DEFCON: Everybody Dies is an unconventional real-time strategy game in which two or more major world powers attempt to annihilate each other through the large scale deployment of nuclear weapons. It features no base building, resource management, technology tree, veterancy upgrades, or hero units, and except for geographical differences, every faction in the game plays exactly the same way. As the nihilistic title suggests, the player who "wins" a match of DEFCON is whoever loses the least.
Its presentation is heavily inspired by the 1983 technology thriller WarGames in which a child-like artificial intelligence nearly precipitates an international exchange of nuclear missiles while acting out an elaborate simulation of a global thermonuclear war. DEFCON's graphical style is taken almost verbatim from the large tactical display which featured prominently in the film's climax. There are also some direct allusions to the movie, such as the background animation on the main title screen which lists titles of games ranging from "Falken's Maze" and "Chess" to "Theatrewide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare" exactly as they appeared in WarGames.
DEFCON is currently available for purchase through developer Introversion Software's official website, and for digital download through Valve Corporation's Steam service.
DEFCON unfolds in five distinct stages of conflict according to an in-game timer. This clock runs in real time by default, but it's speed can be manually increased during a single-player game, or through a popular vote during a multiplayer session.
Mobilization: From the start of the game, factions can place their silos, radar installations, airfields, and naval fleets in preparation for the coming conflict. Fleets may begin moving into neutral waters, but no hostile actions are allowed.
Reconnaissance: After six minutes, radar dishes come online to reveal enemy holdings within range, and aircraft can be launched to provide additional coverage. Factions are still allowed to place any remaining units, but any asset not deployed to the map will be lost for the duration of the game. No combat is allowed, but fleets can continue to move through international waters.
Outbreak: Hostilities between navies and fighters begin after twelve minutes. Bombers may be launched to begin manoeuvring into position, but are forbidden from releasing their payloads until the final stage.
Escalation: Despite the name, Defcon 2 does not differ in any way from Defcon 3, and exists only because there are five stages of emergency alertness. This phase begins after twenty minutes.
Annihilation: Thirty minutes into play, the use of nuclear weapons is authorized. Silos, submarines, and bombers may arm and launch their payloads against known enemy targets. This stage continues until most of the nukes in play have either been launched or destroyed and a final countdown expires to reveal the winner.
There are six playable factions in the game, each representing a major international region. They include North America, South America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia, and while each region features different city placement and shorelines to police, their populations are inexplicably listed as equal, and they have access to all the exact same units. The continents of Antarctica and Oceania/Australasia is not utilized.
Units in DEFCON fall into three broad categories.
Structures are stationary objects which are placed at the start of the game and remain in place unless destroyed. Radar installations provide line-of-sight coverage over a large radius, and airfields can launch fighters and bombers to extend that vision further and conduct combat operations. Finally, silos can switch between launching the faction's arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles at distant targets or providing a defensive screen of anti-nuke rockets over their immediate area.
Aircraft include swift fighters which can engage enemy aircraft or serve as effective reconnaissance units, and bombers which can carry a single short-range nuclear missile halfway around the world.
Naval fleets are commanded as if they were single units, but are composed of six ships each at the time they're deployed. Choices include destroyers which excel in combat against seagoing or aerial targets, carriers which can detect nearby subs and serve as mobile staging points for aircraft, and submarines which can stealthily fire torpedoes against undefended carriers but must surface to launch their six medium-range nuclear missiles.
The prime targets in DEFCON are enemy cities which are ranked by how many millions of inhabitants they have. Successfully nuking an enemy city eradicates half of the current population, and the victor of the match depends on which scoring method is set at the start of the match.
- Default - Gain two points for every million enemy civilians killed; lose one point for every million casualties suffered
- Survivor - Earn one point for every million civilians alive in your territory at the end of the game
- Genocide - Earn one point for every million enemy civilians killed
Civilian casualties can only be caused by the direct impact of a nuclear weapon. Striking one city has no affect on other targets nearby, and although one of the graphic options includes radiation levels, there is no model for the dissemination of radioactive fallout in the game.
DEFCON is played exclusively on a map of the planet Earth, stylized into bright glowing lines which separate jet black landmasses from electric blue oceans. Units are represented by simple outlines which denote combat by exchanging small colored rocket icons and enjoy virtually no individual animation whatsoever. Explosions, including nuclear detonations, appear as brilliant white circles whose size is proportionate to their power.
This abstract style is intended to represent a global command console where the player is responsible for dispassionately coordinating an apocalyptic exchange of radioactive devastation. The sound effects take a very minimalist approach, though in the final stages of play, a lone woman can be heard weeping in the distance.
DEFCON also features a "whiteboard" tool which allows a player in real time to make markings on the map using a marker. The view can be toggled like other views and works as an overlay to the actual gameplay.
Introversion have lately been trying to bring some of their games to a wider audience, including DEFCON: Everybody Dies. They currently have a basically finished build of DEFCON for the Nintendo DS, but issues with their publisher meant that the project was unable to proceed late on. They have been searching for a new publisher to put DEFCON on the DS but as yet nothing has been announced.
Just recently Mark Morris, one of Introversion's directors, detailed that DEFCON would be heading to the PlayStation Network. He expected a possible release in mid to late 2011.
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: P3-600-Geforce 2
- Memory: 128 MB RAM
- Hard disk: 60 MB
- OS: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
- Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz+
- Memory: 1GB of RAM
- Graphics: 64MB of video memory