Defcon Author: T_H_Schafer -- Posted: 2011-01-05
We have all had some kind of passing sense of dread when considering the possibility (probability) of complete nuclear annihilation. That sense of dread doesn't last long because nuclear war isn't something easily fathomed by most of us human beings. It's like comprehending the distance to the sun or imagining what is right outside the universe or at the very edge of it even. One minute the world is here and the next, well, everybody dies. Here to make that doomsday scenario fun is Defcon: Everybody Dies, a finger on the read button nuclear war simulator.
Defcon presupposes that the entire globe is armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles and well into defcon-five when you boot up the game. The game offers a handful of modes to allow different time settings, teams and what have you. Matches play out fairly quickly, or very slowly if you choose to play in real time. As the player you follow certain steps on your way to M.A.D. (mutually assured destruction). Step one: choose which continent to launch your armaments from and hopefully shield from similar armaments. Step two: place radar systems, missile silos, air bases and navel fleets. The next steps pertain to utilizing your fleets and air forces to get a good position on your enemies. This includes placing nuclear equipped submarines in secret to launch missile barrages at your leisure.
Playing against the A.I. is a blast but things get really steamy when you go online against real sentient beings from foreign lands. The diplomacy mode is especially interesting. All players begin with open radar, allowing each participant to see everyone's structures and fleets. Communication is key. Players are allowed to use a white board to draw borders around the oceans, share messages, or depict somewhat more explicit images if they feel so inclined. A ticking clock ends with players able to defect from one another. The country with the highest population after the missiles fly is declared the winner.
The visual style of Defcon feels lifted straight out of the proverbial war room from pop culture cold war flicks. Consisting of flat, vibrantly colored vector graphics the game sets an interesting tone in which the player feels as though they're in command via some 1980's computer terminal. The music is appropriately ominous, the noise made when transitioning from defcon-5 to defcon-1 is bold and menacing, and way in the background noise is a sound like a woman coughing. It is pretty stark stuff sometimes, but war is supposed to be hell right?
Beyond all the seriousness there seems to be an underlying sense of humor here. Snippets of info and factoids about nuclear warheads on the opening screen give the presentation a kind of deadpan effect grasping at the very notion I began with, specifically that these numbers are at least somewhat authentic, the staggering amount of life lost in such real life scenarios would be amazingly horrific but in virtual reality land it is great fun. The game doesn't tiptoe around it but plainly presents it, almost comically, in a kind of commentary on the actual violence by doling out points to nations which hit the most targets and preserve the most lives. The whole presentation leading not to a desensitization but rather a concerned understanding that with nuclear weaponry and nuclear war there are no real winners, that there may be lesser losers but in these kinds of epic atrocious situations, everybody dies. If you want to have a superb time while considering the notion of nuclear war, go out and buy Defcon.