A throwback in both its genre of game and the subject material it’s adapting, Other Ocean Interactive‘s The War of the Worlds feels like a game with good intentions. It is an atmospheric, two-dimensional platformer, and it brings narration from the main character courtesy of acclaimed actor Patrick Stewart. Unfortunately, that turns out to be all the game really has going for it.
Based to some extent on the classic science fiction novel, the game chronicles the journey of one man in England during a savage invasion by armies from Mars, complete with gigantic, man-trampling war machines and body-disintegrating heat rays. The War of the Worlds attempts to give an objective and a plot to the man’s journey by having Stewart narrate from his point of view, detailing his attempts to survive in a martian-infested 1950s London which has been reduced to rubble. His search for his brother and his fiance is a focus of the storyline. Stewart delivers a decent performance with what he’s given, but there’s not much to it – the cast aside from him is silent, and there is next to nothing in the way of traditional cut scenes to deliver what could have been an engaging story.
The actual gameplay consists of a lot of running and jumping around, either to climb over ruined buildings, flee from martians, or do both at the same time. It’s here where the game really starts to stumble, because not only is there not enough originality or polish to keep things fun, but what is there is very limited in terms of mechanics. Some of the martian robots you encounter vary in size, appearance, and movement, but it still always comes down to just trying to stay away from them as much as possible.
Its controls are simple enough that there should be no problems, with either the analog stick or the D-pad controlling movement and buttons for running and jumping. Though, when it comes to jumping through holes in walls or grabbing onto the top of structures, the game is too strict on where you have to land to count as a successful move. I found myself having my character fail to grab the edge when it seemed like I had jumped close enough to it. He would also stop and fall when jumping towards walls, acting as if they were one hundred percent brick facades.
To make matters worse, the checkpoint system and artificial difficulty brought on by the controls bring far too many deja-vu moments in the game. In the second stage alone, a two-minute section involving running and hiding from a huge martian machine and its heat ray took me over an hour to complete. I wasn’t able to unlock a checkpoint until finally pulling off a continuous running and jumping sequence which was over a minute long. The game is not very clear about the location of good hiding spots when the ray is fired. Getting a respectable distance away, only to get killed and start at the beginning over and over became infuriating. Worse yet, any narration that has already been said will be repeated if you have to play through its section again, which guarantees that players will soon tire of Stewart’s voice.
It’s a shame that the problems here are so immense because, with some additional development time to correct these issues, The War of the Worlds could have been a decent little game. Unfortunately, the final product is nothing more than an exercise in frustration that will push everyone’s buttons, and cannot be recommended.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game which we received for review purposes.
The controls are unforgiving, deaths feel cheap and checkpoints are sparse. Basically, there's not much enjoyment to be found here.