By: Matt C. on December 15, 2002
Well, well, isn't this a pleasant surprise. At a glance, Defender appears to be a cookie-cutter action/flying game of Colony Wars or Rogue Leader, but once you actually spend some time with the game, you'll find out that it is a whole lot more.
In Defender, aliens called Manti have hijacked Earth as their new homeworld. As a Defender, your main goal is to rescue colonists while fighting off incoming Manti swarms.
To separate Defender from other action/flying games, 7 Studios has managed to incorporate real-time strategy elements into the gameplay. Amazingly, the RTS gameplay actually works well in the game! As you swoop down from the sky to save colonists on the ground, they will grab onto your ship and dangle there until you drop them off at tank or missile turret factories. When enough colonists have been delivered to a factory, a tank or missile turret will appear outside of the building and it will be available for you to use. Simply use your on board tractor beam to pick up your newly acquired unit, and drop it off in the area that you want it to defend for you. This process is awkward at first, but it becomes easier as you progress in the game.
In addition, saving colonists will earn you credits that can be used to purchase new ship upgrades (such as new weapons or extra lives) in-between each mission. Luckily, saving every single colonist isn't integral in most missions, but leaving them unprotected is a good way to lose credits. All in all, there are a total of six ships (each with different attributes) that you can spend your credits on.
As for the actual missions, most of the objectives involve defending a certain building, escorting transports/dropships, ground-based or air-based Manti assaults, or constructing units to aid you in combat. There are a nice variety of objectives in Defender, but it does start to wear thin by the end of the game.
The controls in Defender are good, but it is a little bit cumbersome at first. For example, I am used to my ship always being in motion in these type of games, but in Defender, you must hold R2 to keep moving forward. It is kind of like a racing title. Fortunately, you get used to it after a while. Another thing worth mentioning is that you can pull off various tactical maneuvers (such as barrel rolls, 180 and 360 degree turns) using the right analog stick.
Defender certainly won't win any awards for its visuals, but it is still a very decent looking game. The ships are well designed and the environments look good. The lens flare doesn't look all that bad either. I just wish that there were more types of enemies to battle. Throughout the game, it seems that you are fighting the same old ships over and over again. Some more bosses would have been nice too.
Another compliant I have with Defender is that it seems to be a little on the short side. I didn't keep track of the hours it took to finish the game, but I know for sure it didn't take more than 8 hours. On the good side, there is a deathmatch mode and a really additive 2-player co-op mode that will obviously add to the replay value.
Overall, I found Defender to be a really enjoyable game, which was surprising for me. Fans of the original Defender game should really appreciate what Midway has done with the series in this 3D update.
Graphics: 6 Sound: 7 Replay Value: 7 Ingenuity: 7
Overall Score: 7.3 (Good)
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