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Project Root Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Project Root has more in common with Electronic Arts' classic Strike series than the typical shoot-em-up, which is both a blessing and a curse. The action is fast and the levels are massive, but a frustrating lack of checkpoints can see an hour's worth of work burst into flames. When not cursing the screen over cheap deaths, shooter fans will have a fun time exploring the eight stages and taking down massive bosses. Rating: 64%
Project Root
Project Root Project Root Project Root Project Root
  • Review Score:

  • B-
For about six years in the 1990s, Electronic Arts had cornered the market on open-world overhead shoot-em-ups. Games like Desert Strike and Urban Strike allowed players to hover over large levels taking out both air and ground units. It was a revolutionary take on the popular genre that should have spawned dozens of copycats. But that's not what happened. Instead of taking EA's lead, most developers opted for the familiar embrace of traditional vertical and horizontal shooters.

After nearly two decades, Project Root has picked up where the Strike series left off. It's an overhead shoot-em-up that sees players flying around huge, open-world landscapes full of enemies to gun down, tanks to blow up and missions to complete. It's an explosive science fiction shooter that is unlike any other game on the PlayStation 4, in both good and bad ways.

You play Lance Rockport, a pilot for the rebel group Arcturus. You've been sent in to free the world from the evil clutches of corporation known as Prometheus. We accomplish this task a piece at a time. We start by destroying the main fuel refineries hidden deep within the forests, and then move on to a production factory that is supplying the other side with enemy ships. Before long we are tracking down help in the snowy mountains and investigating news of a dangerous prototype weapon. This all leads to an exciting final encounter at the heart of the Prometheus base.

While most traditional shooters send in their fastest moving jets, Project Root takes a different approach. Lance pilots what amounts to a space helicopter; a craft that can hover over land and fly in any direction. The ship is able shoot down enemy aircrafts, as well as take out ground units with powerful bombs. This is a fun dynamic that forces players to pay attention to the air, sea and ground.

On top of the usual guns and bombs, players will also have a chance to pick up a cool variety of power-ups. You get the usual lasers and homing missiles, as well as an incredibly useful item that cancels out enemy bullets. And with every character you shoot down, your experience bar climbs. Lance will be awarded bonus points that he can use to level up his ship's defense, add more powerful weapons and improve the overall speed.

Project Root (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

While most shoot-em-ups are little more than traveling from A to B, Project Root has a lot more going on. Many stages will have multiple objectives, including a few secondary missions to complete. Because there's so much to do, many of the stages take the better part of an hour to complete. Even if you don't spend a lot of time getting blown up, this game will take quite a few hours to wrap up.

Although I wouldn't classify the game as being especially difficult, it's a little too easy to get in over your head. Rushing into battles is suicide, as enemies will swarm the player's ship from all sides. The idea is to take a slow and methodical approach, clearing different sections of the map to make the overall mission easier.

But even when you play defensively, Project Root can be aggressively frustrating. The biggest concern is the lack of checkpoints. Dying means starting the level over from the beginning, which is especially angering after you've put an hour into getting to the boss. There were moments when I vowed I would never play the game again, only to come back later and finally complete the stage.

Project Root (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It doesn't help that the game is often stingy about dropping extra lives and health icons. Project Root also has a nasty habit of unexpectedly ending missions if you fail to complete an objective in time. This means starting the level over again, sometimes without knowing what you did wrong. With levels this large and so much going on at once, it's easy to lose track of what's urgent and what is not. And sometimes that has devastating consequences.

While not a terrible looking shooter, Project Root is definitely more fun to play than it is to look at. To the developer's credit, there are a number of backgrounds that really stand out. However, too much of the game is made up of generic landscapes that lack any discernable personality. The fast-paced gameplay makes up for some of this, though PS Vita owners will put up with more slowdowns than their PlayStation 4 counterparts.

While Project Root doesn't get everything right, it's nice to see this type of game breaks free of the usual horizontal or vertical shooter tropes. It's a fast-paced action game that evokes the spirit of the Strike series; something I've been hoping would make a comeback in popular culture. But even with some thrilling moments and massive levels to explore, the unexpected deaths and frustrating lack of checkpoints overshadows many of the things Project Root gets right.
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