War of the Worlds is a difficult property to make a video game from. The original book from author H.G. Wells may deal with an alien invasion but is more of a survival tale than a full on action romp. So when translating this over to video game form developers must be careful to respect the origins of this classic novel while still making it fun for players. Now I’m a big fan of the book and was positively excited to sit down and watch a live demo of TheWar Of The Worlds by the game’s designers. So does this one make Mr. Wells proud or is this just another case of ‘the book was better’?
The demo that I was shown featured one of the later levels in the game, Hyde Park, right in the middle of the Martian invasion; all around you the park is being levelled by the force of the enemies' laser blasts. You join up with a group of soldiers who are trying to push back the enemy offensive. Along the way it is discovered that the best way to avoid the Martians is to not make any sound. You are then asked to sneak through the park, avoiding detection by the enemies. All around you, soldiers who aren’t so sneaky are being turned to crisp. The demo ends with your character planting explosives on one of the Martian cylinders and destroying the large structure.
The War Of The Worlds is not your typical 2D sidescroller, in fact in invokes memories of Genesis classic Out Of This World and Prince Of Persia. In the demo you did not have a weapon and had to use your wit to get by enemies and puzzles. The developers are also aiming to make a very difficult game (so much so that one of the developers had to turn on ‘god mode’ just to complete the demo).
The look of the game is also very much its own, featuring rotoscoped graphics and animation, the game just flows beautifully. Actually The War Of The World’s visuals had an interesting development history; the developers started making the game with 16-bit style visuals but around the same time several other titles were announced that did the same thing, so the developers decided to up-res and rotoscope the graphics, making the end result stand out among the crowd. However some of the animations (namely the death ones) were clearly being recycled but the developers promised that more would be added between now and launch. The game’s backgrounds are also very busy, with most of the story actually taking place behind the main action.
The game’s music is very subdued but still tense and unnerving, making you feel as if the situation is desperate. In fact, when the game opens all is colourful and vibrant but as the Martian invasion pushes deeper the color palette starts to take on a darker tone to reflect the dire situation. Also it should be noted that The War Of The Worlds is not directly based on any of the previous works done on the series (no Tom Cruise here) and is the developers' own take on the classic book. A last thing to note on the game’s sounds is that captain Picard himself is doing the narration, which often overlaps with the gameplay resulting in a neat ‘I’m playing the book’ feel.
The War Of The Worlds is set to launch at the end of the year for both Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network and from what I have seen should definitely not be looked over. The interesting gameplay, gorgeous presentation and attention to make the game as close to the book as possible yet unique and fun to play are all valid arguments for The War Of The Worlds and make it a game you should definitely look out for.
Stay tuned to gamrReview for all the latest news and previews from E3 2011.