Review: The War of the Worlds (XBLA)

Review: The War of the Worlds (XBLA)

I remember the first time I heard about The War of the Worlds. I was at E3, being herded from a behind-closed-doors preview of the upcoming Star Trek to a small adjacent appointment room. I was wearing my “Ten Reasons Why Kirk is Better Than Picard” t-shirt (because Kirk IS better than Picard), still geeking out about what I had seen in the pre-alpha preview when I was directly addressed by one of the presenters from Other Ocean informing me that Picard himself would be narrating The War of the Worlds. Kirk is better than Picard, but Picard is still cool (just not as cool as Kirk…just sayin’).

One of the absolute best things about The War of the Worlds is Patrick Stewart’s masterful narration. The tonal quality and cadence of his voice is absolutely perfect for the scale and depth of the story, and definitely makes the experience better than it would otherwise have been. The simple fact that the game is narrated as it is really helps elevate the entire game experience, regardless of who did the narrating. You know, unless you had Gilbert Gottfried doing the narrating. Scratch that, I think that could actually be pretty awesome.

Visually, this game has got style. There is a lot of blended contrast in the environments. Shades of grey lead into other shades of grey, with the impact of red and green lasers, fiery trees, and a war-stricken cityscape in the distance upsetting the muted quiet of the narration and environments. Aurally, the narration fits the slower pace of the game, with its calm storytelling sound. The sounds of shells exploding in the background, and alien technological horrors threatening you in the foreground really help tie the presentation together as a whole.

The mechanics and design are generally quite good. There is a very smooth and natural motion to your character when traveling through the ruins of society due to the rotoscoping technology used when designing him. It reminds me a great deal of the original Prince of Persia, which was unnaturally smooth and fluid for its day and age. For the most part, platforming works well, with occasional hiccups that can be quite frustrating. Transitioning from a platform to a set of stairs is not as easy as simply walking to the stairs, and straight vertical jumps to grab ladders or ledges can be exercises in futility and fury. Tied in to the very slow pace of the game which places an emphasis on patience, pattern recognition, and perfectly timed platforming, the gameplay can become a bit tiring or boring, especially since the AI gets unreasonably difficult sooner rather than later.

I wanted to love The War of the Worlds…I really did. It had so much going for it: H.G. Wells as the original author…Orson Welles’ brilliant radio adaptation…Patrick Stewart’s dulcet tones narrating the main character’s journey through the landscape of alien invasion…a desire to create a classic platformer on the part of the developer…it seemed like such a great combination. Patrick Stewart did a wonderful job of narrating. The story was wonderfully told. The visual appeal is undeniable. The platforming mechanics are generally good. The pace, however, is infuriatingly slow. The AI is at times incredibly imbalanced. The platforming mechanics, while working more often than not, still present polish issues (polish as in shine, not as in the country). If you’re a fan of the source material, you may very well enjoy the game more for the fact that it does the source material proud. If you’re simply looking for a great platformer, there are other choices on the market that might serve you better. I wanted to love The War of the Worlds…and I ended up just liking it.

Review

ProsCons
Good platforming
Wonderful narration
Great visual appeal
Imbalanced AI
Slow pace
Occasionally faulty mechanics
Rating
65 out of 100

I’m the Ambassador of Kickyourassador. I am the Walrus. I’m on a highway to the Danger Zone. I am the Kwisatz Haderach.

I do things with words that have a generally geeky gist.

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