Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds Download (1998 Strategy Game)

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"The chances of life are a million to one... but still, they come."

Anyone who has listened to Jeff Wayne's historic and mesmerising War Of the Worlds album will appreciate how powerful that collection of music is. This game, brought to you courtesy of Rage Software and GT Interactive, follows the same storyline as the album. Martians have invaded Earth by landing in London, England in 1898. How can they be stopped?

War Of The Worlds lets you find out in one of two ways: You can take command the numerically superior human forces, or lead the technologically advanced Martian army from its secret Scottish base. Essentially this is a strategy game, full of conventional moves and necessities such as building command posts, sending scout vehicles, and engaging the enemy as much as possible.

What puts this game ahead of the other Command and Conquer clones are its ingenious firepower scenarios. When you fight the humans or Martians, impressive action sequences let you see how effective your attack has been. This, coupled with over an hour of the original music from the Jeff Wayne album, gives the game a great deal of atmosphere and depth.

Like most strategy games, the actual mechanism of the gameplay can be either extremely slow or intensely mesmerising as you plan how best to maximise or utilise your resources. If you like strategy games in general then you will enjoy this game, with its ease of use, ability to fast forward time, and obvious opponents. If you dislike strategy games, you may still consider trying this one because it isn't set in some artificial land in the future.

Either way, give it a try because the Dolby-enhanced sound and music are staggering by anyone's standards. Richard Burton would thank you for it.

Graphics: Clear, colorful, excellent opening sequences

Sound: Sound effects and music from Jeff Wayne's 'War Of The Worlds' album.

Enjoyment: Should appeal to music AND strategy fans.

Replay Value: Campaigns can be selected at random, game can be played as either a Martian or a human !!

So you're trying to come up with a game idea. After running through several ideas you decide on a RTS retelling of HG Wells' classic sci-fi tale, War of the Worlds. I mean after all, it's a universally known story with lots of aliens, action and gripping suspense. Better still, why not base it on the War of the Worlds album released by Jeff Wayne? Who could forget that rousing musical re-telling of the otherworldly yarn? Just about everyone... that's who. Based entirely on an album that was apparently big in the U.K. but summons up nothing but blank looks on the faces of U.S. gamers, Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds is high on sound and concept but short on just about everything else.

The story should be familiar to just about every person who reads. Martians head to the Earth and start kicking the crap out of Britain. Although faced with the superior intelligence and technology of the aliens, the English forces make a valiant attempt at holding off the invaders who are (in the book) eventually wiped out in the nick of time by the common cold. In the PC retelling of the tale unfortunately, the Humans aren't armed with so much as a sniffle and will have to rely on the standard RTS devices of research and resource mining to fight off the unwelcome visitors. The story is opened with a series of laughable video sequences that feature CG characters who move so stiffly that they look like Playmobile characters brought to 'life.' Playing as the alien side offers up a slightly better intro which kindly explains why the bastards feel the need to screw around with our planet in the first place (it turns out that they're running a bit short on Miracle Grow). While I found the intro animations a bit annoying at first (they're REALLY ugly and use that damn interlacing that makes everything so hard to see), as soon as I realized that there were no plot animations during the course of the game I started to wish I had paid more attention.

Once you're actually in the game, things get a little bit better. You start out on a map of Britain (just the big part, apparently the vegetation starved Martians didn't think that Ireland was all that important in the 1800's) with several production centers and a handful of combat units. In the other corner are the Martians who land in Northern Scotland and rapidly start heading south (as anyone in their right mind would it's cold and wet up there). You move your units around on the Risk style map one province at a time until eventually a fight breaks out (usually somewhere in Wales). Combat takes place on a zoomed in map of the province and here proceeds much as a standard RTS game would you select units and tell them where you want them to go or who you want them to attack and they do so. Once all of the aliens are killed, you get control of that province. Unfortunately that's just not going to happen. For the first couple of months of game time, the aliens will kick your ass all over the screen. In order to win a battle you're going to need to conduct some research and set up some mining facilities.

When you start the game (as the Humans) you'll only have access to a couple of different unit types, the Armored Lorry and the Sapper. The Armored Lorry (aw hell, we might as well call it a tank...who cares if it's only 1890-something) which you'll receive in groups of five have about as much chance of taking out an alien invader as Tal has of getting a raise. To improve this situation (not Tal's, he's indentured) you'll need to conduct research on the research screen. This particular view is pretty sparse and doesn't really offer too much in the way of details on what the new technologies might actually do for you. Early examples include unit add-ons like exploding ammunition, new unit types like the creatively named Armored Lorry Mark II and new buildings like the Munitions Factory. The whole effect of the research tree is somewhat understated and there's no real sense of excitement involved with gaining new technologies.

In order to actual build any of the buildings you have access to in the game, you'll have to drop down to the close up view and order your individual units to build them. It takes a few seconds (fifteen or so on my system) for this screen to load up and this is one of the biggest hang-ups I had with the game. Every time you want a unit to construct a building or a defensive structure on each of the different provinces, you have to wait while the screen loads up and wait while the main screen loads up when you're ready to leave. What this means in the end is that you'll spend a large majority of your time waiting for your game to be playable instead of actually playing it. Also frustrating is the fact that resource levels are all measured by an abstract set of bars that make it very hard to figure out exactly where you stand on things like oil, steel and coal.

So the game's short on gameplay, but what's really surprising is that's it's pretty short on graphics quality as well. It's pretty obvious that while Wayne was putting together a bunch of very talented pals to update the game's soundtrack (which is excellent by the way) no one was really concerned with how the game looked or how well it played. Don't get me wrong, all of the unit design is excellent (the Martian units are particularly brilliant), but the actual graphics quality is pretty bad. Combine this with those ridiculous intro animations and you have a lady whose probably not going to get asked out on a second date.

Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds (man, that's a long title) has a host of other quirky problems other than those mentioned here (the pathing is REALLY bad just to name one) but I think you probably get the idea by now. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the original album, you're probably going to want to leave this one.


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