Developer: Destructive Creations
Publisher: Destructive Creations
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Platform: PC via Steam
Disclaimer: The following review was conducted on PC via Steam. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
It’s the year 2020 and Europe has been attacked by Islamic State. With its on-rails gameplay, IS Defense attempts to compete in a landscape dominated by free roaming first-person shooter titles by throwing something a little different into the mix. On-rails shooters appear to have fallen out of favour recently, but, with titles like Blue Estate and The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, it seems that the genre could make a comeback in the form of indie iterations. But, can IS Defense follow in their footsteps and find success?
IS Defense is defined by the simplicity of its gameplay. You spend the game sitting in a stationary mountain machine gun. At the start of each level, a few of infantry soldiers will enter your view, which you can mow down without much trouble. You also have access to a rocket launcher which comes in very handy as you will soon encounter enemies of the mechanical kind.
Soon after the first wave, enemies in tanks and assault cars will begin to appear, and this is when things start to get really interesting. These enemies can often zip across your field of view quicker than you can turn your turret so you really have to be on your toes.
As you are taking these enemies out, you will be accumulating reinforcement points. You can spend these points on various power-ups or abilities, such as bringing in a squad of troops to help you on the ground, supply drops with extra health or rockets, or air support from a chopper. Killing enemies and destroying vehicles will also reward with you experience points that allow you to improve your character. These improvements will carry over to other playthroughs, meaning you will be constantly improving your character even when you die. The skill trees are quite diverse but it’s generally obvious which skills are the most powerful early on. Only after the early stages of character progression will you start to build the character you want. A few of the skill points seemed fairly redundant, but I enjoyed the progression system as it adds a feeling of achievement to the game even when you are dying.
A really neat little feature is that the game adjusts the difficulty depending on how well you are doing – so it may not always be wise to go all out from the start as you may find yourself being overwhelmed before you’ve had chance to get any power-ups. The main game play does get very repetitive though, and replaying any of the levels more than two or three times in a row starts to become monotonous before long. You will find yourself merely holding down the fire button for your machine gun and launching the odd missile here and there to mop up any foes which come too close for comfort. More often than not, after you pass the five-minute mark on any map, you’ll be in for roughly the same difficulty and number of enemies from then on. A more diverse range of different foes and targets would definitely help with the repetitive nature.
IS Defense has three combat stages. This may sound like very little, but given that you will be spending a lot of time on each stage before you progress onto the next one, there is still a decent amount of game play on offer. I have found that each stage took me roughly ninety minutes each to complete, and even after you finish the three stages, you can still repeat them so you can work your way up the leader boards.
IS Defense is made using the Unreal Engine 4. Sadly, however, it isn’t the best looking game out there. The lack of any real graphical options hinders the game a bit as we all know how good the Unreal Engine can look. The fog of war is used quite a bit on the stages too, giving you the illusion that everything looks realistic but it is just to cover up the poor draw distance; you can tell this because the fog occasionally becomes bugged and you can see right through it into oblivion. The special effects on water and fire are really impressive. But, it’s just the janky animation of any foot soldiers and poor textures on the majority of models.
The sound effects are spot on; you really do feel like you are on the battlefield with bullets whizzing over your head. If you have an amp, your neighbours will really dislike you with the amount of gun fire that can be going off at any one time. The soundtrack was composed by Adam Skorupa, who is probably most well-known for his work on The Witcher 2’s soundtrack.
Even though the game adjusts the difficulty depending on how well you are doing, this is still a fairly challenging game. You can soon find yourself being overwhelmed with targets and your health pool will be depleted before you know it. You are able to overpower the levels once you have yourself a handful of skills in either of the talent trees though, and once you’ve found a steady build order when it comes to troops on the ground, airstrikes and helicopters.
Completing the three stages took me about four and a half hours. Personally I think the length of this game is definitely on the short side, as I am not too interested in battling it out on the leaderboards for top spot, but the competitive ones amongst us will probably get the most replay value out of IS Defense. This is the type of game which would work really well with a co-op mode. On the main menu screen, there is an option for Mods. Hopefully this will mean in the future we’ll get to see some additional maps being added with some different game modes.
On the technical side of things, I did have a couple of crashes for no discernible reason. These crashes forced me to reboot my PC, since I was unable to close the application even by force closing it in task manager. Sadly, the game cannot be played at anything higher than 1080p, and even when you have v-sync enabled, you still see horrendous amounts of screen tearing. The frame rate is capped at 60fps which is a redeeming factor and you don’t really see any drops in it either. The controls are a bit strange, but not so strange that you don’t get used to them after an hour of playing.
The Bottom Line
IS Defense is your run of the mill “ok” game. There is nothing that this title does spectacularly, and the game play is just too repetitive for it to be marked any higher. I did like the talent system and the ability to call in reinforcements throughout a level though. The technical issues are the main element which hold this title back. Random crashes are inexcusable in this day and age; especially ones which require a reboot in order to get your PC in a working state again. Luckily the game is priced on the lower side of the scale, but even then, I’d still only recommend picking IS Defense up when it is on sale for more than 50% off.