Anomaly 2 Review (PC)
Anomaly 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Anomaly Warzone Earth by 11 bit studios. The alien machine invasion from the original game has had its way with planet Earth, and humankind is on the edge of extinction. You play as Commander Lynx controlling one of the remaining convoys, Yukon. Sixteen years have passed since the start of the war, and the surface temperature of earth has fallen below -8°C. It is time for you to head into enemy lines and try to regain control of your planet.
The gameplay remains essentially the same from the last instalment. It’s all about Tower Offense. The many varieties of alien machine line the roads between you and your goal in each mission, and you have to use the arsenal available to you to blast your way through. You can also choose your route on the fly, making the choice between ruthless annihilation of your enemy, or only killing what’s in your way. A quick scroll of the mouse wheel takes you out to the tactical map to plan your route. Making the right choice can be the difference between winning or failure, but the aliens have counter strategies such as hidden towers that only activate when they feel nearby presence or radar scramblers that hide towers in an area on the tactical map.
Down on the ground in battle mode you control the Commander, a somewhat out-of-place human amongst all the machines. However, the role is crucial as you move around and supply support to your convoy through the boosts that you carry. There are four of them with different uses. There is the basic repair that you drop down into the path of your convoy to help those who need it. Also to support your convoy you have a “focus aim” boost, which allows you to have concentrated fire on a key target. The other two boosts are directed at the enemy machines. The first of these is a decoy, which distracts enemy fire. This is particularly useful against a Behemoth if you deploy it correctly, as while its firepower is massive, it is very slow at turning. The second is an EMP burst which can disable a tower for a short while, highly effective when you are coming into a busy enemy cluster.
The biggest new feature to the single player mode is the ability to Morph your units during the battle. This makes your strategy more flexible, as not only can you change the order of your convoy, but by morphing you can play to different strengths of the same unit. In the early stages you will have two types of unit to choose from, the Hammer (pictured) and the Hound. They complement each other well. The Hound in its Assault mode zones in on one close range target and opens fire. The more it fires, the higher it’s fire rate gets, so it works well against a line of enemies. However as it only focuses on one target, it doesn’t cope with being flanked so well. That’s when you morph it into the Hell Hound which has two independent flamethrowers, allowing you to toast enemies on either side. The Hammers default mode is the Sledge Hammer, a kind of artillery vehicle that is very powerful at long-range, but has a limited aiming arc. When you feel you need a bit more flexibility for corners and close quarters from the Hammer, morph it into the Rocket Hammer which is just as deadly, but doesn’t have the range of the Sledge Hammer. Going through the campaign you will unlock more vehicles for selection, each presenting new and alternate strengths to your convoy.
The campaign itself is relatively short. Only fourteen missions take you from training camp to potentially saving the world. An alternate ending might suggest some replayability, but the truth is that you only need to replay the last mission (which you can load up) in a different manner to see the other outcome. The true replayability of the campaign mode comes from the difficulty levels. Playing through on Casual shouldn’t take you too long, and it will help you get the understanding of the gameplay if you are new to it. Ramping it up through Medium, Hardcore and Nightmare will leave you replaying missions over and over again to try to complete them. There are also medals to collect from each battle, one each for Ruthlessness, Efficiency and Swiftness. A certain Steam achievement that asks you to collect every gold medal available might have the completionist in you going back to the campaign for more.
The most significant new feature in Anomaly 2 is the inclusion of a multiplayer mode. In multiplayer you can choose to play as either the squad OR as the alien machines. Adequate multiplayer tutorials set you up with everything you need to know about playing as the aliens. Generally when you play an opponent you will have at least one rematch so you both have a turn at playing either side. Multiplayer works on a point scoring basis, with the game ending when either players reaches a certain score, or has a substantial enough lead. You naturally gain points for killing each others units, but the aliens can also generate points from one of their towers in order to help them compete. In all, as with the single player campaign, the units are very evenly balanced to provide a competitive gameplay where being flexible and versatile are key to success. The more games you play in multiplayer, the more maps you unlock to play on.
Fans of the series will notice the graphical upgrade that Anomaly 2 has had. With the campaigns levels taken you from the frozen wasteland of New York through to the Tropical centre of the Anomaly in South America and the Antarctic, you get to see a great variety of maps. The world is rendered in 3D, though you are stuck with a fixed camera during gameplay. In the cut scenes the camera will pan from your current position to the point of interest, and it is in these points that you will fully see the graphical detail and quality of the gameworld. The only downside graphically comes from the information clips you get when you encounter a new enemy of unit type. These always seemed to stall and not run smoothly, even when you would assume they have been pre-rendered.
Recently I reviewed Pixel Raid, which was my first dabble at Tower Offense. After playing Anomaly 2 I am hooked. While I’m done with the campaign, the multiplayer will keep anyone coming back. Finding a match currently can take some time. But with more users coming to the game, this multiplayer could be one of the best of 2013.
4.5² degrees warmer inside the Anomaly out of 5Anomaly 2 Review (PC),