The War of the Worlds Preview - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox Live Arcade
Release date:
Fall 2011
Paramount Digital Entertainment
Other Ocean Interactive

The War of the Worlds

Martians! Someone sneeze on them, quick!

Preview by James Cunningham (Email)
June 25th 2011

Not everything at E3 is thrown in your face like it was shot from a cannon packed with glitter and strippers. The War of the Worlds was at the show but sequestered in the back of completely glitz-free section of a smaller sub-hall, overshadowed by the Paramount's Star Trek game, embargoed so you couldn't talk about it until after E3 was over, and either invite-only or you had to ask nicely to see it. Even with all this, the demo room where the developers were showing it off was full. Admitted, it was a tiny room, but it was a tiny room filled with interested people.

There's a lot of good talent involved in bringing The War of the Worlds to life.

That's because they were showing off something with a unique style, which is always at a premium. The War of the Worlds is a 2D side-scrolling platform adventure game, which is admittedly a genre that's had a nice return from the brink of extinction, but it's been a long while since the last fully rotoscoped one. Rotoscoping is an animation technique involving recording live people performing actions and then animating over them, leading to a very fluid, natural movement. It was popular for a while in games like Prince of Persia, Out of This World, and Flashback, but those games are twenty years old at this point. With the volume of games showcasing the 8- and 16-bit aesthetic available lately, it's well past time to brush off this technique and see what it has to offer today.

To supplement the classic animation technique, The War of the Worlds boasts difficulty to match. Although frequent checkpoints are promised, death was turned off for the demo - otherwise, the developer demoing the game would have been repeating sections over and over again after being disintegrated down to a charred skeleton by the Martian invaders. The E3 demo level had the player running through Hyde Park in London, sabotaging a giant alien radar system while hiding from floating laser death-bots. Progress was made by judging their patrol patterns and, if mistiming things, using the roll button to make a last-second dive for safety.

This was a small part of the overall story of a man searching for his wife and brother in a London decimated by the invaders, and in addition to the floating laser drones and ever-popular tripods, other sections will feature bio-weapons like the deadly black smoke and red weed. The primary method of dealing with these threats is dodging, hiding, and running, but it was also promised that our currently nameless hero would be getting some weaponry later on to fight back with. It seems slightly unfair that the Martians would be the only ones able to light up the atmospheric, almost black and white, world with colorful shots of lasery doom.

While the visuals are artistically dark and oppressive, the audio is livened up with the ever-reliable narrative voice of Sir Patrick Stewart. British author Chris Fowler wrote the story, which is obviously not a straight retelling of H.G. Wells's classic novel but has a narrative style that fits perfectly alongside it. As for the gameplay itself, it's the result of the efforts of Other Ocean, whose 8-bit styled Dark Void Zero was by far a better game than its big-budget namesake. There's a lot of good talent involved in bringing The War of the Worlds to life, and the game on display promised to put it all together to excellent effect. Who knows, if this works out, then maybe Other Ocean can even do the Barbarella game that they initially pitched to Paramount.

Artwork for The War of the Worlds video game

Artwork for The War of the Worlds video game

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