Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
By Tony Wright (EvilNerfherder)
The PC Game (Rage Software/GT Interactive 1998)
I got this game shortly after release. Christmas 1998, it was and being a long term fan of Jeff Wayne’s musical I’d lusted after this since I’d heard about it.
The first game was pretty short. Frustrating cries from the speakers like ‘We barely have enough steel!’ and ‘Our base in this sector is lost!’ (expect to hear such things a helluva lot when first playing) signaled the sorry end of a short struggle against superior Martian technology. I read the booklet before playing again. That helped a bit.
What’s it all about then?
JWWotW is a real time strategy game not unlike Command and Conquer.
There are actually two games, a Human and a Martian one. The objectives are simple though, there are no real missions here. The Humans have to dislodge the Martians from their main base in the Grampians and the Martians have to destroy the Parliament building in London. Sounds simple? Well, it’s not the easiest of games when you first play as I hinted at earlier.
There are a few things which make this more of a challenge that it at first sounds.
In the Human game you have more units but the Martian technology will melt your little armoured lorries quicker than an ice cream in hell. In the Martian mission you have the big guns but the Humans are everywhere. Millions of the buggers. You also have to manage and harvest your resources.. For the Humans these are Steel, Coal and Oil: the Martians need Copper, Heavy Elements and Blood. Mismanaging these will bring cries of protest from your troops as I mentioned earlier. There is good news though. Both sides can build more units to throw at the enemy and research better weaponry.
There are two game screens.
The War Room is where you do all the donkey work, moving forces from area to area, checking resources, initiating research and so on. It depicts the British Isles divided into ‘sectors’.
The Battle Map is where the interesting stuff occurs. Here you are transported to a view of the sector terrain and you can build your bases, factories and mines, put up defences and, most importantly of all, battle the enemy. Watching Fighting Machines stalk about this terrain is what this game is all about.
You can also order your troops to attack specific targets in this view and speed up or slow down time.
There has been a fair bit of imagination gone into the units you command, especially on the Martian side, As well as the famous Michael Trim designed Fighting Machines from the musical, there are Electric Machines, Xeno-telepaths, Scout Machines, Bombarding Machines, Flying Machines, and the Bad Daddy of them all- the Tempests. Not all of them are much use really, the Xeno-telepaths are meant to confuse enemy units but they aren’t very good.
The Humans, after researching some, can build armoured lorries (in different classes), Tunneling Vehicles, Self propelled Guns, Anti-Aircraft Guns, Ironclads, armed Observation Balloons and Submersibles. Graphically, it still looks quite nice. Watching the little forces attack each other is a hoot.
There are some nice cut scenes in the game too; the opening movie, with a Tripod attacking a train is great fun. Sounds are good too. Your forces report to you from time to time, letting you know how your resources are and every command is rewarded with ‘Moving Sir!’ and that kind of thing. Nigel Hawthorn,as the General, is well suited to the part.
The music is very good. There are several tracks, all are instrumental remixes of tracks from the War of the Worlds Remix Album- Ulladubulla. There is even a Cd player facility at the title screen so you can listen to these without playing the game.
A final word. This game doesn’t work on Windows XP. Fortunately, for those lucky enough to get hold of this game who run XP, there is an exe fix that will sort this problem out.
If you like War of the Worlds, the Musical or just a bit of a fun RTS challenge, you should seek this one out.
For details of how to run the game on XP see here..
The Playstation Game (GT Interactive/Pixelogic 1999)
I first read about this around the time I heard that the PC game was coming. There was a little report in a gaming magazine (I forget which one) with a few pictures and some guessing on what this game was going to be about. Then nothing. I heard nothing more about this game.At all. I assumed that the game had fallen into development hell. It does happen.
Cut to 2003. A friend (and fellow WotW buff) mentioned that he had bought a Playstation WotW game from Ebay. The game HAD been released after all. It was a case, from then on, of scanning EBay for a copy for myself. At last, there was one. I got it. £10 brand new. Bargain.
This is a driving/ shooting game, not an RTS like the PC version. You have 14 missions to complete to defeat the Martian menace. Some are easy, some aren’t. Some are a real challenge. The Nottingham level gave me trouble for a long time.
The first mission demands that you learn to drive your little armoured lorry around the countryside, shooting balloons and such to get to grips with the thing. You also get to control a stationary gun turret, again your target is those pesky invading.. er.. balloons. This is another thing you will need to master in the missions ahead. After a time a warning flashes up. A cylinder is landing! You will need to scoot over there and show them some British grit. Fighting Machines stalk the area and you have to stop them!
Other missions in the game include one set in London (where you have to stop the Martians from destroying Parliament), Dover (protect incoming reinforcements and destroy the base) and my personal favourite, an ‘on rails’ trip down the river on board the Ironclad ‘Thunder Child’- Use your deck gun to bombard landward Martian buildings, defend a ferry leaving harbour and battle a giant Tempest Machine.
Despite the different format from the PC game, there is still a bit of strategy involved in this game. Your performance can affect how many vehicles you can use (any available vehicles on your map can be commandeered for your use if the vehicle you are currently using is destroyed or is unsuitable). For example, in the London mission, you will need to pick up scrap as you career around through the streets and deliver it to the factory so more units can be made for you. In Dover, your first priority is to defend a fleet of incoming barges carrying more vehicles. They are being attacked by Flying Machines, so failure to protect them reduces the amount of vehicles you will have at your disposal later in the level. As there are multiple objectives on each mission, doing well in the early stages will boost your chances of success. Lose all your vehicles and it’s Game Over.
Graphics wise this isn’t very pretty. A PS2 with the Playstation Graphics Smoothing turned on helps a little bit. Whilst it’s no Miss World in the looks department, it does draw you in. Fun is the key here and even when you lose (which happens a lot), you still have a great time. Graphics aren’t everything anyway, are they?
The cut scenes are lifted straight from the PC version, but actually look better here.
Sounds? The music from the PC game is also used in this one. One thing I would like to have seen would have been some Martian missions, but I guess you can’t have everything. Another gripe is that sometimes the missions are a little long. You can take hours completing a mission at times, and, because you can’t save (you get a password after completing every mission), you have to see it through. That said, as a bit of blasting fun it is top notch and War of the Worlds fans should definitely have this in their collection.
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