Review: DEFCON

This one was another fun to do review. Credit must also go to my friend Andrew Lamb (AKA B0FH) for the log contributions.

Original Article Here

Defcon will blow you away! Defcon is exploding with fun! Defcon will ignite gamers everywhere! Right, there’s my nuclear bomb pun quota for this review maxed out, lets get down to buisness. Introversion Software are indeed, everything a gamer could ask for in a games development company. They’re fun (they’ve been known to dress in full costume when previewing their games), they’re honest (When Darwinia won the grand prize at the Independant Games festival last year, they famously announced that they “didn’t want publishers f(iddling – family friendly Ed) with our game” and finally, they make games that they themselves want to play. They did it once with Uplink, twice with Dawrinia and I’m pleased to say, they’ve made it a hat trick with Defcon. So why is thier latest game – based on seventies flick WarGames – just so fun to play? Let’s take a look at why Defcon is the (nuclear) bomb! (You’re fired – Ed).

From the logs of Kommandant B0FH:
…So, the capitalist pigs think they can just live in peace thinking that glorious Mother Russia lies dormant? No! We have our plan of attack, fighting those yank bastards on both fronts. I have issued orders to our airfields to get stocked up with fighters & munitions, and for the RADAR stations to go to full alert – no doubt the pigs will notice ourmilitary movements and upgrade their Def-Con as appropriate. It is of no consiquence however – victory shall be ours my comrades!

DEFCON Screenie 1

You see, IV’s games usually have a few things in common, and Defcon is no exception. Simplistic visuals mask what can be a complex, yet very rewarding gameplay dynamic. Defcon’s looks are simplistic, but absolutely perfect. You see, the game, being about Global Thermonuclear War, is really a rather dark subject matter. Heck, the aim of the (default) game is to cause as many civillian casualties of your oppoents cites as you can, while minimising the losses of your own territory. The game divides players up into one of six teams, based roughly on exsisting global superpowers, and gives one point for every million deaths to an oppoent you cause, while taking away a point for every million of your survivors lost. With such a dark theme, the visuals don’t need to be all HDR tech, realistic shadows and lighting. Defcon’s stylised graphics are perfectly cold and distanced, and the eerie glow from the map – moreso from the flying nukes – gives off a chilling atmosphere that can really engross a player into the game. When a nuke makes a hit, a huge white circle engulfs the former city, and pop up text announces the millions dead. It’s cold, caluculated and so perfect for the game.

…Defcon 3 has been reached, and still little sign of the American bastards. Is their CinC hiding in that big white house of his? No matter. The Atlantic Ocean is ours, with no sign of American forces anywhere. Our carriers and submarines surge through the cold waters towards the cities of New York and Florida respectively. Our Pacific fleet is almost in position, with 2 battlegroups of Destroyers escorting our carriers, and a diversionary fleet of submarines is moving up from the South American coast. We’re forced to enter Defcon 2 as the yankees open up on our destroyer fleet. However the battle is reletively short, with our nuclear carriers and MRBM carrying subs in position to strike on my command…

DEFCON Screenie 2

The gameplay itself sees an average game go through five stages – or defcon levels – in which different things happen. In Defcon 1 (peacetime) and 2 (alert) you xan only place units – radars for seeing other units and, more importantly, nukes. Silos act as both your main weapons of mass destruction, but they also happen to be the only things that can shoot nukes down. So you generally place them near your heavily populated areas for protection. Airfields will let you launch bombers (which can carry a single nuke each) and fighters, which can shoot down bombers, subs or ships and finally, the Naval units – Battleships (can shoot at other ships) Carriers (mobile airfields) and subs, which are invisible to everything except carriers, AND can launch nukes. At Defcon 3 and 2, ships can start firing at each other, and fighters can “buzz” areas for intel, and then finally, at Defcon 1, the launching of nukes can begin! However, you cannot place any units after Defcon 4, so in fact you pay for your mistakes later on – which is actually a fasntastic concept, as you try and work out how to make the best of a bad situation further into the game.

…Defcon 1 is reached, and passes with no warnings. My fleets move into final striking position, but we have a problem. Our far northern RADAR facility has been hit multiple times by nuclear strike bombers, as has the silo it was stationed near. For their insolence a full scale bombing run is launched simultaniously on the east and west coasts of the United States. Many military structures are damaged (some obliterated), and the mighty cities of New York and Washington DC were the first to feal the iron fist of Soviet agression! As time progressed the eastern seaboard to a huge battering, leaving less than a million people in the major cities. The west coast and northern cities are more heavily defended however, and fewer losses are seen…

DEFCON Screenie 3

Once Defcon 1 is reached, this game comes into it’s own. It’s like a Western, only instead of fingers twitching over guns in holsters, fingers start twitching over launch buttons. It’s always tense to see who will shoot who first, and like any good multiplayer RTS alliances can be made and are frequently broken. Do you trust your African neighbour to stay on your side if his subs are so close to one of your major cities? It’s the detail in every unit that makes the game so tense, thrilling and -the hallmark of any good strategy, the abilty to make you think. For instance, you have to be careful with silos, because they can also be destroyed by a couple of well placed nukes – therefore you must make a decision. Is it worth leaving that area undefended in order to strike a nuke at the population center of your enemy? Or is it best to play it safe and wait a little while longer? Considering that when you finally do launch a nuke, your silos are made clear to everybody, this gives a fasntastic tatical dynamic to the game, and can make for some really game making descions.

…The pathetic yank surrenders after realising his nuclear arsenel infliscts so few casualties amung the loyal conscripts of the Soviet Union. Too bad he signals his surrender after I ordered the launch of all remaining nuclear weapons. We’ll see how many citizens are left after the radiation clears, to join under the flag of the might hammer & sickle! TRANSMISSION ENDS

DEFCON Screenie 4

You see, there’s so much more I could say about Defcon. The haunting music coupled with the spooky coughing as you wipe out the population of London making for quite possibly one of the best audio experiences in a game ever. The simplicity of the game to pick up, yet so hard to master. The superb “big mode” which makes the world twice the size, and twice the backstabbing. The well balanced teams and gameplay, the other game modes that you can play including speed Defcon (make a game last 15 minutes) to Office Mode (a game played out in real time, that lasts SIX HOURS!). The handy double tapping of Escape that minimizes the game to the system tray, for when you really should be doing something more important. The screams of both elation and terror as you wipe out the population of Cario, only to realise a well placed fleet of submarines is just about to anihilate the UK. The fact that this game has made us say so many new phrases for smack talk we probably can’t print them all here (“Ha! I just screwed up evolution in San Franciso for the next few generations!”) But I don’t have the time or the wordcount to express it here. Defcon is quite simply, the multiplayer Global Thermonuclear War sim. It may be the first, but it’s really hard to see anything beating it.

Quite simply, we love Defcon. It’s an experience unlike any other, and if all is fair in love and war, we love IV’s war. Defcon will make you realise why Introversion make games they want to play;

It’s because we want to play their games too.

Final Score: 93%

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One Response to Review: DEFCON

  1. […] If you haven’t read my review yet, then I implore you do that now, as that says the workload of what I want to say about this game. But moreover than that, on a personal level, it’s so brilliant to see a company like Introversion kepp going from strength to strength. Call it a load of whiny baby underdog supporting crap if you must, but Introversion are pretty much the quintessential British games Development studios, just as they used to be in the good old days of the Amiga, when games were distributed through true popularity, and a marketing budget was the phone bill of calling their friends to tell them how good their latest game was. Or a stamp, if they did it through the postal service. They show that there is room in today’s industry for simplicity. And what it lacks in polyogns, it makes up for in sheer playability. It is, at it’s heart a game. And everything a game should be. I’d go so far as to say my Game of the Year, if I had such a title to give out. Absolutely fan-friggin’-tastic. Go on: Nuke A Buddy today! Other Game You Really Should Play: The Ship […]

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