Xbox LIVE members are finally being given the opportunity to experience first-hand what PC and iOS gamers have known for over a year already – Anomaly: Warzone Earth is an extremely fun and well-put-together twist on the classic tower defense formula that’s well worth sinking some time into. 11 bit studios have crafted an exceptionally smooth interface to let players plot out the action, and being on the offensive end of the tower defense stick is refreshing as well as thrilling, to say the least.
The setup, being equal parts H.G. Wells and Roland Emmerich, taking cues from common science fiction themes of alien invasion like The War of the Worlds and Independence Day. Large chunks of spaceborne debris, later revealed to be pieces of an exploded alien spacecraft, have crash-landed on Earth, taking down buildings and leveling entire city blocks in Baghdad and Tokyo, respectively, wiping out all life in a kilometer-wide radius. Upon landing, large dome-like force fields have sprung up from the alien cores, creating giant anomalies in the middle of urban metropolises, cutting off direct visual contact and remote access to within. A special battalion of military personnel, 14th Platoon has been selected to infiltrate the anomalies at their weakest point and travel the sundered streets on their way to secure the anomaly’s core. You are the commander of 14th Platoon, and it is your charge to guide your boys safely to the target.
As Commander, you not only have to plot a course for your convoy to follow, but it is also up to you to protect them as well as you can by accompanying them on foot and utilizing protective command suit deployments like “Decoy” and “Repair”. The alien cores are protected by lethal machine towers of varying types, all intent on destroying you and your crew as soon as you foolishly come into firing range – someone doesn’t want you reaching the anomaly’s core! Though you, as the Commander, can’t engage hostiles directly, you have the advantage to assemble and restructure your convoy on the fly any way you see fit. Tanks, missile-firing Crawlers, and the dual-plasma-jet-firing Dragon will do all the fighting for you, provided you keep them safe and in good repair, while Shield and Supply units keep you and your convoy in good working order. Buying, selling, and rearranging units within your convoy is streamlined and easy, and plotting is done simply on a map overlay of the area, where you select which direction (if any) your troops should turn, intersection by intersection, until you reach your goal.
Steady As She Goes
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is beautifully paced, with new types of enemy towers, new unit types, and command suit deployments being introduced into gameplay at a steady and satisfying drip. Additionally, every level drives the narrative forward, being filled with constant radio chatter amongst your team, your HQ, and various other supporting cast members. The narrative itself is nothing mesmerizingly heart-pounding, but lends an important air to the game world, which would otherwise feel utterly empty and devoid of life with its blasted husks of skyscrapers and alien machinery. Adding to the vibrancy of the deserted landscape is the fact that you’ll make allies during your missions, teaming up with General Tanaka and the Japanese military in Tokyo and receiving aerial assistance from Iraqi fighter pilot, Fat Ahmad, late in the game.
Though sadly a bit on the short side – the main campaign covers an all too brief 14 missions – the game offers several unlockable endurance modes, Xbox-exclusive puzzle VR missions, and three difficulty modes to indulge your masochistic tendencies. As much fun as I had with this title, I did notice that, towards the end of the game, combat became a bit less about strategy and well-placed units, and more of a numbers game – having a fully-upgraded unit who could take out enemy encampments with one solitary shot grew more important than offering up a balanced wall of fire from different unit types. Multiplayer is also enigmatically missing. Suffice it to say that, regardless of what is or isn’t included, 11 bit studios have presented a highly polished and fun to play game, right down to the detailed ruined cityscapes that you’ll be too busy trying to stay alive to pay much heed to.
The Final Verdict
Frantic and easy to pick up and play, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is well deserving of a spot near the top of the pile. Though confined to a single-player run, it’s hard not to love on what’s on offer here, from the uncluttered interface to the feeling of being an unstoppable behemoth after trucking through an odds-stacked-high ambush. For a unique twist on a classic formula, Anomaly: Warzone Earth delivers in spades.