Project Root is a free-roaming shooter that tries to bring back the frantic fun from the glory days of the SHUMP genre. Much of the game is very reminiscent of older shooter titles like the Strike series (Jungle Strike, Desert Strike, and Urban Strike), where an almost ¾ overhead view shows all of the action both in the air and on the ground.
Recent titles released on consoles have tried to reinvigorate the SHUMP genre with varying approaches to old ideas in order to make blowing up everything in sight feel fresh and brand new. While various aspects about Project Root sound like a great blending of established concepts, the whole package just doesn’t come together well.
Project Root is classified as a free-roaming shooter that has an experienced based leveling system. Yet the idea of level progression isn’t really expressed clearly enough. There is a short tutorial section that teaches how to play and mildly explains how destroying enemies generates XP, but it is meager at best. Nothing about the variety of secondary weapon functions or the significance of various kinds of enemies is ever truly explained. The game almost relies on experimentation or trail & error to discover how effective some weapons and tactics really are, but at no point ever rewards players for doing so.
Right from the first level, Project Root is plagued by an abundance of technical issues that will catch anyone by surprise. Controlling your main ship feels incredibly sluggish and not as responsive as it should be, with what feels like an input delay when moving around. Enemies on the levels are inconsistent in how much damage they absorb before being destroyed, and will constantly enter and exit unreachable areas while still being able to damage your ship. This isn’t due to any sort of story or practical explanation however, but always due to invisible barriers where a player’s ship and attacks won’t penetrate, even at close range. Even more disturbing is the constant barrage of attacks that continually bombard the player from off-screen, with possible attacks coming from unexplored areas that are never triggered.
The weirdest things in the game are the collision detection issues found with some of the game’s environments. There are multiple sections in levels where a player can pass through a cliff or a long wall outside of the map. Enemies at times are able to pursue when this happens, but the result is a hilarious showing of ships staring down within a cliff, firing their weapons into the dead air, and not hitting a single target. Even more hilarious is the times when this happens and the player’s ship gets stuck and is unable to move out, causing the need to restart the entire level over and lose any experience one may have gained.
Project Root could have been a fun game to play if it wasn’t filled with so many problems. There are just way too many issues preventing the game from being a fun SHUMP experience that is worth purchasing. Hopefully these issues are patched and improved upon to make the game feel more stable to play through.
As it stands now, Project Root is a complete mess. There are plenty of other games on the market that are far better examples of what good things can be done in the genre.
This review was based on a digital copy of Project Root for the PlayStation 4 provided by Reverb Games.