It’s evening, the sky an autumn bronze, and Martian forces are massing in central London. A mission falls to us: to marshall the resistance, to build an army, and to defend the city from the invaders. A more intuitive telling of this story might end right here, but the game has other ideas, using up the battle for London in the third of fourteen levels before moving on to stranger territory. As a lone Flying-Machine soars over Westminster, an Armoured Lorry narrowly escapes across the collapsing bridge, set on its noble mission of mild importance. We begin.
Where the first level of The War of the Worlds was arc-shaped and the second circular, the third, “Parliament Is Attacked”, is firmly rectangular, as solid and blocky as its polygonal streets. Like most rectangles, the map has four corners. One contains the Houses of Parliament, the ostensible nexus of Earth’s defence force – operational, but inaccessible to our vehicles following the convenient destruction of Westminster Bridge. The opposite corner contains a red-brick Factory. The third consists of a large park on the edge of the Thames, and the fourth is a junction with an ominous road out of town which will become important later.
We begin the level outside the Factory, in control of a new unit, the Mobile Anti-Aircraft Platform. A converted civilian vehicle, it’s essentially a pick-up painted in a camouflage pattern and with a huge cannon strapped onto the back. (This was a real practice in World War I. The weapon in the game appears to be based on the QF 3-inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft gun, a cannon which fired explosive shells, and which was commonly mounted on lorries for use in homeland defence by the British.) There aren’t many levels where you get to drive one of these, but it’s one of the most fun vehicles in the game – partly because of its reliably fast speed, but mostly because of its ridiculous weapon, which fires projectiles that explode in incandescent yellow jpeg blasts and shake the whole screen regardless of whether they even hit anything. With a very large impact radius, the Platform is great for taking out the game’s sole airborne enemies, the thin-hulled Flying-Machines. It also has very flexible aim – unlike other vehicles, it can aim straight upwards, making short work of Martian tripods, which are conveniently incapable of attacking anything directly beneath themselves. (Indeed, take aim for the heavens and rotate while parked close enough to a building and the game’s awkward camera can be tilted high enough to reveal the yawning black circle at the top of the skybox.) There’s an Armoured Car parked in one of the streets, amiably firing at any Martian that strays too close, but there’s not much reason to use it when you’ve got the Platform.
Our first objective is to cross the map to Westminster Bridge, where an Armoured Lorry is waiting for assistance. (Annoyingly, our commander has begun referring to them by that sordid Americanism, “trucks”.) We must escort the Lorry through the winding streets to the Factory, where it picks up a Cannon that has been prepared for it. We must then escort it back again to the river, where it deposits the Cannon on a stone pier across from Parliament. A new stationary weapon, the Cannon is a howitzer gun with moderate range, moderate aiming and firing speed, and moderate damage. “It will come in useful later,” says our commander, as if privy to something we’re not. For now, it’s useless.
After the busywork of the escort mission, we get on to the real point of the level: the Factory. In the first two levels, civilians are just set dressing, occasionally requiring rescue but generally just running about like headless chickens. In “Parliament Is Attacked”, however, they become useful. It turns out that that Cannon was just the beginning: the Factory can produce more armaments, more vehicles. First, though, it needs to be manned. We must search the streets for civilians who, in a thrifty bit of non-animation, are instantly taken on-board when we come into contact with them. They don’t exactly volunteer, running neither towards us nor away from us, but seem content to help once we gather them. While replacing bacteria with the British army as the ultimate agents of the Martians’ downfall is a conceptual step backwards, this touch of civic collaboration helps prevent the game from slipping into outright militarism. The game makes the reasonably progressive decision to draw no distinction between the abilities of male and female workers. It’s also notable that, apart from the victorious end-game cinematic, children never appear in this world – as in the Grand Theft Auto games, they’re kept out of harm’s way by omission. Once we’ve taken ten workers to the Factory, it’s fully staffed, and a glorious yellow light shines forth from the windows of the first two floors: we’re in business.
The Factory has no name. “Factory”, reads the sign outside, declining to elaborate. That’s because it’s not a real factory: it’s all London factories, perhaps all British factories, smudged into one hallowed abstraction. In Age of Empires, villagers don’t really represent villagers. Seconds aren’t years, and history isn’t divided into four abruptly-delineated ages. No, all of these things are tokens – stand-ins for vast, dizzying seas of people and tides of history and social change, the graphical user interface conjured by primitive hardware straining to capture even the flimsiest sketch of the world for us to play with. As modern triple-A games aspire towards an ideal of representation in which diegesis is indistinguishable from reality – in which every on-screen character really is meant to be taken as a fictive individual – the cloistered artifice of older games grows more and more appealing. In this respect, the early videogame generations have a good deal in common with myth-making and allegorical storytelling – the literal is anathema.
I’m reminded of American Gods, a novel whose characters are effectively personifications of ideas. More specifically, the following passage which precedes the description of a gathering of gods, and which I consider one of the best things Neil Gaiman ever wrote: “None of this can actually be happening. If it makes you more comfortable, you could simply think of it as metaphor. Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you – even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition. Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world. So none of this is happening. Such things could not occur. Never a word of it is literally true. Even so, the next thing that happened, happened like this:”. The fact that the drama and action to which we have access is an abstraction of something far more real and complicated and strange is brought up, considered, and ultimately put aside as irrelevant to the current drama. Not only does this reflect the otherworldly appeal of older video games, it gets at something core to all primitive and pioneering media. It’s easy for someone who grew up with the original PlayStation to lose sight of the fact that it’s essentially the equivalent of stagey black-and-white silent cinema.
With the Factory up and running, our mission takes a slightly bathetic turn, as we are instructed to go gather a mystical substance known as Scrap. Scattered throughout London, Scrap can be found in great dark heaps of wood and rubble, rippling with animated silver. It’s generally found near ruins, which suggests that it consists of the same buildings recently destroyed by the Martians. As it turns out, this stuff is all the Factory needs to produce vehicles. Collect and deliver three piles of Scrap, and a freshly-minted Armoured Car will roll out of the workshop door a cool thirty seconds later.
As well as forming our workforce, the civilians provide some intelligence. One of them tells us that he knows where some Scrap is – though quite why we need to be told about this particular lot when our compass seems able to detect the stuff automatically is anyone’s guess. (Remarkably, this fellow even manages to relay his message if we shoot him rather than picking him up.) When we take him to the Factory, he gives us directions to his discovery: it’s scattered throughout one corner of the map, in a destroyed building across from the Factory, with more in the nearby park. (This appears to be a representation of Archbishop’s Park, a part of the Lambeth Palace grounds that was designated a public park in 1901 – plausibly in time for the story’s setting.) Unlike its real counterpart, this park is elevated some few feet above the ground, meaning that a vehicle can exit by driving down its steep steps but has no proper way to enter. Instead, we must use the destroyed building, which has improbably collapsed in such a way as to form a ramp which a speeding Armoured Car or Mobile Anti-Aircraft Platform might use to soar over its fence for a comfortable landing on the grass. While probably not intentional, the fundamentally toy-like nature of the game’s universe is impossible not to notice: this is a world where armoured vehicles whose cannons are loaded with infinite ammunition can comfortably drive up and down a smashed three-storey building, following much the same logic as a child playing freely and anarchically with action figures from different sets.
Wells’s novel reaches its climax in the chapter “Dead London”, which has the Journalist arrive in the devastated, empty capital. Wandering the vacant, looted streets, he encounters not another living human, and hears no sound but the harrowing Martian cry, “Ulla, ulla, ulla”. When this too falls silent, something within him breaks, and he resolves to end this loneliness and horror by sacrificing himself to the invaders. Running towards a stationary Fighting-Machine atop Primrose Hill, he is shocked to discover that its pilot is dead, a flock of birds devouring its flesh from the machine’s hood. Cresting the hill, he finds the Martian base devastated, every invader killed by Earth’s own bacteria. Wayne’s album adapts this chapter into a spoken-word track, also titled “Dead London”, in which Richard Burton’s Journalist recounts these events over the sound of spooky, downtempo alien synths, with an incessant tick-tocking two-note piano melody that evokes the splinter of madness in his mind quite well. Given the setting, one would think this track a perfect accompaniment for the level.
So why isn’t it in the game? This becomes doubly strange when you realise that the game’s composers actually did remix “Dead London” – it was included in the PC game released the previous year, and it’s the only track not included in the PlayStation one. This is a puzzling omission, and while I’m not sure what the reasoning was, I suspect the track was simply deemed tonally inappropriate. Of all the remixes, “Dead London” is the one which changes least from the original song, to the point that it’s essentially an instrumental version with the plot-specific “Ulla”s taken out and a (fairly unobtrusive) percussive beat layered in. Perhaps the developers simply thought this was fine for an RTS but wrong for an action game. If one of the eight tracks had to be omitted, I’m glad it was this one, though limiting musical content in a game based on a musical still seems like a clear mistake.
However, there are also some thematic grounds for the exclusion of “Dead London”. In both the novel and album, it depicts the most abject moment in the war, the bitter defeat of humanity, followed by the eucatastrophic intervention of the microbes. It’s a chapter – and a song – about crushing loneliness, failure, despair, and the victory of the human spirit through blind chance and luck. Such a sombre musical treatment could never really have fit in a game predicated on an alternative take on the story in which humanity overcomes the Martians in a fair-and-square contest of good old-fashioned ingenuity and military strength. That’s the thing about this game: it’s a bit too fun for its subject-matter.
London has a great deal of importance in the novel, not only as the heart of the British Empire, but as the locus of the story’s structure. It’s the setting for the climax of Book One, where the Journalist’s brother witnesses the Thunder Child’s battle to protect the civilian steamer from the Fighting-Machines in the Thames, as well as the climax of Book Two, as the Journalist himself discovers the war’s end while wandering its desolate streets. Wayne’s album streamlines this somewhat, placing the Journalist himself in the heat of the action, and sticking his wife (now humanised with the name Carrie) on the steamer to boot. It’s all a bit straightforwardly romantic, but it has the benefit of giving Burton some solid dramatic material to work with, and the quiver of recollected fear in his delivery of “One… appeared above Big Ben…” is perhaps his best bit of acting on the album. While the novel mentions Parliament precisely once, in the middle of the brother’s section, the game seems to have a little bit of a fixation on it: the opening sequence seems to be set inside it, the third level is largely about defending it, and the aforementioned moment is dramatised in the animation that’s played whenever we die (which makes level three the most satisfying place to fail, since the two flow together so well).
The game’s decision to unravel, rework, and expand the original story into a military campaign following a nameless Soldier who voyages from the English countryside to the Scottish Highlands, however, means that London is essentially just another level. While perhaps not as strong artistically, this is still an interesting inversion. The London of the game isn’t the blasted Dead London watched over by dying tripod sentinels – it’s an active, dynamic battleground, swarming with Martian machines, and men and women scrambling to defend themselves against them. The city in the game, with its gung-ho civilians assisting the defence effort in manufacturing and reconnaissance capacities, is as close to a thriving society as anywhere we’ll find. It’s not Dead London; it’s Alive London.
The level’s visuals are some of the game’s most striking. Where the first two levels were largely green, the action playing out in little English fields and woods, this one renders urban environments in red and yellow, in brown and beige and orange, the sky a washed-out pastel void evoking dusk as well as dawn. The game’s fairly novel technique of using processed, downsampled photographs of real buildings as textures gives the proceedings a slightly uncanny quality, like we’re lost in an ancient prototype of Google Street View. According to Big Ben, the level takes place at ten past seven, and the clock’s reflection agrees, even though reflections aren’t meant to work like that. Our gammy compass indicates that the sun is in the west, meaning it’s evening, but then again, it also claims that Big Ben is directly north of Westminster Bridge. Time does not pass here. This is an unreal London, constructed from abstractions and symbols, like the Eleven-Day Empire of Faction Paradox, where shadows breed and Unkindnesses roam. The previous levels’ dim skyline hinted at distant cities, and although we’ve now arrived, those same silhouettes remain, seeming more dark and alien, their towers impossibly tall now that we’ve seen the game’s toy-like rendition of Big Ben up-close. And the palace is the centrepiece of it all, its face haunted with meaning, its neo-gothic architecture unique and eerie within the gameworld. Who could ever look upon it and not want chips with HP Sauce?
It’s worth taking a moment to savour the sheer semiotic density of this level. There’s a sense in which “Parliament Is Attacked” is the self-evident and conventional climax of the game, the high-concept Martians-in-London, “are you a bad enough dude to rescue the prime minister” military blitz. The setting is so weighted and fraught with potential and psychogeographic truth that it feels almost silly to provide examples. Any of the civilians we recruit to work in the Factory could feasibly be Jack the Ripper, for instance; Victorian London is just one of those places. The platformer MediEvil 2 (which has a great deal in common with The War of the Worlds) manages to trade its predecessor’s entire fantasy kingdom for it without actually feeling any smaller.
My point is that the developers could easily have set the entire game here without running out of diverse and interesting level concepts, so it’s striking, almost subversive, that they should dispense with the setting so perfunctorily. While the novel has the Martians invade London directly, the game has their initial unit defeated at Horsell Common, with the aliens instead diverting their Cylinders towards the Highlands, where they can strategise and build up their forces for a war that’s far more evenly-matched than the one Wells envisioned. For the player, the game isn’t a journey into the urban heart of an invaded Britain but a journey away from it, towards the red-weed-entangled rural base of the Martians themselves. In an admittedly abstract sense, this might be the game’s largest divergence from Wells: it’s a story about voyaging into wilderness to destroy something lurking there.
The park in “Parliament Is Attacked” contains some mounds of fallen leaves. This might seem like a throwaway aesthetic touch, but it has rather significant resonances in the album. The only song completely unrepresented in the games, “Forever Autumn” is an effort to humanise the main character – an elegiac, syrupy, orchestral love song representing the Journalist’s torment upon arriving at Carrie’s house to find her missing. In another dubious distinction, the track was not even created for The War of the Worlds, but began life as a jingle written by Wayne for a 1969 Lego advertisement; the lyrics were added three years later by the musical duo Vigrass and Osborne, whose version of the song Wayne subsequently enlisted Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward to cover for the album, in a role credited as “The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist”. This crowbarred nature shows – it’s also the only track not to contain any references to the Martian invasion (which at least meant it required minimal editing for radio play – it did well in the charts). It’s absurd to imagine “Forever Autumn” in the game without such heavy remixing as to render it tonally unrecognisable, and while that would certainly have been an interesting prospect, it seems that the composers opted not to even attempt it. However, I like to think that the level’s park is a subtle tribute to the missing track – it perfectly matches the autumnal setting implied in the imagery of the song, which even begins with the sound of Big Ben bonging in the distance. By extension, it serves as a quiet little acknowledgement of the original story’s thread of human emotion, something for which the game itself has no room.
Rather than the more intuitive choice of “Dead London”, the third level is set to a version of “The Eve of the War”. As the album’s opening track, and the closest thing it has to a recurring main theme, “The Eve of the War” gets two remixes, distinguished by the parentheticals “Human” and “Martian” (a holdover from the PC game, in which the player can control either the human or Martian army). They’re both energetic techno reworkings of the original song, each one incorporating sounds that the album uses more in association with the corresponding side of the war. This level features the former, “The Eve of the War (Human)”, which spends a fair amount of time coasting on its simple techno beat, mainly using samples and motifs drawn straight from the original song. Since “The Eve of the War” introduces the infamous “dum-dum-dummmmm” orchestral hook with which Wayne signifies the terror of the Fighting-Machines, it makes sense to pair it with this, one of the game’s more iconographically climactic levels. That refrain recurs frequently throughout the album, including at the climax of “Dead London”, and really it works for any level. While the “Human” remix is the more conservative of the two, it authentically captures the sweeping, enticing colour of the album’s overture – lunatic harpsichord and alien piping and all – grafting it well to the 1990s techno-rave style that was decided-on for the games’ sound. Though only half the length of the original track, it does preserve enough of its structure that you can almost follow the story if you know it – the lull as the Journalist talks over the nights of the Cylinder’s voyage, and the soft descent into tense reflection as he describes just how normal the evening of first contact felt.
Uniquely, the image which accompanies “The Eve of the War (Human)” in the game’s music-player menu is not part of the album artwork itself, but comes from an associated poster by Peter Elson, an English science-fiction illustrator. Elson’s work, which generally foregrounds detailed studies of humans or advanced engineering against deep, vast landscapes, is very much in keeping with the album’s trippy 1970s sci-fi aesthetic. (Incidentally, Elson also illustrated many Virgin New Adventures novels, and as such had a significant hand in defining the visual aesthetics of Doctor Who in the 1990s.) This particular painting focuses on a Handling-Machine as it harvests humans in a field, a moment which occurs in “The Spirit of Man”, with the detail of the church steeple in the background suggesting that this is a direct depiction of what the Journalist sees while hiding in the ruined house with Parson Nathaniel. Three Fighting-Machines loom over a forest in the background (all Martian designs hewing closely to Mike Trim’s artwork), with only wisps of smoke and flickers of fire beneath to indicate their activities. Elson sets the scene in broad daylight, allowing a clear blue sky and a few wispy cirrus clouds to dominate. The overall impression is almost aggressively un-gothic, with the pleasant pastoral landscape making for an interesting contrast with the micro-level brutality taking place in the foreground – it’s easy to miss the tiny fleeing human figures, or the man being deposited into the Handling-Machine’s basket for processing.
Anyway, back to the actual level. “Parliament Is Attacked” isn’t paced as strictly as some of the others. A few times, after we’ve completed out latest objective, our commander seems to shrug and tells us to build up our army, meaning that there’s some variance in how many useless vehicles we might lying around by the end. Eventually, we’re informed that a Military Engineer is making his way down the Thames by barge, with plans to upgrade the Armoured Car. It’s allegedly our job to ensure he arrives safely, but the Flying-Machines really seem to drop the ball on this one – literally the only way he won’t make it is if we blow up his barge ourselves. There are three, but the first two are apparently decoys, as nothing at all changes if we destroy those. (Look, when you play a game as many times as I’ve played this one, you’ll end up trying everything at least once.) The Engineer disembarks on a sequestered little stone walkway, not entirely unlike the one where you find that weird truck near the SS Anne in Pokémon Red and Blue. This pier is only accessible via the park, but players will generally figure out how to get there early enough to make the on-screen messages about using the destroyed building as a ramp even weirder than they already are. If the vehicle carrying the Engineer is destroyed, another Engineer appears in the same spot where we found the first. (Or maybe he survives and goes back. Whatever.) If we leave him alone, the Martians kill him after a few minutes.
If we bring the Engineer to the Factory, though, we’re rewarded with more beams of light from the top three floors and the news that we can now build the Armoured Car V2. Visually speaking, the new vehicle is a palette-swap, switching the V1’s dark green for sky blue. This may seem slightly disappointing, but the V2 quickly proves itself one of the most fun vehicles in the game: as well as moving slightly but significantly faster than the V1, it has a far superior rate of fire, launching multiple cannonballs per second – it feels like the only limitation is how rapidly you can tap the trigger. The V2 takes the same amount of time to make, but will set you back a steep four heaps of Scrap. (Not that it matters much – those things respawn pretty much instantly.) The Armoured Car is the only vehicle in the game with an upgraded version, but rather than feeling lazy, it actually makes me wish there were a few more.
It’s about this point that it becomes clear just how weird this game’s combination of strategic resource-management and rudimentary arcade combat is. If this were a proper strategy game, there would be a wide variety of options open to us at any moment – research trees, choices between alternative technologies, and units that can be assigned a variety of behaviours, with the interrelated choices we make in each of these areas dynamically determining how play unfolds. This game has none of those. More precisely, it has very rudimentary versions of each – the bare bones of strategy, but funnelled into linear vehicular-action-based gameplay. We can set up a Cannon across from Westminster, or not. We can build a couple of Armoured Cars, or not; upgrade the Factory to produce the V2, or not. Ultimately, though, all of these optional tasks are presented sequentially, and most have moderate rewards that it’s quite possible to do without. Regardless of whether we fulfil our optional objectives, the game doesn’t allow us much time to build reinforcements, so there’s no real sense of having to think ahead and make the most of a complex situation and set of resources.
I suppose what I’m really saying is that the War of the Worlds game isn’t actually that good. More importantly, it doesn’t need to be: the peculiar combination of aesthetics and music, artwork and character, writing and atmosphere, and interactivity and intertextuality produce a complex alchemical reaction that can really only be appreciated on its own terms. More people would do well to remember that video games are not toasters: while they bear the additional burden of mechanical standards to which other media are not held, to appreciate them primarily in terms of technical product functionality is to miss out on an infinitely rich universe of untidy creativity. In other words, broken games deserve love too.
Later in the level, after the Engineer situation is resolved one way or another, things escalate. Over in the far corner of the map – the one whose only defining feature is the ominous blocked road to a darkened hill – the game’s first boss-type enemy makes its appearance: the Scanning-Machine. Another of the games’ original creations, this enemy takes Trim’s Handling-Machine design as its starting point, retaining the great low silver body and green bug-eyes, and turning everything else up to eleven. A huge, slow-moving, four-legged monstrosity, the Scanning-Machine compensates for its slightly less alien structure with two gigantic radio aerials emerging from its head. Nowadays, watching it meander through the comparably-scaled buildings like a proper movie monster, it reminds me more than anything of Pacific Rim – on the one hand, it resembles the kaiju Onibaba, its design a fusion of crab and altar, while on the other it presages the goofy inventiveness of Cherno Alpha, the Russian jaeger with a cooling tower for a head.
The Scanning-Machine moves ponderously, slowly, inexorably. “Destroy it before it completes it’s objective,” instructs our commander, presumably making the typographical error due to stress. The route taken by the machine is circuitous and irregular. Every few seconds, it comes to a halt, evidently something it needs to do in order to scan the area for human units. If we’re within a certain radius of it during these moments, the Scanning-Machine detects us, and sends a horde of Flying-Machines towards our location. Eventually, it becomes clear that the Scanning-Machine’s goal is the destruction of the Factory, which will result in a game-over. It has its own Heat-Ray, but will only ever use it against its ultimate target. Capable of absorbing a huge amount of damage, the Scanning-Machine is a real challenge to defeat with anything other than the Platform or a V2.
Once the enemy has been vanquished, there is a period of peace in which we can continue building reinforcements. After this lull, the level arrives at its eponymous event: the Martians launch a last-ditch, all-out offensive on the Houses of Parliament. Our commander begins communicating entirely in upper-case letters, apparently even more stressed-out than earlier, though that’s understandable considering that he’s probably inside. The assault is two-pronged, with a continuous stream of Flying-Machines descending upon the palace and a series of Scout-Machines marching from the darkness on the far side of the Thames to join them. It seems that you’re supposed to use the Cannon, but really you’re better off just parking the Platform or a V2 on the destroyed bridge, a superior vantage-point that’s also closer to the action. Unlike any other building in the game, Parliament is treated as modular, with four sections that can be destroyed separately – only one of which needs survive the onslaught in order for us to win.
Every level in The War of the Worlds is based on some real location in Britain, usually a town or city, to some degree of abstraction or other. This is the only one where that abstraction collapses, literally using a real building as an in-level landmark. Reality and game intersect. I’ve never been able to look at a picture of Westminster without thinking about parking my Mobile Anti-Aircraft Platform on the ruined bridge and using it to fend off Flying-Machines, and I probably never will. Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD? War of the Worlds level three. Opening sequence of The Prisoner? War of the Worlds level three. The “Nationwide” Monty Python sketch? War of the Worlds level three. So it goes.
Oddly, no Fighting-Machines at all participate in the battle for London – there are no great tripods wading down the Thames, except for the one in the game-over sequence. Instead, the level restricts itself to the aforementioned low-level grunts, with the Scanning-Machine serving as our lone proper opponent. This may feel a little anti-climactic, but the limiting of its appearances does help the Fighting-Machine regain a little of its iconic mystique.
Since there are two major “sieges” in which we defend buildings from a Martian onslaught, this is probably the first level in which the game’s AI for human vehicles we’re not currently controlling is actually somewhat useful. An unattended vehicle will never drive anywhere, but will lazily turn to fire at any passing alien machines. Like the enemies, friendly vehicles seem not to bother attacking unless they’re within our line of sight. However, when parked at the site of a difficult battle, their half-hearted assistance can occasionally make a difference.
Fight off the successive waves of Martians and the level is won. However, I’ve always found having to defend Parliament from imperialist invaders a bit strange, considering what its residents were getting up to elsewhere in the world at this time. Located at opposite corners of the map, the palace and the Factory seem to represent the old and the new, the ruling class and the workers, and both must collaborate and survive in order to defeat the imperialist invaders. It’s hardly the most radical message, reminding me more than anything of the conciliatory handshake that serves as the compromised “happy ending” of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (a film Wells despised). It’ll cost you the level, but the temptation to go full V for Vendetta is always there. Luckily, however, there’s an unintentional work-around: if you time things very carefully, it’s actually possible to destroy Parliament in the few seconds that pass between successfully defending it and the game loading the next level. That’s the ideal way to finish this one, I think. Wells offers us only a few tantalising hints of the post-war world, but if we’re changing history enough to add an alien invasion at the beginning of the twentieth century, there are a few other things I’d like to tweak.
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