Synyster Graves

The War Of The Worlds

by on Apr.24, 2012, under Xbox Live Arcade

The War of The Worlds, a classic novel by H.G. Wells, one of the godfathers of science fiction. From the days of pandemonium on the streets from Orson Welles’ 1930 radio reading, panicking the denizens of England to go into a blind panic over the impending Martian Invasion. Then to Jeff Wayne’s fantastic musical adaptation which I have had the pleasure of seeing live, with established song artists like Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott and David Essex, which has grossed worldwide with the synonymous “duh duh duh” orchestra chord known as the beginning of “The Eve of War”. From this came a film adaptation in 1953 to the Hollywood blockbuster film in 2005 starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning; directed by Steven Spielberg. Then I saw this released on Xbox Live Arcade and unlike what I usually do, went straight for Purchase rather than Trial. I would live to regret that.

The War of The Worlds is a puzzle/platform game on Xbox Live Arcade set in the turn of the century, very much staying true to the book. You play the role of the protagonist Arthur, an English gentleman whose life has been literally turned on its head one day when the Martians attacked London. Arthur serves as main character and commentator, and whose soliloquies throughout the game are voices by the unequivocal voice of Patrick Stewart, obviously fresh off his voice part in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Arthur searches through the chaos caused by the alien invasion through the debris and rubble of London left by the Martians. The dim glow of the moody lighting creates a great ambience to the game. While it looks pretty, the gameplay certainly is anything but.

While I can see the direct homage of this game was aiming towards the D-Pad controlled directions and only two of the pad buttons used for Jump and Use, but the actual reality of the situation is that the controls are grossly unresponsive and frankly shit. You know when you play a game and there is a delay between what you pressed and what actually happens in the game? Well this game suffers from it, and in a really really big way. So much so than just merely saying that the controls are completely shit is a heinous understatement. Arthur has several “moves” like jumping, evasive rolling, hiding in cover and attacking with a weapon, all of which are frustrating to use as you have to account for the 1-2 second delay for to actually do what you pressed. This is particularly annoying in sequences which require split second jumping or evasive manouvers. The actual layout of the game seems like you should be able to traverse it, for a platform game, but due to the sheer static nature of the controls, most of these jumps are incredibly difficult to get right and you will find yourself being stuck on blocks, or fannying around like a royal tit all because the shite controls limit your ability to play properly, rather than flail around like a Benny Hill sketch.

And then  there’s the jumping. Oh my God the jumping in this game is broken as fuck. You have two kinds of jump, vertically up or diagonally across. Since the game wants you to use the shitty Xbox D-Pad, diagonal jumping is a rare luxury. However you have to be VERY specific when jumping for ledges and ladders just above your head. You will find yourself pogo-ing up and down like a hostage in a sleeping bag because if you are even one pixel out, Arthur will NOT grab the ledge. Couple that with trying to evade laser wielding Martians and the swearing and rage quit ratio goes through the roof.

Most games have a general difficulty curve as you progress. Some get harder by having tougher or more accurate enemies, others are because the level design requires more skilled and calculated route planning/gaming ability in order to make it through. This game however takes the piss. The levels shouldn’t be that hard at a glance but because of the abysmal controls just make this into essentially a poorly programmed pile of crap. The enemies are ridiculous as ALL of them are armed with one-hit kill weapons and have better detection skills than the Predator School of Excellence. The aim is indeed to avoid the lights of the enemies and sneak past under the cover of darkness, but the intervals for doing so are so remote and finite you will find Arthur turned from nought to crispy in under a second over and over again. Others will just grab you, like the wall spider creatures, which can be killedif you possess a weapon like the axe, but again the relay between controller and Arthur swinging the axe will need some seriosuly extrapolated timing to kill a spider, as opposed to reactionary attacks like a proper video game.

If you’re not struggling with escaping the Martians and their war machines, then you will die over and over again trying to make ridiculous jumps and traversing hazardous parts. The Black Gas is just fucking ridiculous as it seeps after you way too quickly, not nearly giving you enough time to work out how the hell to get out of the room. Similarly the Red Weed is completely merciless and will kill you within seconds of entering a new area. It’s all well and good having the difficulty as a challenge, but this is just purely to piss you off, and piss you off it certainly did. Everything kills you. The gas. The weed. The trees on fire. The dark. Every-fucking-thing!

In summation, the storyline and history of the story should make this a classic title, with hours and hours of replayability at your fingertips, when this is not the case at all. It’s pretty safe to say that The War of The Worlds is one of the WORST games I think I have ever played, and as a WoTW fan, I’m bitterly disappointed. The controls utterly stink and are among the worst I’ve ever played, the level design is nice looking but flawed in gaming execution and the enemies ridiculously difficult, regardless of your gaming ability or experience. All in all makes a cluster of atrocious decisions on the part of the programmer and the end product is a painstaking shite platform game with the “War of The Worlds” brand shamelessly humping it’s leg. Please don’t be taken in by the title of this game, because this game is shocking.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Whyte Rabit

    Oh no, that’s a shame 🙁 If you want a good War of the Worlds game, the PC version of Jeff Wayne’s adaptation is awesome, me and Freqmaster used to play that loads at college (link), it’s a top down strategy like C&C if you’ve not played it before. I think Freqmaster got it running on a win7 system the other week actually.

    There was an alright version for the PS or PS2 (can’t remember which), that was a sort of FPS if I remember correctly (again, Freqmaster will correct me on that one if I’m wrong!) but I assume that’d look even more dated than the PC version now!

    From your initial paragraph I thought this was going to be worth a purchase 🙁 glad I read the rest! heh

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