It started off innocently. The team from Destructive Creations were to participate in a Polish game jam for indie developers and decided that they would make a game there, in which players would be shooting targets with a stationary gun. The members of the Gliwice-based team didn’t even bother about sticking to the theme of the jam – had it turned out to be a parrot, the developers laughed, they would still follow through with their original plan. “In that case, you would see a parrot screaming in the screen after each hit” – said Jaroslaw Zielinski, whom I met a few days ago in the company’s office. Nothing like this happened, though, as neither the head of the studio nor his teammates made it to the game jam. Nevertheless, the idea didn’t die, and after some initial experiments, the developers gave it a shape. Actually, you will be able to play it on your PC soon. It’s called IS Defense.
Hazy targets became boats packed with terrorists. What would they purpose be? To bring Europe to its knees, of course. Using their acquired arsenal and an army made of thousands militants ready for anything, Islamic State is gearing up in order to conquer the Old Continent through a more traditional assault rather than suicide attacks of religious fanatics wearing shahid belts. Destructive Creations takes us a few years forward into the future that we hope will never come to be. In IS Defense the military forces of the Islamists are so big and well-organized that they can easily invade the neighboring continent. The last line of defense seems to be the player, who is going to lay waste to waves of invading aggressors. To this end he gets to use an unfailing machine gun, although sometimes he gets some help from allied infantry, artillery, and aircrafts.
Let’s make it clear right from the start: IS Defense won’t be as complex a project as Hatred, since it took much less resources and time. The development process lasted only three and a half months. “It took longer than we planned” said Zielinski “initially, it was to be a much smaller game with only one map. Then we started expanding it by adding more content, which made the development process longer”. There are some similarities to the aforementioned controversial shooter that debuted a couple of months back, but they are evident in something else than gameplay. Each one is an attempt to dust off a long-forgotten video game. Whereas Hatred was heavily inspired by Postal, IS Defense is a clone of a good old Beach-Head and its follow-up BeachHead 2000. Like in these games, here too you play as a stationary gunner.
Although there shouldn’t be any problems with an acceptable age rating, IS Defense will definitely not hit consoles. The player will have to maneuver the MG so quickly that using a console’s pad for this would be totally pointless. This is why an analog controller will neither do on PC. In order to play the game you just need keyboard + mouse duo.
When I laid my hands on the MG for the first time, the gameplay seemed extremely easy. New boats full of invaders were coming up and it was only me who decided whether they get a chance of overruning the last line of defense. IS Defense quickly knock me down a peg. It didn’t take long before the opponents attained their goal and destroyed my station using suicide bombers for that purpose. To be honest, I didn’t even notice them, because I was busy taking care of another wave of enemies landing on the other side of the beach. After the first defeat and a quick restart it turned out, however, that my former score was saved and the same thing would repeat all the way to the end. The goal of the game is to destroy a certain number of warriors and vehicles and the scores acquired in individual game sessions are summed up together. Only when you manage to get a positive score in all your attempts you get to unlock a new map. If you are now thinking it’s an easy thing, you are dead wrong. For a dozen minutes of doing my best, I didn’t manage to fill more than 20% of the progression bar.
IS Defense is a game that Destructive Creations made on the side with only a couple of developers involved in the works. The rest of the team are busy making another, yet unannounced project. What this one is going to be they would not tell, but it’s sure that we won’t get the new game this year. It’s possible though, that it will be officially announced in the coming months.
The game not only sums up scores between sessions, but also remembers your character progression choices. After earning a number of experience points, the player gets special points that can be spent on new perks. These require various amounts of points, but even the cheapest ones can significantly increase your chances against the enemy. However, IS Defense has a surprise for you here. The game adjusts the difficulty level accordingly with the skills you unlock, so if you bought some perks, you can expect to see more enemy activity than at the beginning of the session.
As for the perks themselves, they are very diverse. Hence, you have to consider which ones would match your play style best. You can e.g. increase the quantity of airdrops (aid kits, ammo cases), increase the rate of fire and accuracy of the MG, or reduce the reloading time of the missile launcher, which is great for eliminating entire groups of soldiers or vehicles. There are about 20 different skills in total, so each playthrough may be different, depending on how you decide to develop your character.
As you play you have to keep an eye on the bar on the left side of the screen, which stands for different kinds of aid you can call for. This may be e.g. a squad of soldiers stationed in front of the bunker or an aerial bombardment of the entire area. What type of aid you receive depends on how long you wait for it. The most destructive tools require more patience.
IS Defense offers only three maps, but each one, as the developers promise, brings about different surprises. One thing remains the same, though – prevailing music of screams and blasts. At times the attacks of the Islamists become more fierce and the player has to have his eyes in the back of his head in order to spot opponents early enough. The things are not made easier by smoke coming from the destroyed vehicles, as well as occasional flank attacks that force you to move the MG beyond the normal viewpoint (such a maneuver may prove to be very dangerous, so it shouldn’t be undertaken lightly). Although at the first glance this is a mindless slaughter, understanding the opponents’ next move is necessary for survival. The player has to adjust his actions to the current situation and primarily focus on the opponents that are the biggest threat at the moment.
An unquestionable asset of the game is not only its fast-paced action, but also audiovisuals. This little game, despite being powered by Unreal Engine 4, is by no means a visual Miracle at the Klodnica, but we have to admit that it makes a very positive impression, especially when there is total chaos on the screen (there is even a special graphics option that disables disappearing of corpses). Neither you can tell a bad word about audio. Military themes composed by Adam Skorupa (the author of The Witcher 3 soundtrack) really pump up the adrenaline, while screams of dying Islamists mix up with commands shouted by the headquarters. There are also many explosions attacking your ears, especially when you reach for definitive measures in form of airstrikes or artillery bombing.
The game will be sold for €6.66 via Destructive Creations’ official website and for €6.99 if it gets a green light on Steam. IS Defense is currently almost ready and the developers only have to eliminate occasional bugs that came out in the version I got to test. If treated as a break between other, more engaging titles, this one may prove to be a nice way to pass time, especially since it’s not very expensive. However, you have to like this type of entertainment if you are to enjoy this game, so check out the official trailer and make sure it appeals to you.
Kristian Smoszna | Gamepressure.com