War of the Worlds Review

Even if it's not quite perfect, War of the Worlds is a deep, beautiful game.

War of the Worlds outlines the duel between Earth and an invading alien civilization--a tale that, when originally released in 1898, set the standard of hostile-alien-based sci-fi for years to come. The game takes its source material quite seriously, and although there's no reference to any of the characters from the 2005 movie, the overall design of the game is in sync with this updated release. In the game, you control an alien tripod through 13 2D environments, shooting and bombing your way through all of humankind's best defensive efforts. Each level culminates with a boss fight, making the game fairly long for a mobile action game. The best aspect of the game is the depth with which it approaches 2D shooting, although the shooting itself has the tendency to feel sluggish from time to time. Still, even if it's not quite perfect, War of the Worlds is a deep, beautiful game.

Consider this whole game a spoiler.
Consider this whole game a spoiler.

War of the Worlds is a stunning game from the get-go. The presentation of the game is practically flawless, and it may be the best-looking mobile game currently available on the Motorola V551 handset. Each level is introduced with a "Breaking News" segment that perfectly duplicates the appearance of a television news broadcast. The anchorwoman is tremendously realistic, even if she moves her mouth and blinks her eyes as if she were one of the aliens and not merely reporting on them. In-game, the levels are fairly well detailed, although there's a definite separation between the interactive foreground and the decorative background. All of this benefits the gameplay; the game is so well drawn that a particular object's appearance tells you how you're supposed to interact with it. The sound consists almost entirely of theme music that plays on the main menu and in certain critical game moments, like directly before the bosses. The sound could have benefited from more in-game effects, but what's in the game is done well.

The gameplay is surprisingly deep, even if it isn't obvious at first. The objective is to make it through the level, within a certain time limit, destroying the maximum number of human vehicles, aircrafts, and buildings along the way. The tripod moves automatically, but you can move slightly left and right on the screen. This isn't useful for level progression, since the screen scrolls at a constant rate, but it does work effectively as a dodge. You can also move the tripod's head up and down, which means that you can fire at enemies when they appear within an approximate arc of 135 degrees in front of you. Pressing down the fire button will unleash a constant stream of projectiles, but only in one direction, since you can't change the angle of the fire and keep shooting. This is the game's one major drawback, because you have to plan out your attack and move the tripod's head minimally, since you can't fire at the same time, and the head moves really slowly. This is likely intentional and makes the game unique from other similar shooters, but it also makes it feel somewhat sluggish and unresponsive. The trade-off is a slightly slower game, where you must really consider your shooting patterns carefully, at the expense of some of the action.

Who knew alien tripod arms could be so useful?
Who knew alien tripod arms could be so useful?

Thankfully, there are a number of elements in the gameplay that enrich the experience. The most pervasive of these is the chain system, which lets you find combination attacks to increase your point score and time bonus. This is most easily accomplished by shooting down airplanes, which often appear onscreen in groups, and typically one of the planes has a red target around it. If you shoot that particular craft first, then it will explode, setting off all of the nearby planes. Similarly, shooting out the lowest level of a building will make the whole structure collapse, giving you a chain bonus as well. Mine attacks also give bonuses. You can shoot ground mines, thus launching them into the air and hopefully into another structure or vehicle. The better you get at the game, the more options there are for uncovering points, and you can combine mine attacks with chains and take out buildings and vehicles in long, lucrative explosive streaks. You'll also discover bombs along the way that clear the entire screen of enemies and their fire. The bombs are good to get you out of a jam, but they won't initiate any chain bonuses, which isn't nearly as fun.

That's not all, though. Although the aiming reticle is used to show you where your fire will impact, you can also use the tripod's arms, picking up that which you would have otherwise shot. This is effective only with mines and small vehicles, like motorboats and trucks, which can then be thrown back at another target. If you can find the time for it, you can also pick up humans, which will add to your bonus at the end of the level. Although there's no explicit reason to use all of these tactics, the game can get quite difficult in later levels, and it will be necessary to trigger as many bonuses as possible if for no other reason than to get more time to complete it.

It's hard to know whom to root for.
It's hard to know whom to root for.

Despite the difficulty, the game is fairly well balanced. If you don't complete the full level and boss fight within the allotted time, you must start over from the beginning. However, your progress will be saved so that you can start from that level at any time. Because of the ramp in difficulty, and the forced level repeats, the game takes around six hours to play and only begins to feel long at the very end.

Overall, War of the Worlds is a very involved shooter with an absolutely gorgeous presentation. It's somewhat unfortunate that the gameplay tends to be on the slower side, since all other aspects of it lend themselves so beautifully to a fast-paced game. Nevertheless, there is a lot of value to be found here, despite the few gameplay quirks. Almost anyone will have a good time with this game.

The Good
Good use of the license
Looks positively amazing
Really rich gameplay
Decent sound effects
The Bad
Gameplay occasionally feels slow
Should be able to shoot and aim at the same time
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War of the Worlds (2005) More Info

  • First Released Jun 9, 2005
    • Mobile
    Even if it's not quite perfect, War of the Worlds is a deep, beautiful game.
    Average Rating65 Rating(s)
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