Developer: Third Wave Games
Release Date: October 1, 2008
War World, what happened? When I first heard of you and you were going to be an awesome mech shoot-'em-up, my face lit up. You would be a perfect fit for Xbox Live Arcade. When I heard the game was out, I quickly scampered to my console and decided to play it safe by downloading the trial version first. Limited to a single mech on one map and a 45-second time limit, it was the saddest trial I've ever played. How could one possibly hope to make the decision to purchase a game based on less time than it takes to make toast? Having spent a large chunk of time with the full version of War World: Tactical Combat, I can see that the demo's brevity was an attempt to hide a generic, unpolished mess.
War World plays as a third-person shooter. With the camera tucked squarely behind your mech, you'll find yourself running around eight maps in a variety of giant robots with no objective other than blowing the hell out of one another. The menu system is easy to navigate, and the load screens tell you the controls, which is a huge help, as there are no tutorials whatsoever. Making the game easy to pick up and play really helps a ton. From the menus, your choices are bit limited: You can either go into the single-player, where you can play a quick match against bots with standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, or you can head into the main single-player offering, Arcade mode. For multiplayer options, there are four game modes, but there's no local multiplayer, and almost nobody is ever playing. The largest game I was ever able to get into was a four-player team deathmatch.
Regardless of which gameplay mode you select, you'll immediately notice that War World looks extraordinarily good for an XBLA title. Fully 3D and impressive looking from the textures to the lighting, War World is certainly eye candy as far as the XBLA is concerned. Unfortunately, all that is a moot point, as once the game gets rolling, the frame rate can hardly keep up. Drops in frame rate, choppiness, and stuttering are things that you'll encounter, and even more annoying is the general lack of polish in moving around the environments. While smaller mechs will only encounter occasional collision problems, such as enemies running through walls, larger mechs will constantly get stuck in the environment, often on things that a 40-ton walking behemoth shouldn't be stopped by. Getting stuck because your left arm taps a skinny palm tree is extremely frustrating.
The sound might be better than the graphics, but that's only because it doesn't leave a positive or negative impression. It's there, it's completely forgettable, and that's about all there is to it. The gunfire sounds like gunfire, the lasers more or less sound like what you would expect a giant robot-melting death laser to sound like, etc. The only part of the audio that truly stood out to me was the hideous announcer; he has an extremely limited vocabulary, and he sounds like he's trying to speak in the deepest, most grizzled voice he could muster, and then put it through a filter.
As stated, the single-player offering features deathmatch and team deathmatch, which are pretty self-explanatory. This is probably where you'll have the most fun with War World, since you have the option of bringing in 15 bots to play with you. The sheer chaos of 15 other mechs running around can be fun — when the AI is working decently. The larger mechs tend to run into things, stand still and shoot at anything. The smaller AI mechs fare a lot better, as they hop around like rabbits running circles around you until they can stand right behind you. Unfortunately, none of the game's eight maps are particularly interesting to fight on.
The key to winning in the game is picking a mech that works for you. There's zero customization for any of the mechs in War World, so you have to choose one of the pre-built mechs and run with it. There are the three usual classes of mechs: the small fast guys, the big slow guys, and the ones in the middle. The small mechs are lightly armed, move very quickly and can be hard to hit, but they die in very few shots. The big mechs move very slowly, can take a tremendous beating, and are heavily armed, but it's virtually impossible to dodge enemy fire in one of these beasts. It would sound like there's a decent balance going on with the game, but when a small mech attacks a large one, the large mech will win about four out of every five battles. I've destroyed small mechs with full health with a single shot from some of the more powerful big mechs in the game.
Regardless of what you prefer, you get no choice in the main single-player offering. Arcade mode features 100 stages for you to fight through, and each stage pits you against three waves of enemies with a number of lives. There are several difficulties to choose from, and the harder the difficulty, the less punishment you can take and the less lives you're given. Initially, each wave only consists of a single enemy, but as you get further into the game, the number of enemies per wave increases. To help you survive, there's ammo scattered around the map, even though much of it will be useless because you often aren't carrying the appropriate weapon. For health, if you can destroy an enemy mech, they'll drop a box that will bring your health back up to full strength.
Once you're sick and tired of playing by yourself, you can head online to try and get some eight-player madness going … only to find that there are never seven other people online who are trying to play War World. While the title claims to have four different multiplayer modes, the only ones in which people seem to have any interest are the deathmatch modes; Capture the Flag and Bomb Assault have been completely ignored by the online community. As of this writing, there are only two people on the leaderboards for Bomb Assault, out of the millions of XBL users.
This all sounds like fairly bland offerings for a game, but really aren't that much lower than par for the course compared to many games these days. The problem lies in execution because everything about the gameplay is generic. Coupled with the graphical bugs, sluggish controls and uninspired sound, there's absolutely nothing here that makes me want to keep playing, aside from the Achievements, which are some of the least-inspiring ones that I've seen on the 360.
When you first see War World: Tactical Combat, you may think that you're in for a treat with a nice-looking mech shooter, but the game fails to draw you in. There's very little overall polish to the title, and there's nothing particularly inspired or compelling about it, either. What's here has been done better by plenty of other 360 titles, both retail and arcade, and the complete absence of an online community is the final nail in the game's coffin. Just like any war, skip your $10 entry fee and avoid War World.
More articles about War World: Tactical Combat