When it comes to releasing remakes of classic games, Midway, having one of the richest arcade histories in the entire business, is one of the best-equipped companies. Midway successfully delved into its back catalog last year with an update to its popular arcade game Spy Hunter. Now, one of the company's most famous properties, Defender, is getting an update of its own. The original was a feverish side-scrolling shooter in which the player needed to defend earthlings against a relentless alien invasion. The remake has many of the same themes and elements as the original, but it now plays from a behind-the-ship perspective and has a much heavier emphasis on scripted missions. And while it isn't quite as successful as Spy Hunter at re-creating the feel of the old game, Defender still puts on a decent show.
Defender can get incredibly difficult if you don't keep the landers from mutating.
Like Spy Hunter before it, and similar to sci-fi sims such as Wing Commander, the remake of Defender is focused on making you complete various in-level objectives. Each mission begins with a briefing, telling you which section of the galaxy is under attack by the vicious, buglike aliens known as the Manti. In a bit of a twist, most of the missions don't have you directly dealing with the alien menace by wiping them all out. Instead, the Manti are a never-ending swarm of foes, and your mission is usually defensive in nature. So the game commands you to, as you might expect, defend various positions. You'll guard transport ships as they enter stargates, grab tanks and other ground troops and place them in reinforced positions, and, of course, stop the aliens from stealing stranded humanoids. Ironically, these are exactly the types of missions that many fans of space combat simulations tend to like least of all.
While the original game had you flying over a planet and defending the humans by keeping them on the ground, in the new Defender, you pick up the humanoids and bring them to a drop zone for extraction. The enemy landers are, of course, thirsting for those humanoids, so the landers will constantly try to pick them up for themselves. Once a humanoid is stolen, you have a short amount of time to blast the lander and catch the slowly falling humanoid. If you fail to free the humanoid, he is absorbed into the lander and the lander is transformed into a much more difficult enemy. You'll face a handful of other alien craft, including some ground units that can turn humanoids into humanoid-poisoning zombies. Like the original game, Defender can get incredibly difficult if you don't keep the landers from mutating, and your proficiency at keeping the humanoids safe will directly impact the game's difficulty.
The game also has a split-screen multiplayer mode that lets two players play cooperatively or in a deathmatch setting. This mode works reasonably well, and players looking for a cooperative game will have some extra fun with Defender.