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War of the Worlds Review

Review; Nov. 27, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
Beautiful aesthetics cannot hide clunky gameplay

One of the things I hate most: playing a game that has stunning quality in nearly every aspect except one. It can take an otherwise excellent experience and turn it into a war of attrition that leads to moments of utter frustration in which the game's brighter moments are overlooked. I hate playing games that I try desperately to like despite the problems because everything else is so stellar.

War of the Worlds

Yet, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot overlook the flaws, and while you may initially have fun, looking critically may reveal that your once precious diamond has become just a polished stone.

War of the Worlds is based on the 1898 sci-fi classic by H.G. Wells but features a setting and enemy designs similar to the 1953 film by Byron Haskin. The gameplay is a 2-D side scrolling adventure similar to the classic Out of this World. You navigate you character through a series of levels based in and around London utilizing the environment via items and moving through obstacles. Along the way, you'll face different martian enemies from a flying drone-like enemy to the infamous three-legged tripods that roast the environments and humans with their signature heat ray weapon.

One of the first things you'll notice is just how good this game looks. Taking an almost film-like appearance through the use of grain and strategic lighting, each background and each level exudes a hazy quality that looks like more like a sci-fi horror noir in game form rather than the 1953 films from which it is inspired. In the background, you'll see buildings crumble, people evaporate from heat ray exposure, and the shadows of tripods as they stride though a destroyed London. It's eerie and at times beautifully haunting to watch. I've seen nearly every film and television version of the story as well as read a dozen different versions of the same story, and yet, I couldn't help but be transfixed by the environment. Few games ever meet this level of atmosphere, let alone games most commonly associated with budget titles or DLC over XBLA.

War of the Worlds ScreenshotsClick the image to view game screenshots

While you navigate the game, actor Patrick Stewart narrates the action. First of all, it's surreal to hear Captain Picard tell a story about an alien invasion as you play along, but it adds a story book quality to the game. It's another excellent aesthetic touch to the game and one that compliments the cinematic theme with its more audio book-like narrative.

If you strip away the beautiful graphics and the excellent background details, all that remains is the gameplay, and unlike the former, it fails to live up to the cinematic quality. Platformers require the most absolute, natural feeling and accurate controls in order to be both enjoyable and intuitive to play. Platforming is a genre that requires both accuracy and finesse to traverse through the stages and survive the careful placement of enemies and dangerous obstacles. War of the Worlds has neither. Instead, its character moves with the grace of a surly drunk. Simply moving your character across the screen fast enough to dodge enemy attacks is a chore. When it comes time for finesse, such as jumping across platforms or rolling past obstacles, movement becomes a massive nuisance and the result of way too many unnecessary deaths. There's a difference between death from human error and death that results from controls that simply will not work with you.

As sad as it sounds, the clunky controls take a big majority of the enjoyment away from this title. This is a shame, as nearly everything else about it I loved. The developers touted this title as a throwback to older games and for better and worse, they were right. If you can stomach the sluggish controls and the frustration that follows, it might be worth your time. If you like platformers with tight controls along with beautiful backgrounds such as Shadow Complex or Limbo, you would be best served by staying with those choices.

*Editor's Note: OMGN received a free review copy of the game for this article.

Comments

rfludwick

rfludwick - Dec. 4, 2011 at 10:50:09am

At least it's nice to look at...

RGoodman4483

RGoodman4483 - Dec. 3, 2011 at 8:40:27pm

That's a shame... It looked really promising at E3.

JCXanirus

JCXanirus - Nov. 28, 2011 at 6:21:16pm

(Sigh) And I liked Out of This World.

Review Score
6.0

Everyone

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

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