Control system

The control system is one of the games best features. Don't worry about there being lots of hotkeys to get confused by - you simply left-click a unit to select it, and then left-click it for where you want it to go or attack. If a unit has multiple abilities (like the silo's ability to be a defensive or offensive unit), you can right-click it to select what you want it to do.

When you click the Orders button on the bottom of the page, you get an overview of all of the orders that you have given to every unit with lines telling you where they are planning to go. This can be pretty daunting for a new player, but I imagine as people get better and better at this highly addictive game it will become second nature to understand it, similar in some ways to the way Neo reads the Matrix.

A quick note on the size of this game's installer: as you may know, this game is a download available via Steam. But don't worry if you have a slow internet connection - the download is just over 58MB, and the installation takes barely five seconds. Not many games can claim that these days!

The actual game itself is barely one single megabyte (!) in file size; however, the excellently eerie soundtrack and the handful of sound effects add 57MB. As one might guess from the graphics, you shouldn't need a powerful system to play Defcon - it not only ran on every system in our office, but was just as smooth on a 1.6GHz Centrino notebook.

One issue we did discover was that the game would not run if your computer has no soundcard, somewhat torpedoing the idea of Office mode if your corporate desktop lacks audio. Introversion Software has assured me that this would be fixed in an upcoming patch.

Defcon Conclusion Defcon Conclusion
Defcon Conclusion Defcon Conclusion

One thing I really like about the game is the text that pops up telling you about events that have occurred. As you can see from some of the screenshots, when you win it flashes up in Soviet-style font saying 'Ryan is the winner'. Other cool little flashes also occur, for instance when nukes are launched. The screen shows 'LAUNCH DETECTED' in bold letters - that translates to pant-cacking time for you and me.

The game supports up to six players, and with that many people playing the action is completely mental - so much so that in my one attempt at playing a six man session, my hands started to shake, there was a soft click from behind my eyes and my brains exploded and dribbled out my nose onto my keyboard. If you want to play with six players, then you're going to have to play it on a slow mode. This is OK, though, because by default the game will play at the slowest setting a user requests. There is, however, no pause button – so don't play this game if you've got diarrhoea, because once you've started there is no stopping.

If you're an anti-social person who likes to play with himself rather than with others (or if you simply don't have any mates), then this game isn't a complete blow out. Introversion has developed a pretty decent AI to while away the hours with; and although it isn't as satisfying to kill a computer, it is still better than most other RTS games on the market. If you fancy honing your skills, or just don't like losing and being laughed at then you can still enjoy some Defcon action.

Defcon Conclusion Defcon Conclusion
Defcon Conclusion Defcon Conclusion

Of course, no game can get a review without any bad press. Unfortunately, nothing (or at least nothing yet) has been absolutely perfect in the world of games. In light of that, I found a few fairly minor problems with Defcon that I felt could have been done better.

The first thing is the time acceleration buttons at the top of the screen. Almost every time I went to click them, the map suddenly scrolled upwards (as a function of the mouse free-view mode). This is a slight annoyance that I'm surprised was not encountered during the five-month beta test. All it needs is to move these buttons down slightly, or move the scroll line to the very edge of the screen.

UPDATE: it has been pointed out that it is possible to move this panel to a desired location. This is a great feature and allows the player to customise his UI. The above criticism, therefore, can only reasonably be levelled at the default placement - it will still frustrat novice users. Thanks to Aggies for the tip.

I also didn't notice any options for modding, which would be a bit of a shame as a game like this could be well served by an active modding community - adding additional units, gameplay modes or set-piece campaigns, for example. Overall, though, these issues are of the most minor nature and this game is best described as brilliant.


A lot is made of Introversion's independent developer status and I believe the hype surrounding their cult games is certainly warranted. Darwinia was a hugely undervalued gaming masterpiece and the brilliant Uplink that preceeded it was far too shunned by the majority. I can't see that being the same with Defcon – this game is brilliantly made, great fun and of course, has hectic multiplayer action.

Thanks to the game's digital distribution model via Valve's Steam service, the game can be had for as little as US$9.95 + tax (pre-ordered; normal price US$14.95), or ordered via the official site for £10 / US$17.50, which will net you a boxed copy in the post as well as an instant download. For such a quality game, it really makes me wonder why anyone wouldn't buy it at that price.

Defcon is proof that one doesn't require millions of dollars and a team of hundreds to make a great game in 2006. Introversion bill themselves as "the last of the bedroom programmers," and while others churn out endless sequels and bland film-license games, it is great to see that the Britsoft spirit of old is still alive.

The game launches at 6pm GMT on Friday 29th September 2006, so my recommendation is skip going to the movies, take the same 10 bucks and order Defcon tonight. It will be the best value gaming experience you will have all year.
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