[page=1, 2, 3, Destruction]
"That sign up there indicates our current defense condition. It should read 'Defcon 5,' which means peace. If we hadn't caught it in time, it might have gone to 'Defcon 1.' You know what that means? World War Three."
The dim light of the control console before you is the only illumination in this subterranean place, alone and isolated from the world above. Your coffee, long since forgotten beside you, has grown as cold and sterile as the environment around you. This is not a place of humanity, of light and joy. Deep within this military bunker, the only facet of the surface world in evidence is the control panel before you, glowing with the lights of a thousand cities across the face of the earth.
A thousand cities just waiting to be destroyed.
This is Defcon, the latest independent game created by Introversion Software. Whereas previous outings from the company have been about the world of computers, both hacking them and worlds within them, Defcon takes things to a global scale and asks to you wage thermonuclear war. There will be no victors, only people who lose the least. Because where mutually assured destruction is concerned, nobody wins, and everybody dies.
But maybe you'll lose the least.
You begin the game, albeit from your underground control center, in command of one of the world's nations. Scattered around your country, you have a number of radar facilities, airbases, and missile silos at your command. Naval forces sit idling in the water, ready to roll out at a moment's notice, while nuclear warheads are loaded into bombers and silos for the coming nuclear Armageddon. As the game begins, you are at Defcon 5, a peaceful status that demands that you perform no hostile actions.
But this is just the beginning of the chess game.
As the 30-to-40 minute game picks up speed, the Defcon level slowly begins to drop, allowing more and more hostile actions on the part of you and your fellow nations. Set up new radar stations to get a glimpse at your enemy's major population centers, use aerial reconnaissance to scope out enemy movements, engage in combat, and finally, let your barrage of missiles lose into the sky, praying that your silos will take out the oncoming missiles before they devastate your homeland.
Each game of Defcon can be played in single player or multiplayer mode, which factors in the trouble of alliances. Those of you who have played the board game Diplomacy might have an idea of what this is like, but if not, the concept is simple enough. While you can certainly win a game on your own, it is much more rewarding to do so while stabbing all of your closest friends in the back. Sign treaties with other players to prevent hostile action, wait for them to strike your opponents, then bomb them back to the stone age. If you can figure out where their capital cities are, nothing says you can't remove another pawn from the board, now does it?
Whereas their previous game, Darwinia was more of a arcade shooter \ strategy hybrid, Defcon is a thinking mans war game. Every piece must be carefully placed in this global chessboard to ensure that when the bombs take to the air, you won't be on the receiving end of most of them.
But while the game play is definitely a nice departure from conventional real time strategy fair, it is the presentation that really stands out here. Defcon is built from the ground up with the same "retro-is-cool" visual style that many people applauded in the first game and works just as well here. Rather than filling the screen with thousands of complex animations, everything is presented like something out of an old Atari game, keeping things straightforward and easy to read at a glance. And when the bombs start flying every which way across the world map, you'll be glad things are being kept simple enough.
Yet when the bombs start to turn the world into nothing more than fallout dust, you aren't rewarded with cries of anguish and giant explosions. Defcon is a haunting experience, cold and impersonal as you set the world to ruin in an attempt to suffer the least amount of casualties. Locked deep within your bunker, you do not hear the bombs bursting, the screams of battle, and the cries of anguish from the surface world. You are simply manipulating the battle, not a part of it. Whenever a bomb takes out a major city, it does so in absolute silence, the only result a small text message telling you how many million people you just ended with the click of a button.
The only sound? The hum of your computer terminals, with a soft piano tune playing underneath, as if in afterthought.
While Defcon may not be the most flashy game out there, it is a somber, cold experience.
But damn if it isn't going to be a lot of fun, come this September.