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Defender. Just saying the name brings back memories to a handful of gamers that are still around. One of the original Atari games that was ported from the arcade and then to the 2600, finally makes its next generation debut on the most powerful system on today’s market.
This new Defender is best described as a mission-based space shooter. However, in place of the standard Top Gun-style macho pilot, our hero is actually an Asian female. This fact has absolutely no bearing on the gameplay, but I took it as a small (but positive) sign regarding the state of our industry. Any portrayal of a woman as both competent and fully clothed is a good one. Thumbs up to developer Seven Studios there.
Of all the recent retro remakes, Defender is easily the best of the lot. While it might not achieve the same level of technical splendor as other games currently being released for the Xbox, it does prove that a good game design can hold its own, even after 20 years.
Defender is a fairly fun game, especially considering it's an update of a game that's about 20 years old now. It's pretty short, but it's also a fast, mostly mindless shooter, with a hint of some RTS elements thrown in, just to mix things up. The people who will appreciate this game most will likely have played the original Defender some, or at least will be those who enjoy a good throwback to the old days from time to time.
Unfortunately, Defender does get old pretty fast. Since it’s pretty tongue in cheek to begin with, there’s just not a lot of depth to the game. To be fair, it does what it set out to do admirably, but once the nostalgia factor wears off, you’re left with a fairly standard, though admittedly very well done, retro shooter with a fresh new 3D coat of paint. Kind of like an Egg Mcmuffin; good while you’re downing it, and you probably wouldn’t say no to another, but not something you’d eagerly line up for. Even if you’re a die-hard fan of the original, put a hold on that muffin and rent it first.
When it comes to releasing remakes of classic games, Midway, having one of the richest arcade histories in the entire business, is one of the best-equipped companies. Midway successfully delved into its back catalog last year with an update to its popular arcade game Spy Hunter. Now, one of the company's most famous properties, Defender, is getting an update of its own. The original was a feverish side-scrolling shooter in which the player needed to defend earthlings against a relentless alien invasion. The remake has many of the same themes and elements as the original, but it now plays from a behind-the-ship perspective and has a much heavier emphasis on scripted missions. And while it isn't quite as successful as Spy Hunter at re-creating the feel of the old game, Defender still puts on a decent show.
In the end, Midway painted themselves into a corner with Defender. In order to keep with Defensive nature of the original title and the “rescue the innocents” gameplay, this new Defender is never able to fully embrace the 3-D shooter mayhem. However, the cooperative mode really opens the game up and gives you and your friend Scarface Tony a chance to scream, “I buried those cockroaches!”
If Defender had been named something else, it would have been thought of as a half-decent flight/combat game (which it is). But as the long-awaited remake to a 2D classic, Defender had so much (perhaps too much) to live up to.
The Video Game Critic
This game isn't very fun. A fundamental flaw is the difficulty in shooting anything - the crosshairs are way too sensitive, and aiming is frustrating. Actually, this new Defender bears little resemblance to the original. Only a fleeting sound effect here and there will remind you that you're playing Defender. I did enjoy the "Historical Perspective" documentary included on this DVD, but a better bonus would have been the inclusion of the original Defender.