Reviews: In space, no one can hear you snore.
There aren't a lot of 3-D space shooters for the Xbox 360 so I was excited to hear about Project Sylpheed, a modern update to the 2-D Silpheed of the late 1980s. Until Lucasarts gets off their damn butts and makes a modern version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, I eagerly hop into any cockpit that lets me blast spaceships to smithereens even though I've been let down more often than not.
Unfortunately, Project Sylpheed is yet another let down thanks largely to its boringly repetitive gameplay. Shoot down enemy fighters and capital ships. Repeat. Yawn. Even the maps look the same, with only a different colored planet or nebula in the background to mix things up (though to be fair, there's only so much you can do to add variety to space).
Actually, there are various semi-interesting side missions you can complete to earn Achievements and unlock new weapons, but you are never told what they are beforehand. If you listen carefully though, various characters will give you hints about what the side missions are ? but their constant annoying chatter is so contradictory (?We need to take out that enemy carrier!? immediately followed by, ?Where are you going? You need to defend our ships!?) you'll quickly have no idea what the hell you're supposed to be doing.
Add the fact that some missions have an inexplicable and arbitrary time limit and you will soon learn to ignore the side missions. This time limit is extremely irritating because you never know when it is in effect until you hear your commander yell, ?In three minutes it will be impossible to continue combat!? I can understand failing the mission if your carrier is too damaged but there is no reason for a ridiculous and seemingly random time limit. Since you can easily waste over a minute traveling from one end of the incredibly huge maps to the other, it is often too late to do anything but restart if you are too far out of position when you hear the three minute warning.
Confusing the player seems to have been developer Game Arts' goal because you will spend much of your time with furrowed brow muttering ?WTF?? This is all thanks to the messiest and busiest HUD you'll ever have the displeasure of seeing. Your screen is filled with a confusing jumble of icons, exhaust trails, weapons fire, ship readings and other garbage that looks like someone snorted neon Silly String and sneezed all over your TV. It not only looks terrible but also results in accidental friendly-fire due to the bewildering mass of similar-looking icons surrounding every ship.
The confusing HUD and radio chatter means you will often end up failing missions for no apparent reason. Restarting the mission you might discover, ?Oh, okay, I was supposed to shoot those guys down instead,? only to hear one of your AI teammates tell you otherwise. WTF? It's a confusing mess and you'll just end up shooting down anything you see with no sense of purpose or accomplishment.
But there is relief: if you fail missions often enough, you will get the option to skip it. Yup, you can skip entire missions and move on to the next. Who said video games are getting too dumbed down?
Of course, if you choose to skip you won't earn any points from the mission. Points are awarded on your kills, completion of side missions, protecting friendlies and so on. These points can then be redeemed to buy new weapons like machine guns, lasers, cannons, missiles, bombs, and various upgrades like extra shielding and increased ammo. Having the right weapons can mean the difference between success and failure but again, you never know what weapons you need for each mission until it's too late.
The only real highlight of this game is the story, which unfolds in slick pre-rendered cutscenes. It's a classic sci-fi anime tale filled with hot teenage women (with big boobs, of course), disturbingly sexy androgynous males, evil villains with outrageously huge ships, plenty of melodramatic gasps, and silky smooth-flowing hair straight out of a shampoo commercial. The voice acting is top notch (though the dialogue can get pretty corny at times) and the entertaining story could easily stand on its own as a DVD movie. However, this is a game, not a movie ? and on that front, Project Sylpheed leaves much to be desired.
There is also no multiplayer, a surprising omission for a space shooter. There are no online leaderboards either, so this is strictly a one-player affair with little replay value.