Game: IS Defense - Platform: PC - Price: £5.50
The problem with trying to be deliberately offensive is that you need to be constantly raising the stakes, lest people cease to become enraged by your activities. This is a lesson that has apparently escaped Destructive Creations, whose slaughter-em-up 'Hatred' provoked outrage from various parties, the mainstream press included. Their latest release, IS Defense, has proven to be less controversial than its predecessor, and has drawn no mainstream media attention, receiving only the briefest of mentions in the gaming press.
One of the reasons for the lack of controversy may be that the antagonists in IS Defense, a game which sees you mowing down wave after wave of Islamic State militants, are actively trying to kill you. Hatred's NPCs, on the other hand, were mostly just wandering around minding their own business. Also, the same ground has been covered by various movies and television shows, though in a far less interactive manner.
Despite the somewhat inflammatory nature of the game, IS Defense is actually a competent, though not spectacular, shoot-em-up. Rather than having you roam around, Call of Duty style, you're charged with manning a stationary gun emplacement, dispatching enemies as they run and drive towards you. In the tradition of many Hollywood action heroes, your unseen character is surprisingly durable, able to take many hits before he – or she – ultimately expires. Though your foes do attack in such numbers that it's entirely possible to become swamped under their relentless onslaught.
I was sure I'd experience a growing sense of discomfort as I played IS Defense, given the game's topic. Yet this feeling never materialized because, outside the game's title and intro sequence, there's nothing to really connect the generic in-game enemies to the real-life group they are supposedly part of. I suspect that the decision to make the enemies members of ISIS came rather late in the development process, as an effort to gain a little free publicity.
In fact, I found myself enjoying IS Defense's frenetic action, constantly having to scan the initial level's beachhead for incoming threats, staying alive a little longer each time I played. The game's weapon upgrade and supply drop system also proved to be curiously satisfying. IS Defense allows you to call in friendly reinforcements to help defend your position and offers all manner of upgrades including my personal favourite, exploding bullets.
The truth is that IS Defense is a ridiculous game, another reason why I suspect the game's more serious moniker was added as an afterthought. While its graphics are functional at best, their relatively simple nature does mean that the game can have a lot going on screen at once without major performance penalties. My PC is hardly cutting edge and yet I experienced no slowdown at any point, except when the game intentionally switched into bullet-time mode, allowing me to appreciate a particularly spectacular explosion.
However, my interest in the game started to wane when, after having spent an hour or so playing riddling the first area with bullets, I still hadn't progressed to the next level. The problem with IS Defense, title aside, is that the progression system is deeply flawed, requiring you to grind your way through the first level until you've gained enough points to progress. None of the game's three levels have any win condition, meaning that you just keep shooting, the enemies becoming more and more numerous until they succeed in overwhelming you.
The game's remaining two levels are also somewhat samey, featuring the same enemies you encounter in previous levels, the only real difference being the largely cosmetic change of scenery. As was the case with games of old, IS Defense seems to be aimed at players who enjoy the challenge of playing a game again and again just to see if they can beat their high score. I, on the other hand, don't fall within that camp, and found the game's grinding aspect to be a little irritating. Granted, the game only cost me five pounds, but I was still being denied content I'd already paid for.
IS Defense is not going to win any awards but it's an entertaining and reasonably priced shoot-em-up which provided me with an hour or two of old school blasting mayhem. If that's your thing and you can look past the game's press-baiting title and subject matter, you could do a lot worse.