Project TH is the latest big budget, ultra-realistic, super-cinematic video game coming from a non-Western developer. South Korean EVR Studio’s take on third-person stealth action is certainly turning heads with its laser focus on realistic character and environmental designs plus a liberal sprinkling of Splinter Cell influence. With the purported Splinter Cell Remake unlikely to see the light of day until 2024 at the earliest, titles such as Project TH look capable of scratching the itch of many a gamer who’re clambering to skulk into the shadows as a highly trained field operative.
Thing is, without official release dates or even proper gameplay footage that isn’t pre-rendered cinematics, there exists a growing cynicism amongst gamers; whilst visually arresting and seemingly well along the development pipeline, it’s widely believed games of Project TH’s ilk rarely get released. Just recently, Russian developed The Day Before has suffered lengthy delays owing to nebulous copyright issues, leading to accusations that the game doesn’t exist at all. Whilst developer Fntastic vehemently refutes these accusations, it’s hard not to empathise with gamers who haven’t had a real look at the game except for a heavily scripted demo a couple of years ago. At the time of writing, it looks as though fresh gameplay footage is coming for The Day Before, and if so, that’ll hopefully stem the tidal wave of scepticism surrounding games such as Project TH.
For their part, EVR Studio aren’t a faceless organisation, or indeed a new company, they’re a well-established studio helmed by an industry veteran with 24 years’ experience crafting innovative digital content. Since 2016, EVR Studio has worked on Hollywood VFX and high-calibre video content for global industries such as fashion and architecture, plus built bespoke systems capable of procedurally generating digital worlds – the latter of which, software dubbed CitiGen, is being used in Project TH’s development to generate the ultra-realistic Seoul cityscapes seen in the game’s footage revealed so far. If there’s ever a video game project capable of making it outside of South Korea and onto Western shores, it’s a game such as this.
So, what is Project TH all about then? Well, EVR Studio tout it as a story-driven, action stealth title in a similar vein to Splinter Cell titles and maybe Tom Clancy’s The Division, with a hyper focus on realistic character models and believably destructive environments. Gameplay will encompass a blend of close combat and ranged attacks, with sneaky infiltration missions presented with cinematic aplomb befitting of Western AAA titles. There’ll be 3 playable characters who’ll not only provide their own unique skills and playstyles but offer distinct perspectives on the game’s narrative and thematic elements.
Taking place in a future Korean peninsula, one on the verge of North-South unification, there exists an anti-unionist, anti-government terrorist organisation who’re hellbent on acting against Korean unity, instead utilising their violent influence to incite Korean citizens to revolution and protest. A North Korean soldier defected and exchanged to the South Korean Army becomes embroiled in the political and territorial miasma, venturing forth on a dangerous escapade to discover the truth. What this ‘truth’ is, well, we don’t know, but it’s this central mystery EVR Studio hopes will drive players forth as they unravel the narrative from a trio of character perspectives.
Alongside being paraded publicly as a symbol of Korean unity, this former North Korean now South Korean soldier Ji Jeong Tae fights against the terrorists under the Defence Security Support Command – the DSSC’s – directive. After failing a mission Ji Jeong Tae is demoted to manager of K-pop group Ordo. Now, this isn’t as strange a career change as it first seems; Ordo are actually instruments of the DSSC, with their main purpose being to spread pollical propaganda through their music across the Korean peninsula. A member of this K-pop all girl group is Gavi, and she’ll be another player character.
Conversely, the third player character is firmly on the other side of the spectrum. Daubed mysteriously as ID Ghost – and portrayed by Squid Games actor Heo Sung-tae – this villainous person is a former South Korean military veteran who after blowing up the Korean Houses of Parliament becomes the most wanted criminal in the peninsula, building up to a confrontation with the DSSC from his life in the shadows.
Thematically, Project TH is looking to explore storylines that depict Korean culture in an earnest yet challenging way. Therefore, globally notorious Korean cultural powerhouses such as K-pop artists and Squid Games actors are featuring alongside devastating themes of societal anger and hatred. EVR Studio are crafting a bleak world in which negativity and violence are inherent, unavoidable traits of society.
World building is all well and good, but for these powerful themes to land the game’s appearance must exhibit a believability too. Thankfully, owing to EVR Studio’s extensive experience crafting high-end VR games and art-driven digital media, Project TH’s interiors, city streets, and character models look spellbinding. The team are utilising Unreal Engine 5 to construct the game, but they’re also relying on their in-house 3D scanning technology to create the game’s digital humans. In a system dubbed Light Sphere, for instance, EVR Studio say their reflectance capturing methods can provide data information that’ll translate to micro-details on player character and NPC faces. For instance, surface wrinkle movement and skin colour shifting in line with blood pressure are some of the innovations we’ll purportedly be treated to whenever a character changes facial expression.
To be honest, microscopic detail changes on the skin of a player character’s face might seem a little overkill. What’s more important is how the game plays. Well, mechanically, as already mentioned, the game is a third-person action stealth title, but additionally players will be required to apply wise thinking throughout in order to execute the most optimum strategy. In what will be music to the ears of Splinter Cell fans hungry for a fresh Sam Fisher escapade, Project TH will require players pay careful consideration to light, shadows, and noise levels. These sensory elements will be tools in the player’s arsenal, with supreme control of their surroundings necessary to stealthily wipe out opponents and avoid capture.
The gamedev scene in Korea – one traditionally focused on online-based platforms and mobile – is shifting slowly to consoles thanks to Korea’s growing global cultural influence. K-pop, Oscar winning movies such as Parasite, and the aforementioned Squid Games, have boosted the confidence of Korean video game developers who’re now targeting global audiences with their games instead of focusing on the domestic market. Most importantly, investment is starting to trickle in for video games to be released on platforms other than mobile too. As such, for Project TH EVR Studio are targeting release on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X|S, plus PC.
Here’s hoping this game doesn’t disappear into a developmental abyss because from what we’ve seen so far of the game’s cinematics it looks to be a very polished, narratively interesting, and thoroughly immersive take on the third-person stealth genre. In lieu of Splinter Cell’s upcoming re-emergence, Project TH might be dropping at the perfect time to re-invigorate a genre that has gone cold in favour of all out action and adventure titles.
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