I admit I never heard about this game before joining GOG, then I sometimes heard community members calling it “a hidden gem” and decided to see if it was true. After playing it, I can say they were right.
Developed by the same company (Core Design) behind the much more famous Tomb Raider, Project Eden combines the mechanics of a third person shooter with the puzzle genre, combining them in a clever way that excellently balances action and intellect.
Set in an unnamed futuristic city, it brings back the Cyberpunk vibe by sending you, a team of UPA agents (a police section specialized in the use of any kind of technology), to the rescue of a few genetic scientist kidnapped by a gang. Your mission will bring you deeper and deeper below the surface, forcing you to progressively scout the lower level of the city, long abandoned after the population progressively migrated towards the new ones built straight above.
While descending from the clean and ordered heights to the forgotten ground level, you will notice not only the constant regression in technology, but also the different lives of the inhabitants of each level.
On the gameplay side, Core Design decided to keep everything as simple as possible without subtracting anything to complexity. Your squad is composed by four members: Carter, leader of the group, is the only one able to access areas requiring a special clearance and interview subjects; Minoko is the computer expert, capable of hacking and manipulating any kind of software; Andre's engineering skills are dedicated to repair any kind of broken object; Amber is a robot packing heavy weaponry and immune to any hazardous environment.
The four will need to combine their abilities to progress, sometimes acting alone, sometimes in different groups and sometimes acting all at once; even if each character has basically only one skill apart from combat, the tech-based puzzles are often surprisingly clever and will always require a good amount of effort to be solved. None of them will ever feel illogical, and success depends more on the combination of several different operations in the same zone rather than in a linear succession of small challenges.
The levels are few in number (only 11) but very large in dimensions and each one has a specific theme, so you can expect many hours of entertainment.
The combat is quite basic, consisting in the bare minimum a game needs to be called third person shooter; considering that all the different weapons (each of them having two modes) can also be strategically used to overcome the obstacles you will find, it is pretty clear they they are there more for the sake of the puzzle side of the game rather than for the fights.
The enemies come in many kinds, some of which you will surely not expect, and each one can be taken out by adopting an appropriate solution; while the concept works perfectly and despite all of PE's merits, the developers made a significant design mistake -infinite respawn. Unfortunately, in some (fortunately few) areas you will have to deal with endless hordes of minor annoyances, and this will get in the way of your progress, periodically requiring you to stop whatever you were doing to deal with them and loosing a lot of time in the process, especially since you will often have to recharge your weapon by finding the dedicated stations located in a few selected spots. Alas, no energy on the fly.
At least there is no game over, a detail that many players will surely appreciate: once one of your agents is killed, he or she will disappear from the field and regenerate at the closest medic station (the equivalent of a checkpoint) without breaking the flow of the game and without any loading time, an aspect present exclusively at the beginning of each level.
The sound is another serious problem: almost the entirety of the game has no music, and while this can actually be a strong point, allowing to focus the attention on the sound effects of the rusty and neglected environment or enemy movement I don't doubt some players will not be very pleased (I didn't mind that at all, to be sincere).
The same cannot be said for the abysmal voice acting, though, among the very worst I have ever heard in a videogame. Only Amber can be saved, and only because robots lacks expression; all the rest of the cast is atrocious to say the least, so much that I even wondered if they had serious reading issues. Each line is not simply bad, but painful
to hear, especially during moments that would require a bit of pathos; as it is, it seems like a few first-graders decided to rehearse Shakespeare's Hamlet... with the results you might expect.
Anyway, despite its flaws, Project Eden is a great game almost unique in its kind that I cannot hesitate to warmly recommend.
Edit- A little addition: despite being from 2001, the game natively supports high definiton up to 1080p... but to dispaly it correctly in 16:9, you must select the 4:3 option. I have no idea of why this happens, I just know that selecting 16:9 will strech the image while 4:3 will keep it fine even for widescreens.