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Anomaly 2
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Developer: 11 bit studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 1 - 2 (Online)
Genre: Strategy/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Anomaly 2 is an innovative sequel to an innovative game. However, its innovations don't necessarily lie in the same general area that Anomaly: Warzone Earth made its mark. While that first game took a bold step in turning a well-established genre on its head, this sequel's attention is focused elsewhere. Don't take that to mean that Anomaly 2's Campaign is dull or not worth your time - because it is. This game will probably be remembered for its interesting implementation of its multiplayer component.

Visually, Anomaly 2 largely fails to impress. It is neither a technical nor an artistic powerhouse. It isn't ugly by any stretch, but there's not much to write home about. Earth has been reduced to a barren hellscape; lots of drab neutrals and a general lack of color go a long way in establishing the oppressive, desperate mood. This is placed in direct contrast to the monstrous robotic alien tentacles perforating the ground, pulsing with a vile crimson hue. Friendly and enemy units are instantly identifiable, and all of them look pretty cool; especially when they morph into different forms. The planning interface returns from Warzone Earth, and it's as good as ever; every bit of data you'll need before plunging into the fray is displayed prominently. From enemy positions to the current route your team is taking and even the amount of time that will have elapsed by the time you actually get there, it's all represented cleanly and attractively.

Sound is often overlooked in games like these; not by the developer, but by the player. Anomaly 2 doesn't really have a need to go all out with anything in this department, so it shouldn't come to anyone's surprise that it doesn't. What's here is fine, though; your units engage the enemy with a wide array of firepower, and the audio design reflects accurately enough what the weapons fire. Between the steadily-increasing speed of machine gun reports, the sharply punctuated rocket blasts, and the searing hot laser beams, you won't really feel like anything's missing. And then we have the soundtrack, which mainly just stays out of the way.

Anomaly 2 continues the story of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, such as it is. The hostile alien force that crashed on Earth has effectively made it its home. Humanity's back is up against the wall, and we face extinction, but we have one glimmer of hope in the form of Project Shockwave, a lost weapon of mass destruction. As Lieutenant Lynx, you command Convoy Yukon on their mission from Canada to recover it.

Anomaly 2 plays identically to Warzone Earth. That meaning it's a tower defense game that places you in indirect control of the attackers. So, it is, in fact, tower offense. As Lynx, you actively escort your team of mobile attackers through each labyrinthine map, each littered with a variety of enemy emplacements. Lynx doesn't have any offensive capabilities, but the irony is that his units literally cannot survive without him. He's no lucky charm, however. He can use combat abilities, which have a myriad of functions which will be explained later.

Anomaly 2's single player Campaign rounds the same bases that Warzone Earth's did, and therefore, there are few surprises in that respect this time around. The real surprise comes in the form of competitive multiplayer. Ever since playing Monolith's Aliens vs. Predator 2 years and years ago, I've been an absolute sucker for asymmetrical gameplay. Anomaly 2 somehow makes it work for tower defense/offense.

One player takes control of the attackers, while the other takes control of the defenders. Each player builds up their team (and in the case of offense, positions units) and the game is on. As the carnage develops, players must jockey to keep their units alive through careful economical management; between upgrading attackers and relocating or selling defenses, the gameplay remains fast and intense throughout.

Anomaly 2 retains the flexible difficulty settings of its predecessor, and the resulting experience is easy for players of all skill levels to get into. The addition of Nightmare Mode is a nod to hardcore strategy players, who should eat it up.

Above all else, Anomaly 2 is a game about planning and changing plans on the fly, and that's where its challenge lies. Choosing a path might seem simple at the outset, but once you actually reach each junction to discover exactly how your enemies are set up, things can change in an instant. It's the difference between slowly patrolling by and strafing turrets until they're pulverized and taking Lynx out of formation and acting as bait for the more deadly emplacements while your units cruise by and give it hell.

As of this writing, the biggest difficulty I've had with this game has had to do with connecting to online matches. So far, the community just doesn't seem to be there yet. While I'd still give this game an honest recommendation without taking the multiplayer into consideration, the success of this part still has yet to be determined.

Game Mechanics:
Most tower defense games are extremely passive in nature. You set your units up and watch as they succeed in repelling the enemy or get absolutely crushed. Not in Anomaly 2. In this game, you build your squad, plot your route, and then you do the crushing (or are repelled). But, of course, that's not the only way in which this game differentiates itself from games like Fieldrunners.

As mentioned before, the player has direct control of the commander, and can move him around the battleground quickly. He's no force to be reckoned with on his own; in fact, he can't really do much to hurt the enemy. But put him with his squad, and the combat abilities come into play.

During your assault, your units will come under fire and they will be damaged. That's a given, and there's no getting around that. But since you're the commander, you can reverse (or at least mitigate) the damage inflicted on them. One combat ability allows you to drop a green circle on the field; any unit passing through it will be healed for as long as it remains in the circle.

Combat abilities come in many different forms, and you'll need to learn to use them in tandem if you want your squad to survive. Once you find yourself in the thick of it, you'll find that this isn't the easiest thing to do. But you've got the tools, and you've got the time. You might not always have the resources to upgrade or build more units, but if you find spare Carusaurum on the field, do your best to collect it. Strength in numbers isn't the strategy to go with here, but it sure doesn't help.

If you were a fan of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, you'd do well to pick up Anomaly 2. The core formula is no different, and there aren't too many surprises on the single player front, but it's still immensely enjoyable. The multiplayer has a chance to become something really special, but that's to be determined, thanks to the woefully underpopulated servers. Still, this game gets my recommendation.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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