obscura is your main “weapon” in this game ladies and gentlemen. No chain guns or flamethrowers to be had here. The camera and your accuracy will protect your character from the rather unpleasant encounters with ghosts. The mystical camera has the ability to capture spirits on film, thereby taking their power away from them.

The camera also has the ability to capture spectral objects, which aren’t otherwise seen by the naked eye. So when Miku’s senses begin to pick something up, try going to camera mode and sweep the room, you will most likely find that missing clue.

Project Zero’s ghosts are quite varied in size, shape and ability. You have small fry like the flying head apparitions, which seem to come from all angles. Then you have your wandering monks, vengeful spirits and the Calamity, all of which are quite difficult to take down as their agility and ability to go into walls make them very difficult to hit. In addition to this, they have also been given the ability to do some serious damage to you so be on the lookout.

Try to focus on building up the Camera Obscura's power (the camera builds up power when focusing on a ghost, dealing out a lot of damage), so you can take these spirits down quickly. It is advisable that you try to let the camera power build up when focusing on ghosts, so that you don’t need as many shots to take them down, as well as being economical on film.

What’s a camera without a photo album? An interesting feature on Project Zero, the photo album saves your many terrifying ghost pictures so that you may refer back to them later on. The album can be particularly useful when trying to solve puzzles as you have many visual references to look at.

Lots of the puzzles in Project Zero are somewhat simplistic, although this is a good point for the average gamer, or people who are impatient. They are basically of the “press-these-buttons-in-correct order” or “find-the-key” variety, not too much of a challenge. As you progress though the puzzles become somewhat harder, but still simplistic in their concept and nature.

Project Zero has some save points spread across the Himuro mansion. Like its survival horror counterparts, you can manage the items you carry at these points as well. If you also feel the need to save again, you can always go back to the point.

From the anguished cries of the long departed, to the various creaks of the structure in the Himuro mansion, the sound effects of Project Zero are definitely haunting. The sound effects will make you want to turn around just to make sure you’re all alone. Pity those with Dolby 5.1 Surround sound speakers for the atmospheric sound is utilised to deadly effect.

With its heavily reliance on atmospheric sound and effects to set the mood and pace, Project Zero has a minimalist approach to the music. A lot of the music is sublime, concentrating on building up a lot of tension prior to any ghost encounter. The title screen, where the eerie voice of what appears to be a young girl using a falsetto, fills your head with all sorts of creepy thoughts and does a nice job to setting the mood for the game.

The voice acting in Project Zero is quite good, a lot of it is found within the various tapes that you find in the mansion and playback. The voices certainly display fright to a very high degree, much to the credit of the voice actors. Believe it or not, the ghosts are also voiced with blood-curdling precision, unlike the cheesy moans you hear a lot in the B-Grade horror movies.

Project Zero is recommended for those who are into the Survival Horror genre and/or interested in Japanese culture. Its definitely a solid game in its own right but its best to give it a rental to see if you’d like it, as the theme is a little on the niche side of things.

Rating: 8

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