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Anomaly: Warzone Earth (XBLA) Review

A Brutal Gamer review.

Tower Defence games are not exactly difficult to come by, with many dozens of examples of the genre available for you to try.  Anomaly: Warzone Earth was first released a year ago for the PC and Mac, and it offers a twist on the classic Tower Defence formula, putting you in charge of the attacking forces rather than the towers.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes place in the near future, where pieces of alien spaceships have crash landed in several major cities on Earth, causing anomalies around them.  It’s your job to lead your team of soldiers into the anomalies and find out exactly what’s inside and what the aliens plans are.

Each mission sees you in charge of up to 6 different units at a time travelling around as a convoy, with various objectives in each stage.  The controls are simple enough, allowing newcomers to get into the game quite easily.  Rather than having direct control of all the units, you have a tactical screen where you set a path through the streets of the city, which you can change at any time if you need to.  You do, however, control a ‘commander’, who can’t actually attack anything, but can move around the battlefield at will and deploy various abilities, such as a smokescreen, healing, air strikes and decoys, and can even act as a decoy himself to draw enemy fire.  He does have a life bar however, and will be temporarily incapacitated if it runs out, preventing you from using abilities until he recovers.

Destroying enemy weapons and mineral deposits earns you money which you can use to buy new units or upgrade existing ones.  On most missions, you can sell and buy vehicles to change the complexion of your convoy, and you can also change the order in which they move around.  So, say, you can move a shield unit around to protect more vulnerable units.  The units themselves are well balanced, as units with more powerful weapons have less armour or a lower fire rate, whereas less damaging units can withstand more punishment.

Killing enemies awards points, and the more enemies you kill in quick succession, the higher your combo multiplier goes up.  At the end of each mission, you are awarded medals and ranked on the leaderboard according to your performance, so for those of you who want to go for the high scores, there’s a reason to replay missions.

When you’re done with the campaign, there’s also a ‘Squad Assault’ mode, where you have a time limit to destroy a series of generators, each one protected by a more difficult set of enemy towers.  There is also a ‘Tactical Trials’ mode which is essentially a puzzle mode, where you are given an objective, but there may be a danger involved which you have to avoid.  For example, there might be mines located around the level which, while they can’t attack you, destroying them will cause a huge explosion which can severely damage your units, adding an extra layer of strategy.

While the whole post-apocalyptic setting has been done before, the top down perspective of Anomaly still does a good job of showing all the ruined buildings and damaged vehicles, and the enemy towers look suitably menacing with good weapon effects.  The cities of Baghdad and Tokyo look very different, although sometimes there isn’t much colour and things look a bit dull.  The music in the game does a good job of being intense during more dramatic points and being calm and downbeat in others, and the explosions and weapon noises sound very meaty and loud.  The voice acting is perhaps the weakest link in the audio department, though, with some quite corny lines spewed often, such as “We kicked their ass!”.  It’s a minor thing, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a huge amount of fun, and is simple enough and accessible for anyone to just pick up and play.  If you’re never discovered this game before now, then it’s a good time to jump in.  If you’ve grown tired of Tower Defence games, then the twist of being on the other side of the fight should appeal to you.  If you’re the sort of person who isn’t terribly bothered by getting high scores and better medals, then there isn’t any real replay value in it for you.  But this is an excellent strategy game and will easily eat up a few hours of your time.  Highly recommended.

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones
Mike is Brutal Gamer's Indie Editor. He has been playing video games since the early 90s and is fond of racing games, puzzlers and MMOs. Typing /played while in WoW makes him cry, but not enough to stop him playing some more.

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