Defcon – PC review

The plight suffered by today’s modern day gaming developer is plain to see. Over the last decade we’ve seen so many independents either swallowed up by one of the big boys, or simply forced out of the business full stop.

But one talented little group by the name of Introversion Software is still fighting the good fight by releasing some cracking titles on the PC.

First we had the hacking orientated Uplink, a title dripping with atmosphere and tension. Second, an incredibly stylish twist on the traditional RTS genre by the name of Darwinia.

And now – inspired by John Badman’s film WarGames – here's Introversion's take on the threat of thermonuclear warfare. So, we’ve gone from cutesy green Darwinians to millions of deaths in a single stroke. Nice.

A multiplayer title - though single player "AI bots" are included for those wanting to practice on their own or those lacking chums - Defcon let's us play ... say it ... global thermonuclear war.

Oh and everybody dies.

To say we’re fans of Introversion’s previous titles is a bit like saying thermonuclear war would be a "bit bad" for those who don’t particularly like the idea of death.

So it’s pleasing to be able to say that Defcon is a worthy contender for multiplayer title of the year, if not game of the year full stop.

Instead of the blood and guts that the big boys would have served up, we’ve been given a stylish and simplistic viewpoint of the world at large with tiny two dimensional icons and simple text informing you of the millions you’ve killed or lost.

Obviously it’s the stylish neon graphical interface that first hits you like a bolt from the proverbial blue. It’s not quite as "sunglasses required" as the film Tron can be, but it’s certainly a gorgeous representation of the world at large.

You start the game at Defcon 5, allowing you to place your radar dishes to detect the enemy’s oncoming hordes of missiles. You then set down missile silos that double up as points of defence at a mere mouse click.

Finally, you place submarines, battleships and carriers and you’re raring to go. Each unit has their own specific task and where you set each before the real action starts to heat up can make or break the game.

Your subs can stealthily make their way to enemy territory and eventually fire off a few nuclear powered rounds, but only if their carriers haven’t slipped into anti-sub sonar mode and destroyed your potential death bringers with a few handily place depth charges.

It’s the time taken switching between these modes that really gets the old grey matter working. Although firing off a barrage of nuclear weapons as soon as Defcon 1 hits may seem like a good idea, it shows up exactly where your silos sit. You then face a nervy few minutes waiting for them to return to their defensive modes before you’re able to fight off a retaliatory strike.

Verdict

The game’s tag line "everybody dies" is very apt. No matter how good you are, or how adept your strategic brain is, one of your cities is going to get hit. It’s not about who wins, but who loses least.

We haven’t even started on forming alliances yet, but giving it all away would be akin to telling you that the world doesn't blow up at the end of WarGames. Oops.

You’ll enjoy every second that you learn and adore every second you play. At £10, if you pass up on this opportunity, you don’t deserve to call yourself a gamer.

Now go raise merry hell.