Review – Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story

I’ll admit I haven’t read the the 1897 H.G Wells classic War of the Worlds, a much beloved book that hasn’t had much success in the way of adaptations. Besides the iconic Orson Welles broadcast, there that 2005 movie staring Tom Cruise that was nothing special and often regarded as a bad adaptation. Now there is a game loosely based on this classic story, but could it possibly be any good? Well even as someone who isn’t familiar with the source material, the answer is a big fat no. 

Claire? Is that you?… Nevermind

The story follows Harper, a survivor of a plane crash who wakes up after having a flashback of buying some milk (I’m not even joking, I can and have ranted about this) without knowing of what’s happening in the world. Something is clearly wrong when she arrives at a nearby desolate town. The residents suddenly start attacking her, as an alien invasion is eventually revealed. What could have been a compelling mystery ends up falling flat due to a severe lack of character development and proper build-up.

Onto the gameplay. The vast majority of your time will be spent sneaking around, whilst avoiding human enemies. Now, I’m no expert on the source material but I’m sure this really doesn’t line up the much beloved classic. A game might have to take some creative liberties every now and then, but this is just plain bad. In no moment you find out why these people are being controlled or why they randomly spawn with some lazy lightning animation and obnoxiously loud sound effect. The stealth here is as basic as you can get, relying almost entirely on line of sight and basic sound alerts.

Making sound can be used to your advantage, pulling enemies away from where you need to go with a simple rock throw, allowing you to slip by undetected. The problem with this is that your movement speed is painfully slow whilst crouched. It just makes the game’s already dull and basic stealth mechanics feel like an even bigger chore. I eventually gave up, deciding to sprint by enemies, which ended up being easier than it sounds. As long as you gain enough distance, they will get as bored as I do and give up, returning to their meaningless walking patterns and letting you do whatever you need to without interruption. 

That killed me…. WHY?! Most importantly, though…. HOW???

After two or so hours of forcing yourself through the game’s stealth sections, you finally meet the Fighting Machines, and boy, was that a letdown. This should have been the turning point for the game, where things get a bit more interesting. Instead, what I got was one of the most infuriating and pathetic gameplay sections I’ve played in a long time; not even Remothered managed to push me this close to insanity. After a brief but awkward section that had me running around, avoiding laser beams and a couple of enemies that just randomly spawned from out of nowhere, the true suffering began in the form of a chase sequence. 

I’m not going to lie. I died way too often during this sequence. As the Fighting Machine is trying to kill Harper, you must run TOWARDS the camera (yes, much like those annoying Resident Evil 6 sequences) whilst avoiding parts of the geometry that will slow you down. Every now and then, the fighting machine will try to hit you with a laser blast with a fairly generous wind-up time. What you are supposed to do is take cover as it winds up, and run away once it fires.

Sound simple, right? Yeah, not so much. Thanks to the godawful controls, Harper will constantly get stuck in objects in the environment, making it impossible to get behind cover in time. If you do manage to get to cover in time, there’s a chance that the laser will kill you anyway just to mess with you.

Whilst this section was soul destroying, I thought to myself, maybe we I’m finally going to see something interesting happen. Maybe the Fighting Machines will become a regular force and the tedious slog that is the stealth would end. Nope. Straight after the infuriatingly difficult chase sequence, I dove straight back into an infuriatingly dull stealth section. Even with my lack of knowledge about the source material I’m sure something interesting could have been done with the Fighting Machines instead of occasionally showing up a couple of times. Their impact on this game is minimal and unforgivable. 

At least this shot was cool… if a bit on the generic side

Visually, Grey Skies does nothing really interesting. Everything looks like your run of the mill Unreal Engine 4 assets, and environments are lacking in detail. Textures are flat, lighting effects are terrible, and the game just isn’t great to look at overall. Interiors in particular just look way too clean and tidy, which is amazing, considering the alien invasion that is happening outside. I will say, though, I do kind of like the Fighting Machines’ design, and there is a cool cinematic shot when you first meet them, but outside of this, I wasn’t impressed. Same goes for the sound design, which has terrible voice acting and a soundtrack that will grate on you over time. 

As an adaptation of a beloved classic, Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story won’t do anything for anyone. As a standalone game, it still won’t do anything for anyone. The incredibly slow paced stealth sections, poor level design and insane difficulty spikes makes for a broken and frustrating gameplay experience that is simply impossible to recommend.  

 

Graphics: 3.0

Unremarkable visual design with a lack of environmental detail that makes the world look flat and uninteresting.

Gameplay: 2.0

The stealth gameplay is beyond basic. The chase sequences are frustrating, and the hit detection makes absolutely no sense.

Sound: 1.5

Much like the graphics, the sound design is very much lacking. Terrible voice acting and a soundtrack that will grate on you over time.

Fun Factor: 1.5

Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story is a dull, boring and frustrating gameplay experience that has very little to do with the classic novel. 

Final Verdict: 2.0

Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story is available now on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Grey Skies: A War of the Worlds Story was provided by the publisher.