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Review

Defiance Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • X360
Aaron Sampson on Google+

Defiance is the B movie of massively multiplayer games: rickety and unrefined, yet a good time all the same.

Defiance is a difficult game to wrap your head around. That's not because it's all that complicated, but rather because it's just so much fun, even though none of the elements are done particularly well. Defiance is a massively multiplayer shooter in which every aspect is merely decent at best, yet it somehow pieces the jagged elements together into an entertaining picture as you pursue one challenge after another across its postapocalyptic landscape. What a shame that the trek is interrupted not just by the squishy kinds of bugs that you like to kill with guns and grenades, but technical kinds of bugs that have you cursing and rolling your eyes.

Look beyond the hitches and the jittering frame rates, and you discover a game with a scrappy attitude and a tight handle on what a massively multiplayer world needs to keep you coming back in spite of the frustrations. What is this world? Well, it's Earth, as it happens--more specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area. An alien war has ended, and an uncertain peace between exhausted factions remains. The decrepit remnants of an annihilated fleet of spaceships orbit the planet, occasionally plummeting to the land beneath, and drawing in treasure hunters eager to scour the remaining debris for valuable commodities. Terrestrial and extraterrestrial plant life have merged, causing bizarre purple flowers to grow from the gnarled branches that corkscrew above crumbling highways and rusting copied-and-pasted factories.

You shouldn't come to Defiance to be immersed in the world, which looks too monotone to be all that compelling. Ruinous environments can have their own kind of disastrous beauty, but this vision of Earth lacks the tense atmosphere and visual variety of gaming's best ravaged lands. You might become invested in this world in spite of its mundane looks, however, depending on your level of interest in the SyFy television show of the same name. Story-based missions feature the vague likenesses of characters from the show, and future story missions are promised, but stiff facial animations and inconsistent voice acting--not to mention a lot of cheesy (in the bad way) dialogue--make it hard to whip up any excitement over the narrative in spite of an abundance of cutscenes.

Massively multiplayer online games have trod in alien territory before, though MMOGs remain a rarity on consoles. Nonetheless, Defiance’s structure is a familiar one. The game pushes you from from one task to the next, having you clear meadows of giant hellbug swarms, free captured prisoners from their bonds, collect data from computer terminals, and so forth. You perform most of these missions in the open world, though key assignments might send you into instanced areas meant only for you and your groupmates.

Robots can't feel pain, so it's ok to shoot them.

Defiance is not a typical role-playing game, however, but a shooter through and through, so while you have special skills to perform, you can generally concentrate on aiming at your target and pulling the trigger. You initially choose one of four powers so that you can run really fast, go invisible, create a ghostly decoy, or enhance weapon damage. From there, the power grid expands, allowing you to earn and improve lots of passive perks, though you can equip only as many perks as your loadout allows, and eventually you can unlock the other powers to play around with.

These skills are called EGO powers, named after the Environmental Guardian Online artificial intelligence fused with your body. This AI is Defiance's version of Halo's Cortana, though EGO makes a far more annoying companion than Cortana, what with the sharp treble of her voice and the repetitious line readings that don't necessarily make sense in every context. (Do hellbugs really call in reinforcements, as if they have tiny radios strapped to their heads?) But you'll be glad of the abilities she grants you, which aren't very thrilling to activate or watch, but are nonetheless useful in battle. Need to shake off a flame-spewing munchkin? Distract him with your decoy, and shoot the fuel supply strapped to his back. In over your head? Turn invisible and make a quick getaway.

It isn't the powers that make for rewarding progression in Defiance, however; it's the weapons. There is a cornucopia of choices, and once you get a taste of each gun type, you'll be pleased that your inventory is constantly filling with so many deadly possibilities. Simple pistols and machine guns are soon upgraded with modifications you purchase and earn, or are replaced with similar weapons infused with effects like fire and poison. Launchers come in all sorts of varieties. You might be able to lock on to your target, or perhaps your payload explodes in midair and spews fire onto your enemies beneath. Infectors cause bugs to spawn within your victims and eat away at their flesh; biomagnetic guns allow you to siphon health from foes and grant it to friends.

Virtual Grant Bowler is not as charming as Real-Life Grant Bowler.

And so your drive to continue playing is fueled by the ever-present possibility of a new gun, a new variant, or a modification that enhances the bond to your current weapon of choice. That bond is then broken when a shiny new toy makes the old, newly obsolete weapon a relic of the past, though weapons remain surprisingly effective for some time. In fact, the gap in weapon effectiveness that you usually feel in a persistent-world game as you level up isn't so pronounced in Defiance, due in part to how well enemies scale based on how many players are in the vicinity.

The gentle progression curve allows developer Trion Worlds to take you on a tour of its world without dividing it into territories that cater to players of specific levels. Reaching one end of the county doesn't mean having to fight your way to some arbitrary level limit, which makes Defiance feel more freeing than other online worlds, even though it doesn't cover the exhaustive amounts of real estate other games do. That isn't to say that Defiance doesn't feel appropriately large, or doesn't give you a lot to do; the world map is dotted with orange waypoints that lure you to vehicular speed challenges and side missions, and white waypoints that indicate vendors promising special guns for sale.

A typical stretch of Defiance often involves taking on a mission, summoning your ride--perhaps a speedy all-terrain vehicle or a cumbersome Dodge Charger--and zooming toward your destination. Your car appears out of thin air almost immediately after you summon it, along with a dinky horn effect that might have you looking for the clown car that must surely accompany it. In any case, it's easy to get around, and once you've arrived at your destination, you can tumble from your vehicle like a Hollywood stuntman. Then the shooting begins, and this is where so much of the fun--and so many of the problems--begins to surface.

The Pale Wars are over… but the Shadow War has just begun.

Defiance's third-person shooting is serviceable. While you can crouch behind objects and let your shield regenerate, enemies aren't usually up for a game of cover-based cat and mouse, so you tend to be on the move, which keeps you engaged. But while Defiance has speed, it doesn't have much oomph: hitting an enemy in its weak spot results in an unsatisfying splat, and explosions cause raiders to fly through the air with too little weight. Enemy AI also proves irritatingly dunderheaded. You don't usually come to a massively multiplayer game expecting cutthroat AI, but in a shooter environment, the shortcomings are immediately obvious. Guys with rocket launchers may fire into the wall directly in front of them, over and over, and gunners might run away from you and around a corner, only to just stand there, facing the wall.

Defiance often compensates for the AI's inconsistencies by throwing a variety of enemies at you that exhibit different behaviors and use different weapons. Sometimes, this leads to exciting moments that have you rushing in and out of harm's way, getting the drop on your more vulnerable foes before taking on some hulking mutant lobbing grenades at you. Other times, you face automated turrets, multiple rocket raiders, and shield-equipped rioters. Knockback animations don't always allow you time to recover from one rocket before another from the same enemy lands. Dealing with the resulting damage loops isn't very enjoyable, and they almost invariably occur on story-based missions.

Of course, you can have buddies along if you're having trouble, though joining others isn't entirely necessary, which is just as well, considering that the in-game chat doesn't always function properly anyway. But you do need others if you want to tackle Defiance's co-op missions, which push forward at a good tempo, bubbling and surging until you reach the final boss. Some of these bosses are big bags of meat, requiring only that you plug them with enough bullets for them to fall. Others require some strategy, such as a mutated freak that requires you to disable his defenses first while staying out of harm's way. The dark mines that house some of these missions are uninspiring, but other co-op missions give you a welcome breath of fresh Bay Area air.

Let the healing begin.

It's during group events called arkfalls that Defiance proves its mettle. Space debris falls from the sky, bringing with it untold treasure (mostly in the form of guns and scrip, the game's main currency), as well as throngs of raiders, hellbugs, and mechanical monsters intent on plundering your innards. These arkfalls bring together dozens of players in the vicinity intent on destroying giant creatures for the sake of loot, though it's worth joining in just for the fun of it. An arkfall is joyous controlled chaos, with winged insect archers fluttering in the air and giant robotic arms craning above the battlefield. Often, minor arkfalls are chained together, culminating in a massive standoff characterized by a final intimidating explosion. Driving from one battle to the next, you join a makeshift caravan of other greedy players, all of them joined by a selfish lust for money and valuables.

Unfortunately, arkfalls and other events populated by larger groups are sometimes bogged down by jerky frame rates, causing the gunplay to feel less fluid than it should. Graphical performance isn’t Defiance’s only technical issue, however: every strength is undermined by some kind of annoyance, some kind of glitch, or some kind of execution foible that has you either shaking your head, or scratching it.

Take, for instance, the player-versus-player mode called Shadow War. The mode drops you and other players into the open world and lets you murder each other as you strive to capture control points. At its best, Shadow War is an intense tug-of-war between two sizable teams struggling against the local wildlife in addition to each other. But why do friends and enemies spawn next to each other at the beginning of the match? You could be murdered before you even get your bearings. Later, you could enter an attack vehicle as a gunner, but have the targeting reticle disappear. Or maybe you enter the match, only for the game to act as if you were thrown to the ground, so you end up taking damage because you had the gall to respawn. And then when the match is over, you might take damage from standard open-world enemies attacking you before you've had time to close the match results screen.

If you want to rule the roost, you must show the raiders who's boss.

The annoyances continue outside of PVP, where almost no facet can be described without mentioning some kind of notable flaw. The co-op missions are solid, except when a door shuts you out of a boss fight, and your giant foe clips halfway through the door, allowing you to punch him until he perishes. The driving challenges are enjoyable, except when an object spawns directly in front of you and you bang into it, your chance at a gold medal vanishing in an instant. The team deathmatch PVP mode is OK, though you could appear without a head or weapon for a short while. Arkfalls are terrific, even though you might get credit for performing dozens of player revivals when you only performed one.

Menus taking many long seconds before the screen populates with any information. Mission progress lost and weapons gone missing. Frequent server downtimes. Delayed or failed attempts to break down your items into resources. These are some of the obstacles you must circumvent to enjoy Defiance to its fullest, and even then, nothing Defiance does is best in class. Yet it has that special spark that ignites the desire to press forward. Defiance's merely acceptable systems are deftly assembled in a way that allows you to spread your proverbial wings and offer your gun-wielding talents to those who need you most. Much like its own arkfalls, Defiance offers treasure, but you have to battle an array of bugs before you can reap it.

The Good
Exciting arkfalls capture the sense of a population fighting for riches
The lure of interesting new weapons is irresistible
Well-paced co-op missions
Great scaling and progression have you exploring the world early on
The Bad
Depressing array of bugs intrude on almost every aspect of play
The shooting lacks a sense of power
Wonderless world and story
Jumpy frame rates
Unbalanced difficulty in story missions
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Defiance

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

38 comments
Sruppert
Sruppert

Funny how Kevin rates Destiny the same score as this game. Maybe they are the same game? Reviews be dammed, Destiny is still a lot of fun to me. 

sweeten16
sweeten16

got this recently no problems at all seems that everythings been patched and it's more fun to play than some of the games that have gotten 9's on here.

telleranbeef
telleranbeef

Lots of issues, support takes 1 to 2 days to fix which in some cases you cant keep playing till they get to you due to stuck/frozen mission. Was very addicting but I wasted a great deal of money buying the season pass, main game, premium edition (in error I thought it was the main game) and lots spent in world  on upgrades only to have critical errors on many missions after already putting a lot of effort in.  This is still Beta if not Alpha in my opinion.

sirreal420
sirreal420

game sucks, dont waste your money on it played since beta and its only getting worse 'nuff said

Cochleadoc
Cochleadoc

Kevin, do you ever update a review/score based on the issues you complained about being addressed?  If, let's say, a patch fixes 60% of your issues, wouldn't that warrant a review revision?  I think that would be a beneficial thing to do and even have an icon that indicates an updated review.  It would have traction in terms of clicks and be beneficial for the masses.  It also, might increase your reviewer stock. ;) Thanks.

keech
keech

This is yet again one of those reviews that are now downright obsolete.  Don't get me wrong, a lot of it is still accurate.  But almost all of the technical issues mentioned in this review have been fixed since the recent big patch.


I also feel this is another review where the review score in no way reflects the tone of the actual review.  If I had not seen the score before reading, I would have guessed this game got a 7 or 7.5 easy.


I bought this game on release day, am I disappointed?  No, it is fun for what it is.  Would I suggest someone else pay $60 to play it?  Probably not.

speedfog
speedfog

Kevin just sucks in PvP mode

Jeremy473
Jeremy473

I got it 3 days after release and was really upset at the issues, I couldn't even finish the tutorial because of the lag. They were kicking people off for maintenance all the time. Now I'm able to play 4 hrs without issues. I even emailed them about mission issues, got a reply 4 days later stating they were going to fix this in the next patch... sure enough 2 days ago in the patch notes it was listed. They even sent a email to make sure I wasn't having the same issue. When I logged into my account I had 10% bonus on everything, some weapons etc. They really care about the customers and are trying to make this game better. They actually listen. I cant remember a time I bought a game that had issues and was compensated for it, to me as a consumer that speaks volume about these guys. This game is a great game and how does someone give a game so huge a review? I have over 100hr in and Im not even done with the main mission and contracts etc. You cant really review a game without finishing it correct? Plus he played it on pc and compared it to other pc mmo's.... then gave it a extra .5 because the graphics???? On console it should be different because there isnt many mmo's on a console is my point. Kevin's reviews suck balls. I think they should watch for all the patches and bug fixes before giving numbers. Its a great game and dont let reviews sway you away from it.

Hiyaplayer15
Hiyaplayer15

Three days after I played this game I went straight back to fallout new vegas. The story line is poor, the quests are the same damn thing over and over, and the environments are average at best.

AmnesiaHaze
AmnesiaHaze

i bought bioshock infinite and this at the same time , didnt even had the chance to start bioshock cause defiance is sooo addicting

ShinjiEx
ShinjiEx

Half of the bad's are untrue.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

So uh... I assume this is one of those games you pay for first and play later? Or is this F2P? Seems like an important bit of info, something that definitely should be mentioned in a review... although it isn't(mentioned that is.)

LukeWesty
LukeWesty

Still waiting on things to return like the capture and hold pvp thing so I can focus on those goals but all in all great game. After finishing the campaign trying to do all the goals is great I think, played on it almost every day since it came out, great value and great gameplay really sucks you in, won't be finished till all goals are finished. :)

folpo
folpo

i've played for 10 hours (top notch zone) and i didn't found all these bugs (some bugs not so many).. the iportant thing is not graphics or facial expression but how much the game entertain you. i find myself playing all night long and skip work just to play more.. i'm tired of game like crisys e co. with ultra mega super graphics but that leaves with empty. it's a great game, it's fun to be played with friends (side mission with role is wonderful) and i hope more ppl come to the server and enjoy the game. arkfall hunt is pure madness and i'm proud to be part of it. bugs are present in every game but if the editor is a big one then the scores are >8. lamest review ever

nick-nikol
nick-nikol

The game if it was made differently it would have been good not great or a breakthrough in gaming,but the way it is made and played ,well.....................it sucks, even the cutscenes are very plasticky as I might say. The review score is tooooooo high give it a 3.5 and that's making the producers happy. Very disappointed indeed.

Atheosis
Atheosis

There is a very strange gap between user scores and critic scores with this game, both on this site and on Metacritic.  It's kind of puzzling.  I feel like critics are universally rating this game a full point or more lower than warranted for some inexplicable reason.

MelancholyDitz
MelancholyDitz

Totally agree with this review. I enjoy the game, but it's buggy, laggy, lacking any real or refined storyline, and at times boring because of the awfully static world.

Like I said, I enjoy the game, but it's hardly worth more than a 7.5 and I think that it is deserving of low scores.

artisticgoose
artisticgoose

I think your score is really low....... Yes it's bugged... look at the size of the game. A game of this size isn't going to be perfect from day one,  add since all the updates and patches it's a massive improvement. The consoles just can't compete with a pc's frame rate. My console is £100 quid a good pc is what £600 to play games.  I don't know of another game that has had the support from a software house as this as regards to patches.... I' think theres been two within a few weeks of release.. soooo re do your review mate.....

Broodwin
Broodwin

It's a disappointing review for me. I enjoy the game a lot on the xbox. It tries to do something new and inevitably has some bugs because of that. There's a big difference between the player reviews and the gamespot review too.

RAD_TRBO
RAD_TRBO

I really enjoyed the show, the game is actually pretty fun as well! Bugs are annoying but what game this day doesn't have bugs, let's be honest!

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

the score only low becoz of bugs....... now i wonder how all bethesda games getting 9.0 >:(

coolmath4life
coolmath4life

Kind of a crappy review... All my time with the game, and the fun i've had with it, minus all the So-called bugs, and its an easy 9...

RiKanKiDD
RiKanKiDD

Figured. I still want to try it out. At least they rated it a Fair :)

resident_jisen
resident_jisen

@Cochleadoc problem is kevin is to dam picky for his own good the game has to be perfect for him to be happy. I just got this game and I actually find the game very fun and only had a few minor problems.this  game is an easy 7 .

ccusick
ccusick

Check out Battlefied 4 reviews on Amazon.  I played BF3 open beta and launch, and then sent it back to the amazon trade in store.  So, I passed on BF4. (I WAS a fan of BF). 

What I don't get is how BF4 can have so many problems and get an 8.   There is a totally different view on this site than the extensive, documented 1 star reviews online.   Gamespot calls it "Great".  Amazon users are almost screeching in frustration.


Been a fan of this site for a long time but recent reviews, especially large franchise shooters always getting "an 8" is starting make me a non-believer.  (I like Kevin's prose, but that's clearly not enough for me to make purchase decisions.) 


cjc


oh, and I'm here way late b/c this game is on sale PS+ for about 4-5 dollars, December 2013.

and yeah - an updated post-patch Q4 review would be very helpful.

EL_Bomberdor
EL_Bomberdor

@speedfog  

I can imagine him throwing a tantrum every time someone kills him "WHAT! WHO THE FUCK JUST KILLED ME, FUCK THIS GAME ARRRRR"

anigmha
anigmha

@Hiyaplayer15 I love Fallout, but I love playing with friends, meeting new people and participating in shenanigans more. Were you trying to play an MMO as a single-player game?

keech
keech

@1wikkid1 The game has no monthly fee.  The initial purchase is all that's require to play.  Though it does have some micro-transaction, none are even remotely needed to progress.  It will also have free and pay DLC add-on's.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@Atheosis MMO games tend to have that happen.  Players often give higher ratings because they're getting more out of the social aspect.

MelancholyDitz
MelancholyDitz

Excuse me, but I also meant to add: Since when was a 6.5 considered "bad," isn't that kind of the middle ground of a 1 - 10 scale?

nick-nikol
nick-nikol

Who said to you that I play junk like you Eat the bullocks in your mouth.

Defiance More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • Xbox 360
    Defiance is an open world shooter MMO from Trion Worlds that interconnects with a global television program by Syfy.
    7.3
    Average User RatingOut of 503 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Defiance
    Developed by:
    Trion Worlds
    Published by:
    Trion Worlds
    Genres:
    Team-Based, Shooter, Third-Person, Action, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence