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Score: 93%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Introversion
Developer: Introversion
Media: Download/1
Players: 1, 1 - 6 Online
Genre: Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

From the minds at Introversion Software that brought you Darwinia and Uplink comes their third title, Defcon. This is an online, multiplayer simulation of nuclear war. And, as advertised on the cover, "Everybody dies". Choose sides, make alliances and break treaties with friends as you prepare for an all out thermonuclear war. I love their tag line from the site that reads, "It's Global Thermonuclear War, and nobody wins. But maybe - just maybe - you can lose the least." This title is available for download through the Steam system.

The graphics are done in a classic vector-based drawing style. This furthers the feeling of a time during the Cold War where men sealed themselves in bunkers and plotted the destruction of enemies through nuclear war. Not that they may not still be doing that now.

Rarely do you here me speak directly on how the music of a game furthers its immersion. In Defcon, the eerily simple and surrealistically calming music playing in the background is an added level of submersion to the idea of that very man sitting in a bunker someplace with his finger on the button.


Defcon is as easy to play as chess. As soon as you know how all of the pieces move, you know everything you will ever need to know about the game. Yea right! As in chess, you have a lot to master. Knowing your opponent, positioning your pieces and then moving in for the kill. You move through several periods of time marked by movement up, or rather down, the Defcon chart. The Defense Defcon chart starts at 5 with peace breaking out, and moves up to 1 when it is time to take off the gloves and release mass, instantaneous genocide via nuclear war. The scoring works a couple of different ways. You can play until you have annihilated your opponent from the face of the earth or until the end of the victory timer, in which the most kills wins.

There only four asset groups. You have Silos, Radars, Air Bases and your Naval Fleet. Your silos have two modes. In Defense mode, the silo will strike out against all incoming air targets. In ICBM mode, when you have reached Defcon 1, you can convert your silo to launch mode. The problem is that by turning off the air defense, you are opening yourself up for air strikes. Radars are simple. They let you know of incoming missile strikes, fighter scouts and bombers. If they can't see you coming, then you have a definite advantage. The air base houses bombers and fighters. The fighters are designed to take out enemy aircraft, bombers and scout enemy territory. The bombers are equipped with small, nuclear yield war heads that are perfect for taking out ground targets and destroyers.

There are several different game modes for you to try out and play. One of my favorites is the big World Game mode that allows for twice as many units, but means there is also twice as much area to cover. The radar's area is also cut in half. We play Office mode at work which is a 5 hour game that doesn't require constant attention. A great way to spend the hours of a long day.


Do not let the simplicity of Defcon lull you into thinking that this is an easy game. As I mentioned before, this game has all of the elegant simplicity of chess and the true cutthroat nature of Cold War diplomacy and conflict. With the many different game modes, there is no end to the many ways to die. The true fun of the difficulty is, of course, the human players you encounter. It only takes a few mistakes to cascade into a taunting session from fellow co-workers. But as in any war, it isn't always the one who wins all of the conflicts, but the one who saves the most lives so they can live to fight another day. At any rate, you will be hard pressed to find an easy game every time you play.

Game Mechanics:

The playing field of Defcon is a flat map of the world that can be scrolled and zoomed in on. The interface is tucked nicely into the bottom of the map along with your asset manager tight over to the left, out of your way. You click and choose the asset you wish to build and then place it on the map. Most of the placeable units have multiple modes. You right click on an asset to see its available modes and if those modes have a Defcon restriction as to when they can be launched.

This was a highly anticipated game for myself and many colleagues. Often with such anticipation, there can come a feeling of let down if the product hasn't lived up to the hype. Defcon not only lived up to my expectations, it exceeded them by leaps and bounds. As for the designers and developers at Introversion Software, I hope their simplistic looking but complex gameplay will soon be held in as high regards with names like Will Wright, John Carmack, and Sid Meier. They deserve to be recognized and their time will come to stand out even more.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, P3-600-Geforce 2, 128 MB RAM, 60 MB Hard Disk, Internet connection for multiplayer games.

Test System:

Windows XP Pro, 3.2 GHz P4HT CPU, 2 GB Ram, 256 PCIE 16 ATI X300

Windows Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales Nintendo GameCube Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated