breadfan's DEFCON: Everybody Dies (PC) review

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DEFCON Achieves What Few Games Have Done Before

DEFCON: Everybody Dies is a game developed and published by Introversion Software Limited, an independent developer based out of England. DEFCON's subtitle, Everybody Dies, is a pretty accurate description for a game based around nuclear warfare on a global scale. Players are tasked with annihilating one another in the form of nuclear fallout, gaining or losing points based on catastrophic death tolls that usually reach well into the millions.
DEFCON at its core is a real time strategy game, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of controlling large numbers of units around a battlefield, most of the combat takes place in stationary locations, mainly in the form of nuclear silos positioned around a player controlled territory. Before players are able to launch an all out assault on their enemies, the game must progress through the five stages of DEFCON.      

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As each stage of DEFCON progresses into the next, an atmosphere of tension and eerie calm that is elegantly created in the form of excellent background ambiance.  There is something great to be said for DEFCON's use of simple background effect. There are no swelling orchestral scores or heavy battle music during combat, all that there is, is calm. The effect that this ambiance creates results in a tense environment that fits wonderfully with the idea of all of nuclear war. 

In addition to DEFCON's sense of tension brought on in the form of background ambiance, the combat is where this tension really gets the player. As the clock slowly ticks down to DEFCON 1, also known as full scale nuclear war, players must position units and structures appropriately before a barrage of bombs hits your territory.  The five stages of DEFCON are as follows:     

  • DEFCON 5: Mobilization - Units and structures are placed on the map
  • DEFCON 4: Reconnaissance - Naval units are allowed to move freely, but may not engage in combat
  • DEFCON 3: Outbreak - Naval and aerial combat begins 
  • DEFCON 2: Escalation - Same as above
  • DEFCON 1: Annihilation - Full scale nuclear war     

Each phase of DEFCON allows players to slowly build up a fighting force consisting of placing radar, air strips, battleships, and of course, nuclear silos. Radar is used for detecting incoming enemy units as well as nearby nukes withing your vicinity, air strips allow players to launch fighter jets as well as stealth bombers, battleships as well as hangers, and nuclear submarines are used for naval combat, and nuclear silos double as air defense as well as well as the main source of attack. 
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The combat itself is not that complicated as it may seem in a game such as DEFCON. Most of the combat revolves around small skirmishes between friendly and hostile naval units that slowly escalate into a constant stream of nuclear bombs heading past one another as they seek out their target. Naval and aerial combat are nothing more than a simple mouse click commanding one group of units to go to one location and attack, which then combat begins. There is a simplified rock, paper, scissor type of balance in the combat and everything is fluid and equalized. 
As all out nuclear fallout approaches towards the later half of a battle, DEFCON really shines. There is an almost realistic feeling when dealing with another player when it comes to nuclear combat. Do I wait to be attacked? or Do I begin a preemptive strike and take him or before he gets me? There is a genuine feeling of uneasiness as you decide which course of action to take, which once again, makes DEFCON so unique.  
DEFCON is a surprising game to say the least. An independent game based off of the movie WarGames may not seem like an idea that could be translated into a video game so well, but it is an excellent achievement in some ways. Not only does it create one of the most creative use of ambiance in a game, it also creates a tension that is found in few games. For the price ($10) DEFCON is a worthy title for your buck and I can wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone interested in this style of game. 

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