Review by EDDY555

"Great book, awful game."

About a month ago, I was browsing in a store, and saw this game in a sale for £2.99; that's about $5. It wasn't pre-owned, and looked worth playing, so I blindly bought it hoping to get value for money. Sadly, this wasn't the case. War of the Worlds is a strategic shoot 'em up with a sci-fi twist, adapted from the H.G. Wells novel; had the developer done a (far) better job, we could have been given a modern classic...but what a mess everything is.

STORY (6/10)

I guess when Wells wrote his book over a hundred years ago, this idea was terrifying and original, but now it just appears old, tired and cliched. Still acceptable though, and more imaginative than your average alien yarn.

Basically, Martians (from Mars, suprisingly) plot an invasion of Earth, landing in huge cylinders. The first one lands in Middle England. Fascinated village citizens crowd around, and watch amazed as the cylinder top slowly screws open. When the first Martian finally emerges, it takes a look around, and because its weight is greatly increased on the Earth, can barely move itself. The Martian cylinder then unleashes a powerful Heat-ray on the surrounding villagers, which decimates everything within a large radius.

After a few days, the invaders then deploy huge, menacing Tripod land crafts and start rampaging around, taking out military installations, destroying cities and murdering innocents, seemingly unstoppable. You play the part of a young commander assigned to the mission of stopping the invasion. When half the world is crushed, you, an inexperienced soldier, are going to single-handedly save the human race? Never mind, it's only a game.

GAMEPLAY (2/10)

They say gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, so judging from the score here, you'll probably have deduced that WotW is bland and boring, which it is. You control a variety of vehicles or immobile defense weapons (weaponry suited to the late 1800's setting), which includes fixed anti-aircraft cannons, artillery batteries, motorbikes and machine-gunners; basically anything the humans can get their hands on. Nothing wrong so far.

You can switch between the ''toys'' in your arsenal at any time, but to point out the major problem now; they aren't really different from each other. The turrets are more or less, your machine-gunners stood still, while the artillery is a mobile version of your fixed cannons. For this reason, the weapons available aren't exciting at all, and defeat the purpose of having a ''variety''.

The levels (14 in all) usually require you to create as much chaos, destruction and havoc as possible, and this means your objectives lack any true substance. Even the lighter tasks, such as finding scrap metal to build extra units, doing a few training exercises, chasing a farmer to discover where your allies are hiding and establishing a communication signal on high ground are just perquisites to the inevitable battle that will follow in the climatic stages of the mission. This simple layout is fine at first, but after a bit of time on the game you realize nothing's going to change, and that's when the gameplay becomes extremely repetitive. The only later mission that interested me was ''Thunderchild'', a level in on-rails first-person shooter fashion, where you fire the Martians up from a massive battleship. It's the same old formula, but is, admittedly, highly entertaining.

No saving options either. When you beat a level, you're given a password to write down and keep safe until the next play. Adequate yes, but what do we have memory cards for, people?

The difficulty level for the first few missions is low; those make for some of the few nice experiences you can have with the game, but towards the end it all becomes horribly difficult. Enemy after enemy is thrust at you, which exhausts and overpowers, especially on the final level. I've heard of a ''challenge'', but WotW takes the word far too seriously. The weak control system doesn't help matters.

And I was disappointed when I found out a multi-player option was missing; trashing your friend in a deathmatch, or even working with him to take out the enemy would have added so much to this game. Very lazy not to include one!

Finally, I wonder what it would be like to take control of the Martian side? Could having two points-of-view to choose from make the experience better? Because of all the general problems that are here (and boy, they're large), not much.

GRAPHICS (1/10)

Absolutely excruciating. All models move in a jerky way, the backgrounds are ugly and colourless, and the scenery pops up every time. Also, far from being cool, the explosions look like bright orange vomit. Anyway, try this:

Keep looking at the screen while driving forward in your current unit. Now close your eyes. A couple of seconds later, if you haven't become stuck behind an invisible object (thanks to the game engine, this happens often), a few hills and a couple of trees will have magically appeared out of nowhere. See what I'm saying?

SOUND (5/10)

This is a bit better, until you start listening to the game effects. The music alone gets a straight 10 from me; all the memorable tunes from Jeff Wayne's musical have been enhanced for this CD and boom out in a crisp and clear fashion.

However, now we get to the SFX. What rubbish. The Martian units only make sounds when they fire on you (and even then, all that's to be heard are crackly laser blasts); there's not a footstep in shot-of-ear and the ''Aloo!'' Martians are heard to yell in the book and musical isn't here either. As a result of that, to put the icing on the cake, there's no way of telling where your next target lurks, adding to the difficulty and making sure suspense is non-existent.

The gunshots (bangs, booms, crashes etc) are terrible too, and don't for one second convince us the developer put any work into the SFX at all. As the music is perfect and the effects are really, really bad, I think it's only fair to halve the 10.

REPLAY VALUE (2/10)

Beating the main game is the only thing to do. No multi-player, no unlockable material, that's it. Very poor. You could keep the password for ''Thunderchild'', and maybe give the first 3 or 4 missions another go, but nothing else is remotely appealing a second time.

BUY OR RENT?

Neither of these. Just avoid War of the Worlds altogether, and don't make the same mistake I made.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 04/17/03, Updated 04/17/03


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