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The War of the Worlds E3 2011 Preview

The War of the Worlds

It’s not too often that a developer gets to make a game about something they are genuinely passionate about, but this is the case with Other Ocean and The War of the Worlds. Let’s be clear here: forget the 2005 remake, this game is mainly based on the original H. G. Wells 1898 novel about Martians invading the humble city of London on our planet Earth, with additional inspiration drawn from the 1953 movie adaptation. In this game we take control of a currently unnamed protagonist in a 2D side-scrolling platform title that is initially about survival by evasion and taking the fight back to the aliens by solving puzzles. That’s a lot to take in so let us start with the graphical style.

The colour palette used is gloomy and gritty however critical components - the main character and alien tripods for example - utilise brighter colours that furthers the sinister doomsday look. As mentioned previously, The War of the Worlds plays out in 2D side-scrolling game; however parallax layers are used to effectively create 3D depth effects (that would work brilliantly on the Nintendo 3DS). For example there is singed foliage in the foreground and explosions, tanks and tripods in the background. This neatly adds immersion and creates an effective scene for the player to advance through. The sound and music at this stage was simple but remained harrowing and the retrospective narration was wonderfully spoken by Sir Patrick Stewart. The writer cannot be revealed at this time but the new script remains in the style of the original book.

The War of the Worlds

Currently the controls are easy enough to master, but the game is not. To negotiate scenery blocking the path ahead and indeed to avoid those pesky hostile aliens, one button is used to jump while the used is used to either run or climb. In our demonstration the main character had to progress past obstacles while hiding from alien scanner spotlights by whatever means possible, be it in a pipe or behind a ruined tank. Get spotted though and the alien would fire a fatal laser strike, which can still be evaded if skilful or lucky enough. At this point there were other NPCs running through the level that were at times careless and rash which resulted in several being charred down to their bones.

We watched on as our hero dodged past obstructions and lasers alike. This was actually very tense to watch as there were several near misses that occasionally resulted in one of the NPC civilians getting flamed instead of us, which added a sense of humour or guilt depending on the alignment of one’s conscience. The World of the Worlds is a punishing and difficult game, but if killed the player can restart and have another go from not too far back. There are no usable weapons but the player can obtain revenge by using the alien technology against them. An example shown here were Martian mines that were activated by the character but were carefully timed so that they would explode and destroy the alien vessel instead of the player.

The War of the Worlds

As the developer moved through the level we successfully passed the spotlight sequence and moved onto a large Martian construction. Here the player had to time jumps through moving rings that would routinely fill with lasers that would eliminate anything passing through it. This again was tense to watch as the rhythm of negotiating an increasing number of speeding rings became more difficult, but like any tough platform section there is the satisfaction and joy of completing it at the end. Our protagonist obtained and then planted explosives at different locations on the alien construction, and once the obstacles had been cleared the structure was destroyed through means of a cut-scene.

We didn’t know what to expect when going in for our demonstration, however we came away feeling positively optimistic. We don’t expect this to be a big commercial success; the target audience is going to be relatively small since a hard side-scrolling platform game based on a classic novel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. After our first sitting our early impressions are that those who do have interests in these areas can expect a clever experience of smart sound and visuals. Prepare to save the world one step at a time when The War of the Worlds is released on XBLA and PSN towards the latter part of 2011.

POBmaestro | 17th June, 2011

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