While it was released last year for the PC and mobile platforms Anomaly 2, developed by 11 Bit Studios hasÂ just landed on the PS4. Like its predecessor, Anomaly: Warzone Earth, Â released in early 2011 was a unique entry in the tower defense genre. Its uniqueness came from inverting the gameplay from defense to offense. Instead of crafting towers to defend against a slowly encroaching enemy horde, you are that enemy horde, and have to assault a heavily defended objective. The sequel takes those fundamental ideas and adds a few twists in both the gameplay and storyline departments, as well as building out a pretty conceptually interesting multiplayer suite. But does Anomaly 2 navigate the treacherous waters that have claimed the lives of other console strategy games that have come before?
The story begins a few hundred years after the appearance of the Anomaly, which brought ruination to civilization as we know it. Now, you and a small ragtag group of humans are trying to piece together a weapon that could turn the tides. That’s the story in a nutshell, and while there is a very noble attempt by the developers to make it seem like your actions have a bearing on it by changing the ending depending on how you approach certain enemies there is very little emotional connection to be had between you and the supporting cast. They are all objective givers who do nothing more than get in the way of the gameplay.
Multifaceted, that is the best word to summarize the game’s gameplay. Your role in all of this is as a commander, and you are in a high tech battlesuit that has the ability to heal the vehicles you’ll be in command of (there are no troops to speak of), draw fire and hinder the attacks of the enemy. You also have the ability to switch to a tactical view of the battlefield and plan your assault ahead of time. To accomodate console controls you have direct control over your commander, which, like Diablo III, works well but doesn’t add anything significant to the gameplay experience. The one control crevasse that Anomaly 2 doesn’t fall into is that because your vehicles, besides plotting out their routes are out of your control you don’t have to worry about slowly scrolling around with a analog stick to replicate a mouse’s much more accurate and speedy movements.
Players accustomed to gigantic armories of vehicles might be taken aback by how few vehicles you can select from, but that paltry amount is compensated for by the fact that all of the vehicles have a secondary attack mode which in most cases sacrifices long range power and durability for short range destruction and fragility. The multiple abilities of each upgradable vehicle and how you position them in your convoy, all of which can be done on the fly vehicle’s abilities change dramatically and really require you to think proactively as even playing on Casual difficulty saw my fully loaded convoy of five vehicles turned into smoldering wrecks in a heartbeat.
That constant need to be both proactive and reactive is a difficult line to tread without seeming overwhelming, and it almost works, almost, and it is only bungled by some poorly placed checkpoints that force you to restart the multi-sectioned levels if you cross one with very little health left in your vehicles.
Multiplayer is a new addition to the series, as it allows you to play with the units you have at your disposal in single player or you can play as the defender and set up towers to destroy your attacking adversary. I was only able to play the multiplayer tutorial as I couldn’t seem to find an opponent that wanted to test my tower assaulting or defending skills, which is worrying considering the game came out less than a week ago.
The visuals of the game remind me of the first screenshots of the ill fated Command and Conquer reboot, lighting, especially in night time missions is stunning, as are the distortion effects used in the earlier missions. Atmospherics are also well presented, the blasted landscapes of New York and muggy vibrance of Rio are a sight to behold on their own and effectively mask the very linear level layouts. Unfortunately, even though the game has somewhat modest system requirements on the PC and looks and runs very well on mobile is prone to some slowdown, which could speak to less than adequate optimization on 11 Bits part.
It has an empty story and even emptier characters but the gameplay is solid, minus some occasional difficulty spikes and poor checkpointing. The visuals are detailed but don’t distract from the frenetic action you are trying your damnedest to control. Multiplayer, while cool in concept seems DOA, at least on the European side of the Playstation Network. With all of these conditions in mind I have no hesitation recommending Anomaly 2 for anyone that is looking for a new gameplay experience and can handle the stress of micromanagement.
Anomaly 2 is out now for the Playstation 4 and is also available for the PC, iOS, Android and Blackberry