|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Other Ocean Interactive|
|Pub: Paramount Digital Entertainment|
|Release: October 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence|
A lot of the later game is composed of timing-based obstacles, which are where the game really shines. These were the classic enemies in games of this type, such as the snapping metal jaws in the Prince of Persia games. Just thinking about them makes me shiver. There are some points, however, in which the timing on some of these obstacles is almost impossibly precise, demanding pixel precision in a game that doesn't have the controls to offer that (particularly not while climbing).
When the game isn't sending you through death-trap-filled gauntlets or making you jump across platforms over a deadly drop, it often features its version of stealth sections. Martian drones hunt you from above with search lights, blasting Arthur with their heat rays if they spot him, which forces him to crawl beneath or crouch behind objects for cover. Other areas have him running full tilt from something, but these are the least engaging parts of the game, as it doesn't really have the control scheme to allow any intensely complex navigation on a stringent time limit. Thankfully, the developers are aware of this limitation, which makes for flat and dull chases instead of impossible-to-beat attempts at jumping hurdles. These run in contrast to the black fog sections, which are pleasingly tense and require quick thinking, incredible situational awareness, and a knack for spatial relations.
Combat is more or less absent, though Arthur does get an axe at one point and keeps it for the remainder of the game. It's slow and more for breaking weak walls than killing enemies, but it does work on the man-sized robotic spiders the Martian employ to slow you down. There aren't really any boss fights, either, but there are some grandiose puzzles, and plenty of set pieces that involve the destruction of large Martian weaponry by your hand. Given that almost the entire first half of the game is spent either running or hiding from the creatures, getting a chance to strike back feels satisfying.
It bears mentioning that I ran into a couple of technical issues. While The War of the Worlds blessedly has a generous checkpoint system, it relies on save states. This is normally not a problem, but one time it saved just as I was dying. It reloaded repeatedly only for me to fall to my death each time, without any chance to alter or control events. It required a restart of the level. Much later in the game, near the end of one of the most trying levels of the game, I was dying repeatedly while attempting to descend a tower I'd just climbed. It was fine until I accidentally ended up on some stairs right above a fire and, when I tried to go up them, I got stuck between the steps and the platform immediately above them. Again, had to restart the level, and actually was frustrated enough to shut the system off. With all the extra buttons on the controller (it uses three buttons and either the D-Pad or left stick—your choice), would a kill button really be too much to ask?
Despite my griping, The War of the Worlds is a good time, provided you're interested in something both deliberate and punishing that purposely calls back to ancient game design without any apologies.
CCC Contributing Writer