Review: The War of the Worlds (XBLA)

6 mins read

Other Ocean gives Xbox Live Arcade its moody, atmospheric take on the seminal alien invasion story. Though I would have suggesteed a sub-title for it- the Prince of Mars.

Mainly because the first thing that popped into my mind when I fired up War was Prince of Persia.

I played the hell out of the original PoP years ago and the similarities between those titles and this one are striking. And that’s not a bad thing by the way. On the contrary, PoP was an amazingly good and strategic game for a side-scroller, and that’s exactly what War is too. It’s no coincidence either, as Other Ocean very much wanted to make this game an homage to the classics of the genre.

DO NOT get too close to the tendrils.

For a large part, the two titles play the same. If you played PoP at all and remember the run/jump/grab mechanics, then you’ll be right at home here. It’s just that the spiked traps and Middle-Eastern warriors have been replaced by loose electrical cables and  homing mines.

Now there is one small difference (other than the Martian tech and 1950’s setting); that being the fact that Arthur (the hero of the game) has no weapons and cannot fight back against the invaders. But not to worry, it’s nowhere near as boring as that may sound. Actually, War is a refreshing change of pace.

There are no gigantic blasters, no re-purposed alien weaponry- this isn’t Resistance. No, The War of the Worlds is the story of a civilian man running headlong into Armageddon to find his wife and brother. That’s it. So what you’ll be doing as you play is avoiding Martian heat rays, ducking Tripods’ massive legs, shaking off skittering spider-bots, and all together trying to stay in one piece as you keep moving through the landscape.

And what a landscape it is. The graphics in War are fairly simple, with a hand drawn style that’s rarely seen today. This gives the game a unique look that’s generally pretty to look at and quite stunning at times. I especially liked the Tripod walkers stomping through the distant background- awesome looking stuff.

Unlike the rest of the game, characters are modeled in a pseudo-3D. Both Arthur and other survivors that he runs across look good enough and stand out well against the backgrounds. But I would have actually preferred to have had the hand-drawn look carry over. Other Ocean went pretty far with it, but why not make the entire game in that style? Although I know what they were going for, I think it would have worked and, quite frankly, sprites drawn in the style of the stages themselves would have looked amazing.

When you talk about amazing, by the way, you’re talking bout Patrick Stewart. He’s the narrator and voice in the head of Arthur- and he does an absolutely… well, amazing job here. Although, would you have expected less? As far as voice talent goes, Stewart is about as good as it gets. His reading of the story as you play is flawless and worth listening to all by itself as an audio track without playing anything.

Crates douse fires- little known natural law.

In fact, one of the biggest issues I had with War was that the narration occasionally stops and parts of the story are lost if you’re killed and have to restart from a checkpoint. It’s a little spotty though. At times, I found the audio started right back up as if I was playing through the section for the first time.

But unfortunately, for the most part Stewart’s voice would trail off as I died and that would be it for that part of the tale- I couldn’t get it to pick back up again when I restarted. Annoying to have an oversight like that stick around with a launch copy since I imagine it would have been a fairly easy fix.

Some of the scenes are downright gorgeous

All things considered, these are pretty minor quibbles however. And aside from the occasional hiccup with the controls that may result in too soon of a jump or a missed ledge here and there, this is a well put together adventure that satisfies. I don’t see a ton and a half of re-playability here other than busting it out around Halloween-time since this is a very linear story, but the War of the Worlds should put a smile on the face of any fan of the books (especially if you’re a fan of the books) or old school games like Prince of Persia.

Just be patient, take your time as you play- and you’ll more than likely find that running for your life can actually be a lot of fun.

– Jason M

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