Review of Defender
The original Defender game was a landmark arcade hit that set games into a whole new direction. It was a free roaming, 2D side scroller that not only involved shooting things (like aliens of course), but added an extra dimension by urging gamers to also rescue helpless, stranded humans from the onslaught of invaders. It managed to tug on gamers emotions and brought out the “hero” syndrome in all who played it.
The new defender thankfully is able to capture this special feeling and actually add to it with missions that not only involve rescuing handfuls of people, but entire ships and colonies. Failure to successfully complete some missions result in the death or transformation of thousands of people…how’s that for pressure J.
The game takes place right here in our own Solar System and covers some of the planets and moons that revolves around our Sun. It seems that the dreaded Manti have invaded our system and have already taken over planet Earth and its moon. Many areas are now unstable and it is up to the player to set things right.
The game plays out in missions where the player takes his commands from Colonel Adams. You will be working for the GSA (Galactic Stargate Authority), which has been formed with the intent to try and save the human race. Traveling to distant locations has been made simple with the use of Stargates. These little beauties, which are located on the planets surface can “teleport” Defender ships to other planets in the blink of an eye. Of course, the Manti are always destroying (or trying to) them, so they cannot always be depended upon to be there when you need one.
The first couple of missions are actually training exercises. Here gamers will be able to get a feel for how their ship controls and handles. You will also be able to test out the destructive powers of the ships and learn how to pick up survivors/hostages and return them to a safe haven. Once the training is complete, it is on to Mars where a ceremony is taking place to celebrate the commissioning of the largest battleship ever built by the human race, called simply Memory. Of course, all hell breaks loose and players will get their first real feel for combat, and saving people.
The new Defender plays out in 3D as opposed to its 2D side-scrolling parent. The ships can barrel roll, strafe and freely roam around the environment. Strangely enough though, the developers have somehow managed to preserve the “feel” of the original Defender. I find it hard to explain, since the two games are so different in their looks, but I immediately just knew I was playing a Defender title…and that’s a very good thing.
The ships (there are six to choose from…two at the start and four more that become available through promotions) control very responsively and maneuverability was never an issue throughout the game. Each ship has two primary weapons and upgrades that can be added as credits are accumulated. Some of the weapons feature a lock-on command, which is very useful. Those that don’t are generally more difficult to use, but are quite functional non-the-less. Enemy ships can be targeted by pressing the down button on the directional stick, so even if you are using a weapon that doesn’t lock onto the enemy, they can at least still be targeted. Each ship also comes with a more powerful secondary weapon (which has limited ammo). Truth be told, some of the secondary weapons on certain ships really aren’t weapons at all, but instead are things like Hyper Space and Shields. The secondary weapon is quite a bit more powerful…but the limited ammo make it a “cautious to use” solution.
The gameplay is just as hectic and frantic as the original with aliens appearing all over the place, additional missions being tossed out in mid gameplay and stranded survivors waving to you to be picked up and saved. Picking up stranded people is as simple as flying over them…they will latch onto the outside of the ship and hang there until they are brought to a safe drop zone or you intentionally drop them elsewhere by pressing the R3 button. Each time a person is deposited, power-ups will appear above the drop zone that will fix your ship, replenish weapons, etc. To add an additional strategic element to the combat, Defender also includes ground tanks and missile launchers that can be placed to assist your aerial assault.
Each ship has its own attributes; some are supremely fast and agile, but rather low on armor while others are like friggin’ tanks but are slow as turtles. Getting a feel for each ship is crucial, because depending on the mission, players will want to pick the ship that best suits it for success. Besides, using the same ship over and over again is boring…where’s the fun, the challenge?
Lastly, as players’ progress further into the game, more than one mission becomes available at a time. It doesn’t really matter though which mission is chosen, as the other one will still be there waiting once the prior one is completed. To add some replay value and spice things up, there is a multi-player option that consists of two main games; Deathmatch and Cooperative. In Deathmatch, gamers are pitted against one another in a head to head battle to the finish. The first to destroy the other players ship is the winner. In Cooperative mode two players can team up to rescue the colonists and dispatch the deadly Manti.
The opening CGA clips and between mission cut scenes are very well done and exhibit a grand, epic feel to them. Heck, they could probably be seemed together to make a pretty damn good short story. At any rate, they are definitely worth watching at least once.
The in game graphics are quite outstanding. Comparing this to the pixilated, sprite-based original is just not fair. The game has undergone such a graphical facelift that even veterans of the original will have to smile with delight. The reason? Well, special care was obviously taken to retain the base style of the Defender ship and aliens, while bringing the game into this generation of consoles. Anyone watching will quickly realize this is a Defender game…just looking worlds better than ever before.
The ship models are nicely detailed and textured with lots of little moving parts like gun turrets, wing flaps, etc. The real treat though is the Manti models. Not only do they look really good, but the animation of the creatures is top notch. People that are not fond of bugs will surely get the “willies” watching them move about the screen.
The backgrounds are also generously detailed with a ton of animation and superb draw distance. I was very impressed with all of the detail and action that takes place, and yet the game experienced no slowdown at any time.
The sound effects are really top notch as well. The ship sounds in particular were incredible. There is also a lot of cross talk and chatter going on during battle (base to ship) and loads of explosions and weapons sounds. I also thought that the voiceovers were good with the Colonel’s narration by each mission as well as Memory’s digital voice conveying information during battle and updates between missions.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Defender' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 7 Defender in-game screenshot slideshow
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