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A.P.I Review: WARGAMES: Defcon 1
Developer: Interactive Studios OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: MGM Interactive 1-2 Player
Game Type: Action / Strategy Password Save
Review Date: July 1998 Dual Shock & Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

"Shall we play a game"?  For those of you that have seen the movie
WarGames, you know those few simple words had such a profound yet
innocent meaning when uttered by the WOPR computer.  The WOPR, or Joshua
as it was fondly named, was a super computer used by the US government
for simulated training games and overall management of Government
operations.  One of the more "volatile"" areas of its responsibility was
the computer control systems of the governments nuclear missiles.  Well
one day a hacker accidentally breaks into Joshua and thinking that
Global Thermonuclear War is just a cutting edge game, decides to play
it.  Before you know it, Joshua is running internal programs to crack
the missile codes so he can initiate a real launch!  The computer is
stopped just in time, but the movie leaves you with the question "could
this happen again"?

Wargames: Defcon 1 takes place 20 years after the movie in a world that
wasn't fortunate enough to stop the computer from trying to take over.
It's up to you to either play as NORAD and try to stop the computer or
play as the WOPR and carry out what it believes is just an exercise in
trying to save humanity from harming themselves.

So with all that, "Shall we review the game".... 


WarGames: Defcon 1 is a splendid combination of action packed fun and
strategy laden elements.  The game is played out in real time, so you
best be ready to mobilize your troops and swing them into action at a
moments notice! 


I thought the graphics were pretty well done in WarGames.  Nothing earth
shattering, but completely functional for this type of game.

The entire world you traverse in WarGames is made up of nicely detailed,
texture mapped polygons.  The view shifts nicely around you as you move
along in your mission, but unfortunately there is quite a bit of pop-up
in the over the shoulder mode.  I didn't find it at all annoying or
detracting from the gameplay, just noticeable. 

In the one-player mode everything moves along at a reasonable clip with
no slowdown, even in a heavily populated screen.  Two-player mode
suffers occasional frame rate hits when there is a lot going on in the
screen at once such as multiple explosions with lots of enemies moving
about at the same time.

Explosions and other special effects are nicely rendered.  Destroying
vehicles creates some good particle effects but the real treat is taking
out a tower or main command facility... it looks kinda like when they
blow the old buildings up to make way for new construction, everything
implodes convincingly.  One other really nice effect occurs in
two-player mode.  If your friend arrives at the action scene well ahead
of you, you can see the puffs of smoke billowing over the horizon from
the ensuing battle.  

The weather effects in the game are top notch.  The rain pours down and
creates little splashes as it hits the ground and the snow buffets
around you and the landscape quite convincingly. 

The opening CG intro is nicely done and pretty funny to watch.  I don't
want to spoil it for you, but I will say that it doesn't contain cutting
edge graphics!

Sounds and Effects

The music is nicely varied and presented in this title.  You are treated
to the majestic military style music that successfully inflicts a good
amount of drama and tension to the game.  Each mission appears to have
it's own score that fits the scenarios like a glove.  This is probably
not a game that you will want to turn the music down on.

Sound effects are right on the mark as well.  You get a nice subdued
"splat" sound when you waste one of the foot soldiers.  Other sounds are
also nicely executed like the cannon fire on your tanks, the low bass
rumble of an incoming supply 'copter and hefty explosions for taking out
command centers.  Yep, you'll probably want to keep the sound effects
turned up as well.

We are also treated to some nifty voice-overs.  During battle, commands
are issued and verbally relayed in human voices or mechanical voices
depending on whom you are playing as.  It all sounds like you are
hearing it through a cheap headset (scratchy and off somewhat in the
distance), which I guess is pretty much how it should sound in the
middle of action.  The clincher is the wonderfully digitized voice of
Joshua greeting you at the opening menu with "Shall we play a game?"
What the heck, leave the voice setting cranked up too!


WarGames: Defcon 1 plays a heck of a lot like the classic Return Fire on
steroids.  You are thrown into a real-time combat situation where you
get to take control of the vehicles and drive them to various locales
and wreck havoc.

Starting up the game you get to select which side you would like to
represent; NORAD or WOPR.  You can also choose a split screen two-player 
cooperative mode or two-player deathmatch.  

Bringing up a one-player game for the first time, you are forced to
start at mission one.  Since all of the missions are linear, you have to
complete each one in order before advancing to the next one (unless you
have the passwords!).  The missions ramp up the difficulty level
perfectly with mission one being more of a training mission to get used
to controlling your vehicles and the logistics of the game itself.  Each
successive mission gets progressively more difficult with increasingly
complex sub-missions.  This works just fine, because it would be no fun
to just breeze through 30 odd missions in one sitting now would it?
After completing each mission you are given a password for the next
mission.  The password is issued in a tic tac toe configuration that I
found to be most fitting.

You get a choice of two views, one over the shoulder cam and the other
one a zoomed out view that makes it feel like your looking through a
pair of binoculars that have been turned the wrong way.  Included in
your viewing area is a small radar screen that depicts a satellite view
of the terrain.  Inside the radar screen are oscillating circles that
form around the areas that you need to attack to complete each sub
mission.  There is also a nice little compass that encircles this screen
that is mysteriously absent from the two-player game.  Too bad. 

If you select NORAD you have a choice of controlling jeeps, multiple
kinds of tanks (some really heavy-duty tanks), soldier deployment trucks
and aircraft to name a few.  Playing as WOPR you get to control an
assortment of machines like the airborne Phoenix to the walkers that
strongly resemble the ones from the Star Wars movies.  Firepower and
armor vary from vehicle to vehicle, as does the speed at which they can
travel.  There are lots of trade-offs in the game that form the nucleus
of the strategy elements.  It's imperative that you select the proper
vehicles at the right times or you will not complete your mission.

During battle you can hack into a command center to contact supply
'copters to bring much needed repairs, call in support units, switch
vehicles, call in air-strikes and send vehicles back to base for

Which brings me to my biggest complaint of the game.  Player AI sucks.
Sending a vehicle back to base is often an exercise in futility as the
jeep or tank or whatever it is you are sending back is constantly
running into trees, hills, buildings, whatever and getting stuck.
Aircraft don't seem to have this problem, but ground-based vehicles must
be constantly "nudged" in the right direction or helped to get them
around a sand dune. Errrrr.   Also, if you call in a unit and if you get
lucky and they actually make it to your location in time they usually
end up getting squashed like bugs in short order.  If a little more time
had been spent on this portion of the game it would have all the bases
covered nicely unfortunately as it stands, it's flawed.  What makes it
even stranger is that the enemy AI is pretty damn good!  Go figure...

Enough of my bitching though, once you get past this idiosyncrasy the
game is loads of fun to play both alone and with a friend.   The action
is fast and ferocious as you try to complete the mission before the
timer counts down to Defcon 1.  Very intense and very enjoyable!  

Oh, in two-player mode the screen splits diagonally.  I just thought I
would mention that because it is quite unique and it works extremely
well.  The dual shock feature is also implemented very nicely here.

Value for Money

The game offers you 30 single player missions, the same 30 missions in a
two player cooperative mode and finally 45 variations of deathmatch
games to play against an opponent.  You can play as NORAD or WOPR troops
and there is a generous selection of vehicles for each side.  

Overall it works out nicely to give you some good value for your money.
The only problem is that you may not rush back to the game after you
have completed all of the missions... but that will take a while to do so!
GRAPHICS: 16/20 I really got totally absorbed in WarGames: Defcon 1. The variety of missions and scenarios were very well done and held my interest throughout. The graphics are fine and the sound effects and music top-notch.

I really liked the idea of actually being able to drive around and control the vehicles instead of just issuing commands to place them in selected spots.

The only real downside in the game is the poor player AI. The vehicles that aren't under your direct control tend to wander around aimlessly until you catch up with them and help out.

Overall I would definitely recommend this title as either a solo game or a two-player contest. Its intense, fast action will keep you coming back for more.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20


GRAPHICS: 17/20 This game bears more than a passing resemblance to 'Return Fire', not that there is anything wrong with that, I loved RF and I am glad to see it updated with new graphics and gameplay. Wargames is a real blast to play, especially in 2 player co-op mode.

Not since Diablo have I had so much fun cooperating with gaming friends who I spent most of my time kicking the hell out of (fighting games). It's a real breath of fresh air to be able to coordinate a battle and execute a plan in the way that Wargames allows you.

The gameplay is awesome, and as a bonus, the sound and graphics are pretty good too.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20


GRAPHICS: 17/20 Since I am probably the worlds biggest fan of the Command & Conquer series I was interested to see how WarGames matched up. Sadly it was - no contest!

Yeah, it looks pretty.
Okay, the sounds are cool.
But the AI of the vehicles sadly lets down the gameplay.
Not only did I constantly have to sweep back over the battlefield to 'mother' my trailing forces - help my aircraft down from being tangled in a tree, lift my tiny jeep over a not very steep sand dune, squeeze my boat back out of the too small entrance of the harbor... - but on 'oh too many' occasions, the vehicle I was controlling became completely jammed into the side of the map.

The really sad thing about the lack of AI within your team is that the enemies AI is fantastic. Shame!

Having just completed a lengthy two player split-screen series of war games I comment as such:
Two player Cooperative is much more fun to play than a single player game. The idea that you can plan an attack and charge in at two different angles in far more realistic than the 'one vehicle at a time' single player mode. Unfortunately the missions are far too easy to complete when you double up your attack.

Two player Deathmatch is slightly less fun because the playing areas seem a little too small and it quickly becomes an endless stalemate game of 'While you grab my flare, I'll grab yours'. It would probably have been a far better idea to leave out the radar screen for this mode of play, thus allowing you to stumble upon your opponents camp instead of heading there directly.

WarGames just makes me more exited at the prospect of C&C Retaliation looming on the horizon.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 15/20


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