XBLA Review: Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Innovation is the most overused term in the game public relations lexicon. The vast majority of games claiming to be innovated are tweaked rehashes of previous used ideas (or, in the most egregious cases, simple copies of previously efforts). I wanted to claw my eyes out reading about how the Wasteland where Rage was set was a brand new idea and not a copy of the other twelve recently released games with post-apocalyptic worlds called the Wasteland.  The term innovative sickens me in its overuse. If there were legions of truly unique games forcing their way into my console, I’d surely welcome innovation, but in nearly all cases, when I hear the word, I want to find an innovative way to slap the user across the noggin with a pipe wrench. All that said, let me put on my helmet and crouch into a protective position.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is an innovative game.

The command screen. Get used to it… you'll be using it a ton.

Searching for analogous games proved fruitless. The most apt comparison I would have to be the scenes in Blackhawk Down when the convoy is driving through Mogadishu with the city firing away from all sides. Helicopter guide the convoy from about, pointing out obstacles and choosing the best route.  That is the central gameplay element. You are the commander, selecting a route, and choosing your convoy composition and order, and then watching as the enemy blasts at it. You can alter the route on the fly, but wait too long, and you’ll see your vehicles turn into smoking rubble as that last minute surprise gives them a heaping dose of annihilation.

Besides choosing the path and creating the convoy, the commander runs alongside, dropping power-ups and calling in airstrikes. Though you can’t do any damage of your own (and are staggeringly vulnerable if you let the commander stray too far from the convoy), your ability to create dummy targets, smoke screens and heal your convoy make you much more than a backseat driver offering directions. Both managing the convoy and moving around the battlefield yourself might seem overwhelming at first, but thankfully, the battle pauses as you move to the orders screen. This means that your actual direction and convoy organization is almost a completely separate game from the actual on-field activity of the commander.

Proper use of dummies is the only reason your convoy will survive.

The main campaign’s storyline will take you to both Baghdad and Tokyo for a few hours of alien beat ‘em up, with a story that’s generally absurd. An alien menace is assaulting the world, and you apparently lead the only platoon in the entire army that is capable of saving the day. It generally serves as a tutorial for some of the more intriguing battle modes later on, bringing you along slowly, and introducing you to new units and enemies at a pretty slow pace. An awards system encourages taking chances, which is great because in many levels you could easily reduce the enemy to rubble at very little to your own forces.  The highlight of the game is the tactical trials. These are tough matches that will test your ability is every aspect of command. Poor choices in command will see you eaten alive by the alien towers. These are true test of your strategic mettle.

Any fan of strategy games (and especially tower defense) looking for a new sort of challenge should look toward Anomaly: Warzone Earth. In an industry plagued by mimicry and repetition, Anomaly is a fresh effort. Actual new ideas are so rare in modern gaming, which rewards refinement and re-release with huge sales. It’s a pleasant surprise to experience something that is truly new.

Crossfire! Get caught up in the… Crossfire!

Pros

  • Unique take on strategy
  • Easy to pickup
  • Mix of enemies forces constant changes in strategy

Cons

  • Campaign is a tad short
  • Not the prettiest girl at the ball.

4 / 5

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Author: Tony Odett View all posts by
A member of the Perfectly Sane Show crew and Vagary.tv's Features Editor, Tony brings the smart and funny (and the rapine and pillage...). Also known as The Strategy Gamer, Tony declares it his duty to get as much coverage as possible for what should be everyone's most loved genre.