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Xbox/PC Preview - 'Snow'

by Thomas Wilde on June 30, 2005 @ 1:15 a.m. PDT

In Snow, you become a drug kingpin who earns fame and fortune selling illegal goods across the United States. As an up and coming drug lord you can order various characters to procure, smuggle and ultimately distribute "the goods" for you. You build structures like corrupt law firms and money-laundering nightclubs to compete for greater market share against your rivals. You also will need to "take out" certain key enemies in order to protect your interests and further expand your growing drug empire.

Genre : Action
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Frog City Software
Release Date: Q1 2006

You start Snow in 1975, as a loser named Johnny Morrell, who’s decided to give up what could be laughingly called his acting career. Instead, he’s decided to become a drug dealer.

Your assets consist of, in total, one (1) loser roommate, one (1) acquaintance you met at a party who would not be adverse to doing a little smuggling on the side, and a few pounds of ditchweed.

The goal in Snow is to go from these humble beginnings to a big-time drug kingpin over the course of ten years. You can recruit new stooges to run product through customs, build up your operation to improve your organization’s efficiency, and put together the right team for your operations.

As you go, you’ll be rewarded for the right decisions with new characters, better equipment, and a wide range of new options. When you start the game, all you can do is jam a pound of pot down Travis’s pants and hope for the best; as you go, you’ll be able to bribe customs officials at the border, recruit agents and business partners in Colombia and Mexico, broaden the focus of your operation to encompass new products like cocaine, and even opt to have your rivals assassinated.

Snow takes its cues, to some small extent, from a variety of other business simulation games, but it doesn’t play like much of anything else. For example, Rollercoaster Tycoon does not allow you to have your competition shot to death in a hot tub. More importantly, Snow deals more with the decisions you make than the construction of a sandbox for you to play in; it shows you what you can do and leaves you to decide what and where, as opposed to setting you loose within a massive environment of your own creation.

At the same time, I’ve not seen a sim game that has Snow’s graphics or storyline. The game’s story unfolds differently every time you play through it, driven by your actions and decisions and illustrated with a combination of elaborate cel-shading and hand-drawn art.

If your current version of Johnny is a cautious small-time operator, Snow’s story will be small-time to match. Conversely, if you take big risks, you might get big rewards, but you might also draw heat down on you before you’ve got the wherewithal to handle it.

Snow was barely playable at this year’s E3; I believe the version on display on the showroom floor was a 20% pre-alpha. At this point, it seems to be occupying a comfortable middle ground between the criminal hilarity of games like Grand Theft Auto and the addictive empire-building of a Tycoon game. Like so many other titles at E3, we’ll be waiting to see what the game develops into.

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