Anomaly: Warzone Earth, the reverse-engineered tower defence (does that make if tower offence?) title that sees players trawling though alien-infested territory, has already invaded mobiles, tablets and computers. The game has just assimilated into the Xbox Live Arcade line-up, with controls designed purely for the Xbox 360 and an interface that looks as shiny on the console as it does in the palm of your hand.
Tower defence games have been doing the rounds for eons. The standard operating procedure of the genre has remained largely the same in countless games – players establish defensive towers to repel the enemy and protect their territory. Anomaly: Warzone Earth turns the notion on its head, putting players on the offense. Removing you from tower construction and management, you are instead established as the invading force in a map littered with hostile emplacements. The idea works flawlessly, and is every bit as strategic and its founding father.
Every game needs some form of story the string the action together, Anomaly: Warzone Earth opts for a typical scenario – aliens have descended on earth, transforming entire cities into hell. Starting life as a mobile title, the narrative production values aren’t anything to write home about, but they do the job capably enough, and its not as if we’re paying to see the works of Shakespeare.
The core gameplay defines why you should give Anomaly: Warzone Earth a look. Players are tasked with moving their unit of troops and vehicles though hostile environments populated by enemy towers. You don’t actually control your individual units, as you might in Company of Heroes or Starcraft, but instead, you lead the charge as the ‘commander’. Only the commander may be steered across the map, and while you cannot directly attack the enemy, he is essentially the engine for keeping the army alive and moving. Your army is an assortment of units, including tanks, armoured vehicles, missile platforms and shield generators. In addition to managing the progress of skirmishes, players can buy upgrades and advanced units to better sustain them against might of the alien adversary.
Players navigate their commander across a deadly path, mapping out the path for their forces, drawing enemy flak and managing an array of power-ups. Health packs are key to enduring the journey from start to finish, while abilities such as sending out a decoy can divert enemy fire away from your troops. Should you succumb to enemy fire, the commander will respawn after a few seconds, but without its leader, even a momentary absence can mean death for your army. Anomaly: Warzone Earth is simple to learn, but in between planning a careful path and handing out upgrades, a certain level of concentration is required to succeed. Gameplay churns along at a blistering pace and with a great sense of immediacy as you direct the attack on the foreign invaders.
Players are rewarded with a medal at the end of each mission, with factors such as time taken impacting the final score. The pursuit of the highest medal ensures that levels will be completed more than once. After completing the sizable story mode, you can try survival levels, which pit you against a long ling of enemy emplacements. Another option is the new trials mode, which see players completing objectives in virtual environments.
The Xbox 360 has seen a multitude of strategy games, such as Halo Wars, but many of these have been awkwardly adapted the console medium. The Xbox 360 controller has generally been a poor substitute for the more traditional keyboard and mouse. The fantastic news is that Anomaly: Warzone Earth does not suffer from what we will dub the strategy-game console curse. No doubt assisted by the fact that you are only responsible for moving a single character – not an entire unit of controllable units – the developers have adapted the previous touch-pad interface into a robust configuration. The core gameplay – moving the commander and selecting actions – is a breeze.
The transition from mobile devices has been far from an impediment, with polished visuals further complimenting the console iteration. The game presents a compelling vision of an alien invasion, with a great deal of detail in the environments and objects. The icon system and unit meters are straightforward, conveying all the information you need to process your particular strategy.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a perfect example of how a core mobile title can be converted into an arcade-styled console game, and at 800 Microsoft Points, it delivers fantastic value. If you have already played the game on a different platform, there may not be much in this particular version to warrant another purchase. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a wholly unique experience, with the developers perfectly creating the sense of being an armchair general. Using a simple and robust control system, the reverse tower defence concept works flawlessly on the Xbox 360. If you are looking for something to tide your over between the bigger releases, or even just something different, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is well worth commandeering.