Anomaly Warzone Earth |
Iíve never been a big fan of tower defense games but then Anomaly Warzone Earth isnít your typical tower defense game. In fact, if I had to assign a genre label to this game it would be ďconvoy offenseĒ, but that is only a literal take on the gameplay as there is so much more going on with this unique and extremely addictive strategy game.
The Xbox 360 version sees a few XBLA exclusive additions to what PC and mobile gamers have already experienced, namely the new Tactical Trials levels you will unlock as you progress through the story's campaign mode. These extremely innovative new bonus challenges along with the absolute best strategy control scheme Iíve ever had the privilege to play with make Anomaly Warzone Earth one XBLA title that no strategy fan should even consider skipping.
The story is all setup in the opening cutscene and reinforced throughout the game with pre-mission briefings. Itís 2018 and an alien spaceship has crash landed creating an odd anomaly that is spreading outward from the area of impact creating all sorts of strange bio-mechanical tower emplacements. You control the 14th platoon commander, leading a convoy of your choosing as you fight your way through the ruined cities of Baghdad and Tokyo.
Prior to most missions you will first need to assemble your convoy, often from a very limited budget Ė why is it that I must save the world with only $300? Your list of available vehicles will grow throughout the game as you unlock new units. You start off with a simple APC and a Crawler and later add a Shield and Tank unit to the mix. Not only must you pick your units, you must also choose the order in which they will travel within the column, and this is where some strategy comes into play. Your APC usually has more armor so it needs to lead the pack, often followed by Crawlers who deliver more damage but canít take as much. And then you have your Shield unit that can envelope one unit ahead and one unit behind. Placing a Shield unit in the #2 position will give you a good shot at getting through most encounters, but this is not a strategy guide so feel free to experiment.
Next, you must plot your route through the city. You have your starting position and your destination and there is usually a complicated city grid between the two points. Even though it will likely change during the mission you can plot your entire route by going to each intersection and cycling the direction of travel Ė almost like plotting the flow of water through a network of pipes. Youíll need to take into account the types of enemies (some cannot be attacked head-on) as well as any other secondary mission targets that need to be collected or destroyed. Some escort missions will require you to clear a path of ground targets, so a VTOL transport can navigate the hostile city below.
Once you have created your convoy and plotted your route the game goes into real-time with your units meandering down their chosen path at a leisurely pace Ė you can always speed up the game with a squeeze of the RT. While your convoy is restricted to the roads you are in direct control of the hero commander, who can run around distracting enemy turrets just by his very presence, or he can toss out a smoke grenade to hide the convoy or drop a decoy that will attract all nearby turrets. He is also in charge of collecting the resupply air drops that get flown in after taking down certain targets or reaching a waypoint. Your commander can even call in airstrikes in the later levels, but your most important duty is playing mechanic to your convoy. You will need to laydown these healing circles; green areas that will repair your units as they pass through the area. These are only temporary and wonít be able to heal all the units in a longer convoy.
As you destroy enemies and collect these alien gems (or bits of ore) youíll earn money that can be used to purchase new units or upgrade your existing ones, giving them better armor and firepower. Often, a smaller convoy of higher level units has a greater chance of getting through a city than a long snaking convoy of level one vehicles, and itís easier to manage.
The game does a great job of mixing up the standard survival theme by sneaking in alternate objectives and new enemy types. Some enemies wonít rise up from the ground until you are well on your well, forcing you to change your original route. Some enemies can sap the energy from your commander power-ups forcing you to strategically drop them behind a building, out of line of sight of their targeting laser. Other times you may have a mission deadline that has you plotting the shortest survivable route to your objective. And things get really fun when you have to send your extremely vulnerable commander out on fast Rambo missions ahead of the convoy.
I was totally impressed with how well this game was adapted for use with the 360 controller. I dare say it works even better than the touch screen interface on the iPad version. The only thing you are controlling in real-time is your commander and that is basically to make sure he stays within the safety bubble of your convoy until itís time to send him on a mission. Other than that you can tap X or Y to pause the game and update your convoy or route or pop-up a command menu to access your commander abilities. Panning and zooming around the map is a breeze.
The overall presentation is something I would expect from a AAA retail release with outstanding graphics and sound. The top-down quasi-3D cityscapes are intricately detailed and there is a surprising amount of detail on the individual units that sadly goes unappreciated unless you zoom down to the closest view, but that will sacrifice your tactical awareness. Important stuff is always highlighted with a neon border. Look for awesome weapon effects, smoke, fire, explosions, fancy force fields, and other futuristic alien goodness. The Tactical Trials have this cool almost TRON-like visual style about them. The sound is a dynamic mix of weapons fire, lasers, radio chatter, and some impressive voice acting in the cutscenes and pre-mission briefings, all set against the backdrop of some pretty stirring military theme music.
The 14 missions in the story mode will take you 6-8 hours to complete and then you have the Squad Assault modes and the 360-exclusive Tactical Trials - six VR-style challenge missions. There are also three mission difficulty choices that will affect your score multiplier in order to get those high scores for the Leaderboards. In all, expect a solid 15-20 hours of intense strategy gaming with Anomaly Warzone Earth.
Even if you donít normally play strategy games l encourage you to at least try the demo for Anomaly Warzone Earth. It might look like another Command & Conquer or random tower defense game on the surface but there is something truly original, highly challenging, and compulsively addicting with this game. And even if you already own this game on PC or iOS, I daresay the Tactical Trials is worth a double-dip. At only 800 MS points, this is the best $10 youíll spend in the Xbox Arcade this month.