Everyone Has a personal vision of what a nuclear war would be like. Your common or garden peasant - you and me - imagines four minutes of frantic apologies and humping before the skin is hosed from our skeletons with an atomic sandblast. Paranoid millionaires will finally get to use their undersea bunkers and observe the carnage on a wall of monitors with an ex-military robot who's been reprogrammed to function as a masseuse. And finally, there's the button-pressers. The only people who'll be really safe from this war are the people who'll start it; the people so divorced from what it means to be decent and humane that they're physically able to pick up the phone and order something as devastating as a nuclear strike.
Stop looking so morally superior. You know who you'd rather be, and it's not the humping dead guy. And it s not the millionaire either, because you know that robot's going to revert to its original programming when you spill your pink gin onto its pleasure circuit. You want to lie in control.
It feels like the right time for a nuclear shit-scare revival. South Korea are getting nukes. Iran have just built a heavy water plant. Holland's acting funny too, and Mr Patterson's spending far too long in his shed at the weekends. DEFCON rekindles the beautifully crafted fears of the '80s and brings the childhood tingles flooding back. Games like Crysis may well make people scream with delight but DEFCON has a beautiful, efficient minimalism that hits you on a deeper level; you couldn't have made this game any other way. DEFCON looks absolutely right.
Kill Me Now
The game fills a void that I'd almost forgotten was there; a short exciting, self-contained game. Not round after indefinite round of Counter-Strike game that isn't non-committal, with people dipping in, not doing anything for two minutes, then leaving. Something that relies on approachable simplicity but rewards thought and cool-headedness. As a beginner, you won't feel instantly daunted, but you will get mopped up by the seasoned tacticians.
But don't lose heart. The tide of war can be completely reversed - as it was between myself and that scumbag Robinson - with a couple of missiles slipping through my bloody stupid defences and hitting a well-populated town. Perversely, you score nothing for destroying military targets. Tliat just makes your main job - killing civilians - easier. Two points for a million dead sound fair to you? Cool.
Hup Hup Heads Up
The evocative DEFCON countdown defines the level of hostilities and what you're allowed to do. It's uncomfortably true to the real DEFCON countdown, too. At DEFCON 5 - peacetime - you'll be occupied with getting your silos, air bases and radars on the ground. Remember, it's peacetime, so send your subs on a peaceful day-trip to your neighbours' coastlines. Maybe put knotted hankies on their heads. At DEFCON 4 - increased intelligence - you start getting feedback from your radars, giving you the opportunity to place your units in a marginally more informed fashion.
DEFCON 3 is a rare state in real life, but here it arrives all too guickly. If you haven't got all your units in place, then you're in trouble. Because now, it's action o'clock, and your naval units know it; unless you've formed a crafty alliance, your carriers start spitting crap at each other. It's also time to launch scout planes to check out neighbouring countries. Find the bastards' silos and wreck their radars, so when the time comes, your nukes will slip through like wet jelly through a squash racquet.
DEFCON 2 - continued and heightened conflict - is just a stepping stone to the only section of the game where you can score points. Global thermonuclear war. Jesus, it's been a while since I've heard those words together. Within minutes, the fully zoomed-out world map will become a chaos of trajectories, radiation and matter-of-fact info-bursts like 'London Hit: 10.3 Million Dead'. The fact it's all moving so slowly doesn't make it any less frantic. Am I sounding excited? Because I am. DEFCON is such a clever blend of inspired simplicity and deceptive profundity, presented in such a powerfully evocative way, that I want to get Introversion to decorate my house and invent the rest of my life for me. At under $8 through Steam, and only $10 if downloaded direct from Introversion, there's simply no excuse for anyone not to own, play and become hopelessly seduced by this absurdly gorgeous game.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP