Review by GMitchell

"Slick, sharp shootin' falootin' fun"

Midway’s remake of Defender is very good shooter. It may not be a deep game with tons of complexity, but it’s an extremely fun blast-em-up that will keep you coming back for more. Fans of the classic 80’s game will find a lot of similarities to the original arcade program, and in general fans of shooters will be quite amused.

Though Defender looks at first like a kind of flight sim, it’s really not. The controls are both simple and good, just like a great arcade game. You basically tell the ship where to go, and it does so. It’s a mission-based alien blasting fest that involves some subtle strategy from time to time, quick reflexes, and perseverance to get through.

Graphics - 8 out of 10
It’s an awfully nice looking game. Good use of colors, lots of enemy ships and friendly fire on screen at once without any stuttering or slowdown. Missile fire is especially nice to see, as all missiles have a transparent trail from the shot which makes a busy battlefield quite an artful spectacle to see. The ships you choose from are particularly well designed, though aliens are quite simplistic and somewhat uninspired.

Sound - 8 out of 10
The soundtrack is nearly perfect, a great techno instrumental groove that fits really well with the nature of the game. In game voice-overs are quite well done too, though a couple of characters needed serious help. My only significant complaint here is that they didn’t use more actual sound effects from the original game. That is indeed a nitpick, but only once every 4 or 5 missions are you treated to a throwback sound effect, and I’d have liked it if they did that more often.

Control - 8 out of 10
On the one hand, there’s not much to the control. On the other hand, that’s a really good thing. Though you can’t perform loop-de-loops or any other crazy maneuvers with the craft, it basically goes exactly where you want it to, and you shoot what you're aiming at.

Level Design - 7 out of 10
There are some really great levels in this game, but there are also a lot of pointlessly frustrating ones as well. It’s great that some levels involve real strategy, including producing, picking up and placing friendly missile crawlers and tanks. Some levels, however, take many, many, many tries to get through with no real explanation for what the best method is. Some objectives are a real pain in the butt, in other words, while some are fairly straightforward.

Replay Value - 9 out of 10
Personally, I’m motivated to play through Defender time and time again. It’s nearly as addictive and replayable as the old arcade games were, and that’s saying something. It’s just so simple to pick up, and the feel of flying at top speed in the Nemesis ship is so stirring, it’s an experience you don’t get in any other game. As a comparison, I love Panzer Dragoon Orta, but it’s nice to be able to control your ship’s direction and speed for a change in Defender. Also, some of the weapons are just killer to see in action, particularly an upgrade called the “Ratchet Cannon” which just rips into foes with an endless stream of fire from multiple guns.

Extras and Presentation - 8 out of 10
Midway has included a video on the history of Defender, including short interview talks with Ed Boon of Mortal Kombat fame and Eugene Jarvis, who designed the original defender. There’s also an interesting short on the making of this game, which is nice. Cut scenes in the game are pretty well done, though the CG people are a little stiff.

Fun Factor - 8 out of 10
I really dig Defender, and that’s the long and short of it. It’s not complex or masterful – for some people you may get enough enjoyment out of a rental period. For me, I keep coming back for more and I enjoy it every time. The combination of speed, looks and sheer destruction is a rush I don’t find in many other games. There are stinker levels, but you get through them, and the rest of the game is a hoot.

In all, a very cool little number from Midway, and recommended to people who like blasting aliens into oblivion. If you’re looking for depth and story, get something like Panzer Dragoon Orta. If you’re looking for a slick, fast adrenaline charge, look no further than Defender.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/07/03, Updated 03/07/03


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