reviews\ Nov 9, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Defender - PS2 - Review

Following hot on the heels of its successful remake of Spy Hunter, Midway is now releasing Defender, a remake of the highly addictive shooter from the early 80’s.  The basic formula has been retained, but the game features improved 3D graphics, a techno soundtrack, and several tweaks in the gameplay.  While not very deep, Defender is an action packed game that any shooter fan should enjoy.


The story for Defender isn’t anything special, but it serves its purpose as a typical science fiction story.  Earth has been overrun by an alien species called the Manti, who consume human DNA in order to survive.  Humanity fled to the outer reaches of the solar system, and became scattered and weak.  As the Manti prepare for a second assault, the human race decides to strike back and regain control of the solar system.  Your job as a pilot is to fly in, destroy the Manti threat, and rescue any colonists before the Manti can get to them.


The simplistic gameplay has been changed a bit, but still remains true to the original game.  You fly around in one of two available planes (the number increases to six as you progress through the game), shooting down enemies and rescuing the colonists.  You must carry the colonists to drop zones before the Manti have a chance to get them.  Once the Manti capture them, you only have a few moments to get to and rescue them.  If you fail to save the colonists after they’ve been captured, the colonists will fuse with the Manti and become a Mutant, which are very difficult to defeat.  Among the variations in the gameplay are escort missions, in which you must provide cover fire for other crafts until they get safely to their destination.  The game also features some very limited Real Time Strategy elements that involve carrying tanks and other military units into the heat of battle or taking colonists to certain units, which they can then use against the Manti.


The game’s controls are very responsive and the ships handle very nicely.  The L2 and R2 shoulder buttons control your acceleration and deceleration, respectively, and the left analog stick controls your direction.  The right analog stick is used for stunt moves, like barrel rolls and loops.  These stunt moves are pretty handy while dodging enemy fire, since the action can get pretty intense.


The graphical presentation overall is pretty good.  The planes look fantastic, as they are very detailed and contain such touches as wear-and-tear from battle and the like.  The environments look fairly well, although they seem pretty plain from a distance.  The game also boasts a great deal of special effects, from a colored haze that surrounds enemies and allies to impressive explosions and lighting effects.  The game manages to maintain a pretty consistent frame rate, with slowdown occurring only when the action gets a little too intense.


The game’s sound is pretty nice as well.  The soundtrack is composed of techno music, and features a track from KMFDM, a cover of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, the song from 2001: Space Odyssey.  The voice acting is also fair.  While the script is pretty cheesy, that’s to be expected when dealing with such a story.  The sound effects consist of the basic explosions and “whooshing” plane sounds, while a few sounds from the original arcade game have been put in for nostalgia.


Defender isn’t at all very deep, so those expecting something along the lines of a flight sim will be sorely disappointed.  However, fans of the original game will find a very faithful update of a beloved classic.  Defender is a fun arcade-style shooter with no shortage of action.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details

 Gameplay: 8.0
While the gameplay is dirt simple and not at all deep, this adds a bit to the game’s charm.  The planes all handle very responsively.  The action is at times very intense, and the limited RTS elements are a nice touch.


Graphics: 8.5
While the environments seem a little plain at a distance, the plane models look fabulous.  The enemy models are also very faithfully done.  The frame rates stay pretty solid, slowing down only during very intense action sequences.


 Sound: 8.0
The techno soundtrack works nicely with the style of the game, and the voice acting is not too bad.  The sound effects are par for the course, yet the inclusion of sound effects from the original Defender is a nice touch.


Difficulty: Medium


 Concept: 8.5
The story has been done, though it still fits with the rest of the game.  The game does an excellent job of being faithful to the original game while creating a different experience.


Multiplayer: 8.0
The game has two two-player modes, a co-op and a deathmatch mode. These are both pretty nice, although a four-player mode or maybe even online play would have been fantastic.


 Overall: 8.0
Defender is a straightforward action game that keeps true to the feel of its predecessor.  Anyone looking for a twitchy-finger arcade-style game with plenty of action should get a kick out of Defender, while those expecting a deep flight sim need not apply.  


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