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E3 2011: The War of the Worlds

E3 2011

Although it was overshadowed by its mediocre console sibling, Dark Void Zero made quite a name for Other Ocean Interactive. While the studio contemplated their next project, Paramount Interactive approached the developers, opening their long and illustrious portfolio of IPs to the studio, asking Other Ocean to pick. Mike Mika, Head of Development, told Paramount he’d like to make a Barbarella game – they didn’t go for that. Paramount suggested The War of the Worlds and Mika accepted, on the condition that they were free to revisit the original motion picture. Paramount agreed.

Before the developers started the demonstration, Mike Mika described The War of the Worlds as a ‘cinematic platformer’. Rather than recreate the events of the classic film, the game has set out to tell a sister story that happens concurrently with H.G. Wells’ narrative. In the interest of retaining the essence of Wells’ prose, an English author by the name of Chris Fowler, has been hired to pen the story.

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As the hands-off demonstration began, two things immediately resonated with me about The War of the Worlds. First, the main character – who also acts as the narrator – was voiced by the almost eerily appropriate Patrick Stewart. Second, The War of the Worlds looks like no other game I’ve ever seen. At first glance, I thought the main character and NPCs might be digitized actors – think old school Mortal Kombat; I took the chance to ask Mike about the distinct aesthetic style of their characters and the manner in which they were created, to which he replied that they were rotoscoped. For the uninitiated, rotoscoping is an animation technique where live-action footage is traced – almost like a primitive form of motion capture. The practice is popular because it allows quick, cost-efficient, but realistic animations, all while retaining the touch of an artist’s line work.

Setting the stage, The War of the Worlds’ ravaged English countryside is rendered with an authentically bleak demeanor. The games palette, at least in the demoed areas, consisted primarily of grays and browns; the only colors to break the dreary landscapes were the bright colored beams of the Martian heat rays, clearly showing the player what to avoid.

Watching the demo play out, The War of the Worlds appeared to be as much of a stealth and survival game as it was a platformer. Martian patrol robots scour the scorched levels, searching out survivors and zapping them into old-school sci-fi dust. Avoiding these sentries requires the patience to assess their patrol routines and sneak by. Hiding underneath derelict tanks and crawling through sewers seemed to be par for the course.

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Skipping ahead, Other Ocean showed another section later in the game where the protagonist had met up with some other resistance fighters and had to plant some explosives, which would disable the nearby sentries. This portion of the demonstration illustrated a relatively high-octane sequence, requiring the player to make some tricky jumps through a series of fire pits and scale one of the Martian cylinders. After planting the series of bombs, we watched the cylinder burn, bringing our demo to a close.

Speaking with Mike Mika after watching the gameplay, it was evident how passionate the man is about his source material. The team at Other Ocean is obviously going to great strides to create an experience that clearly evokes a certain time and they appear to be succeeding. Given the studio’s track record, The War of the Worlds appears to be in good hands, look for it later this year on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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