With its reversal of typical tower defense roles, Anomaly: Warzone Earth's experiment in pushing small military convoys past heavily entrenched alien strongholds really hit the sweet spot between familiar and fresh. Anomaly 2 layers on a smattering of interesting new ideas to flesh out the core gameplay with a few welcome added strategic complexities, though it doesn't go quite far enough to sustain the same innovative vibe of the original. Going back on the offensive for another round of mechanized tower thrashing still offers a fun--albeit brief--challenge. Fortunately, a dynamic new multiplayer mode picks up a lot of the slack, offering ample reason to keep blasting away after you push through the quick campaign.
Post-alien invasion, Earth isn't looking so hot. Giant extraterrestrial machines have taken over much of the planet's surface, which is now transformed into a barren frozen wasteland. Struggling to survive, the last remnants of humanity have formed up into roving convoys to scavenge the land for supplies needed to stay alive. As the commander of one such convoy, you set out to recover, rebuild, and deploy a lost superweapon dubbed Project Shockwave in hopes of taking down the aliens and regaining control. The 14-chapter campaign recaps the plot of the original game and eases you into the gameplay well enough that newcomers won't feel left behind. Clocking in at about five hours or so, it's short and punchy--just long enough to throw a mix of new units, mechanics, and tactical situations into the fray without recycling encounters and growing stale.
Building out your armored convoy and rolling through massive winding stages as the aggressor, you spend half of your time directing and adjusting its course on a map screen to deal maximum damage, avoid more dangerous traps, and complete objectives. The real-time action pauses while you plot your path and upgrade or rearrange your units, giving you moments to consider what's ahead and adjust accordingly. Once you set your path, your convoy rolls out along the course laid out while you hoof it on foot to deploy power-ups to aid your crew and hamper the efforts of the enemy towers waiting for you around every turn. While the gameplay hasn't changed much from the original, new tricks keep the single-player campaign rolling along with some fresh energy.
This time around, you can transform all of your unit types into a second combat form with a quick click of the mouse, giving them alternate fire modes and greater adaptability to help you in your missions. It's cool to watch and opens up a great range of strategic options when you're dealing with foes that have specific strengths and weaknesses. New units are added to your arsenal at almost every stage too, and the game does an excellent job of explaining how they fit into the mix.
While all but a few units are carryovers from the original game, their morph abilities make them feel new. Between sluggish rocket launchers, machine-gunning tanks, force field-providing hover jets, and more, there's good variety across the spectrum of vehicles you can deploy. You need this range of abilities, too, because some of the new enemies thrown in your path will really throw your squad for a loop and send you scrambling to adapt.
Globetrotting to battle aliens across the US, South America, and beyond delivers a nice mix of vistas that run the gamut from snowy hilltops and dense cityscapes to sweltering jungles. Anomaly 2 looks stunning, and every detail really pops on the screen. Beyond visual variety, the levels themselves also keep you guessing, which is what makes the tough but short campaign worth motoring through. A great example is one of the later missions which has you driving around a central base to defend it from oncoming waves of enemy tower structures that are encroaching from four directions. This and other unexpected surprises help keep missions from growing too monotonous, though there are stretches that lag.
The most exciting addition is Anomaly 2's unique competitive multiplayer mode, which puts one player in control of the convoy and another in control of the alien turret defenses. Though playing as the humans feels very similar to playing the main campaign, the alien faction is a completely different animal that requires you to harvest resources, deploy turrets, and expand your infrastructure while fending off the convoy's attacks. Both sides earn points for destroying units, and unlocking different tiers earns you extra abilities and new units or buildings to deploy.
This all plays into a cool tug-of-war style scoring system that makes for some intense flip-flopping between who has the advantage at any given moment. As you dig into match after match, bigger maps unlock, opening additional settings and strategic considerations to keep battles interesting. While some games can take a decent amount of time to play out, they move along quickly on smaller arenas. This mode is a satisfying, well-implemented addition that greatly extends the fun beyond the main campaign.
For all of its updates and improvements, Anomaly 2 doesn't feel quite as groundbreaking as its predecessor. It refines and builds on the original's table-turning spin on the genre while staying largely within the established blueprint. That's a minor complaint, really, because it's still a great game. Going back on the offensive for another round of mechanized tower thrashing still offers a fun challenge. The exciting new multiplayer mode adds to the thrills, offering ample reason to keep blasting away after you push through the quick campaign.