Defender
System: Playstation 2
Publisher: Midway
Developer: 7 Studios
Released: October 2002
Genre: Shooter
Capabilities: Memory Card & Dual Shock 2 Analog & Vibration Feedback compatible

Review Written: December 13, 2002

The Game

I never grew up in the arcades in the 80ís. I opted to stay at home with my trusty NES. Itís too bad I missed out on all the classic hits like Missile Command, Pac-Man, Robotron, and the title thatís the main focus of this review, Defender. A while later I picked up an Atari 2600 at its most common homestead, the garage sale. That was when I got my first dose of the original Defender. Just like most of the other aforementioned games above, this one hooked me to its unique and creative game mechanics when compared to everything else in Defenderís era. With remakes of classic games now being the latest craze in the gaming industry, it was only in due time when Midway redid one of its best selling titles of all time. They did a stupendous job with Spy Hunter last year; letís see if they can keep up the pace. 

Story

The plot we all remember from the original is still in tact here, except for this time the hideous alien race known to us as the Manti are kicking our ass!  They now have full control of Earth and Mars, and the humans had to evacuate to its far planets in other solar systems. You are Kyoto, a rookie pilot that hopes to achieve the need for speed as you progress your way through the galaxy in hopes of getting Earth back to the humans before they become extinct.  

Graphics

I didnít know what to expect from Midway at first. My first impressions of the in game visuals were that they were a rip off of Star Fox 64. That changed in minutes as I dug deeper and found a plethora of elements to give Defender its own distinctiveness. The explosions are the main thing that sticks out. They look spectacular from any angle, and did I mention the warped graphics behind your spacecraft? Directly behind your exhaust of flames from your craft youíll see a little spot of blurred graphics, giving it the perfect sensation that youíre maneuvering the vehicle. The FMVís that occur during specific missions are amazing, and caught me by surprise on how much work the developers put into these. They provide many dramatic and comedic moments in the storyline. Donít skip over them like we all tend to do in most games because these ones are actually good!

The ships themselves also look terrific. Each of the several kinds you encounter has its own traits that separate them from the rest of the pack. The new 3D models for the Manti are extraordinary! The classic monsters we remember such as the landers and mutants have a memorizing look to them. The landscapes you run across will leave a few dazzling expressions too after you encounter the rough landscapes of Mars, and the all-too-familiar stars of the galaxy. All the animations for the blasts, explosions, and gunfire look amazing in a solid frame rate that excels for the most part, but disappoints when dozens of foes appear in front of you which causes things to get extremely choppy. One other flaw in the visuals is that the collision detection can be a bit off at points. For example, colliding into a building sometimes wonít phase your ship whatsoever, and beams fired at you that appear to miss you by a mile result in damage. It can make game play get frustrating sometimes.

Sound

The first thing that stuck out in this department was the blasts from the turret of your spacecraft sounds exactly the same as it did in the arcade original. Smell the nostalgia baby! The rest of the effects for your acceleration, blasts, and explosions are typical of any other space shooter out there right now. I wasnít expecting some state of the art voice acting, which is rather hard to find in video games today, but Defender caught me off guard. Itís mostly your superior, Colonel Adams who does all the talking. He gives you briefings before and after missions. The deadly tone in his voice instantly reminded me of the commander in Starship Troopers. I was astonished on how good the soundtrack was in Defender. It features exclusive instrumental tracks done by KMFDM and Trigger. Those tracks and the rest of the musical score set the tone for game play, and all combine for a breathtaking experience.

Game play

Defender contains all the fundamentals of a shooter that you come to expect. You can do all the fancy flips and spins with a press on the right analog stick. Shuffle through several special weapons you buy after earning enough points by completing the main game. Each weapon has its own unique ability like locking on to targets, or excelling at close range attacks. Defender still operates like the original where you have to protect bases from the Manti, and rescue colonists before the aliens gobble them up and mutate into a more powerful being. Different level goals will be thrown at you during missions like rescuing a lieutenant, or retrieving a power supply for the humans. There are also different power ups scattered about the allow you to upgrade your weapons! Each level has enough variation, and the game play never gets repetitive.

Thereís one downside about the game play, and thatís the computer AI is too hard, even on the normal difficulty setting! It sucks when you know youíre doing so bad that you have to beat a stage on the easy level of difficulty to advance. Multi player has its ups and downs. Playing co-op with a pal makes the missions easier for you with the right amount of teamwork. The versus play is a bit disappointing, where only up to two people can play at once, and you canít even add computer players to spice things up. One-on-One gets dull very fast, and even the most heated dogfights provide no fun at all.

Replay Value

Youíll spend roughly eight to ten hours to complete all the missions in single player. Playing them again in co-op isnít too shabby either. The versus aspect of multi player isnít anything to go crying home about and your chances of enjoying it are as good as the Vikings making the NFL playoffs this year. There are a couple of entertaining DVD extras in here including a look on the history and making of the original Defender which has some interesting tidbits to be learned. Thereís also a feature on the making of this version of Defender where the developers talk about the problems of keeping the feel of the original game in tact. These two features provide lots of insight and provide you with a better perspective about Defender, and end up as worthy extras and not ďcrappy filler.Ē

In Brief

+: Spectacular graphics, superb soundtrack & voice acting, entertaining DVD extras

-: Frame rate can get very choppy when the screen is loaded with enemies, Poor collision detection, versus multi player sucks balls

RATINGS 

Graphics: 7.8
Sound: 9.0
Game play: 7.5
Replay Value: 6.6

 

Overall: 7.7

Comments

Defender has some key highs and lows, but overall itís still a fun game. After a while youíll probably get burnt out of it and itíll seem like any other shooter out there. The missions are fun to play through once, maybe twice if you want to do it with a buddy in co-op. If youíre a die hard fan of the original, then youíll most likely enjoy this one. For everyone else however, this one will provide just enough entertainment for a weekend rental.

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