Have you ever wanted to be a Female Nazi helicopter pilot bent on destroying the corrupt American regime? Of course you haven’t, but frankly Under Defeat doesn’t really much care. In Under Defeat you are thrust into an alternate history of WW2, where the Union (read as America) and the Empire (read as Hitler Land) have spanned the globe and found themselves locked in conflict. Although a peace treaty has been signed, badass engines of war lay strewn about and by the Führer some hot chicks are gonna use them.
To be fair, the U.S version of this game severely downplays the Nazi connection but American shoot ‘em up (shmup) purists will know that as you blow up tank after tank eventually you will be killing your own grandpa. Originally released as a Japanese only SEGA Naomi arcade game, and later ported to the Dreamcast, Under Defeat has had no shortage of fans wishing it would come to the modern consoles. Now that it has, it is time to see if, unlike the real Nazi regime, it will stand the test of time. (Oh! Need some ice for that burn Hitler?)
The sidescrolling shmup has long been a niche’ genre who’s glory days are long gone, but developer G.Rev is notorious for never letting being old news get them down. In the old days, when grandparents weren’t walking up hills both ways, they were flying around in glorious 2D being thrust forward as they flailed wildly left and right trying to avoid and obliterate any dangers that come their way. Under Defeat follows the same classic formula as its kin, it consists of ten levels, five normal missions and then five special missions that are more of the same just with flipped enemy placement. Long before the advent of regenerating health, one hit spells your end and costs you one of three lives, followed by two continues before it is game over.
If this sounds archaic, don’t worry you are not pretentious it is, but some people find charm in the simplicity of the design. In the original game the graphics were iffy and a player used just a joy stick and two buttons to move an unwieldy helicopter through unfriendly skies. In the new HD remake the graphics are iffy and the player uses a analogue stick and two buttons to move an unwieldy helicopter through unfriendly skies. If that seemed redundant to you it should, G. Rev isn’t really reinventing the wheel…errr helicopter rotor here, they’re doing just enough to port it to the console. For people who really want to step into the past can play the arcade mode and forgo the wide screen for the classic narrow box screen, however this is the only difference between this mode and the New Order Mode (other than it being a mirror version of the same maps)
Now that all the history and fascism is out of the way it is time for the meat of the game, the mechanics and visuals. The controls are a labor of love for some but an exercise in frustration for others. The game’s special gimmick (all games of this vein need one) is that unlike normal games where your bullet spewing object is in a fixed position, pressing right and left rotates the helicopter and allows shooting in three directions while you move around the map. To lock position you just hit the fire button when you achieve the correct angle. This constant angle shifting helps implement the games other feature; instead of just holding down the “blow stuff up button” you are encouraged to stop the action and wait for a meter to fill, when all reads green you are rewarded with a helpful turret that can easily change the tide of battle.
As you can imagine, the combination of these features leads to an awkward and clunky feel to the game. Now to help this annoyance, you can map the right analogue stick to shoot making maneuvering easier but that does little to help you avoid the mass of bullets constantly thrown at you. The enemies are uninspired at the very least. As you blow apart America, expect to fight helicopters, bigger helicopters, really big helicopters, tanks, bigger tanks, and really big tanks, ships, bigger sh….are you getting the picture yet? Unlike some games who try at least to add some interesting and different bullet animations or skins to the sprites; Under Defeat remains surprisingly bland most of the time alternating between green, white, and gray colored enemies, and only three different bullet animations.
This not only makes the game unsatisfying to look at it, it also makes it rather confusing. Frequently an enemy will blend into the sea of mediocrity, suddenly slamming into you or spiting out a bullet leading to a stuttering death (for some inexplicable reason they thought that slowing time when you die or drop a bomb was hella cool.) This might be redeemable if the environments were at least partially inspired. But alas other than generic forest and predicable snow levels, a sea or two, there is nothing to see here. The background visuals aren’t all bad however, many of the environments are destructible and the depth of them can be surprising at times. These brief moments are not enough however to outweigh the rest of the boring atmosphere.
All in all this is a terrible game. I have played much much worse, but many things keep it from being elevated to above bad game status. Other than the myriad of problems mentioned above which would make it a decent game to pick up, two glaring problems made it move over the edge for me: the cost and the lag. The game retails for $29.99 and given the content provided, this is absolutely absurd. Sure, the Deluxe Edition comes with all the DLC (one helicopter skin, some game art, and new soundtrack…. big whoop) but for a game that literally takes thirty minutes to beat once you master it, this is extremely overpriced.
For the price of this one arcade game you could easily buy two or more cheaper games and quadruple your play time. While the slow down after death, and after dropping a bomb is intentional, it is clear that the game is not very stable on the PS3. Expect lots of lag as you whirl around the bullets and enemies start to fill your screen. And by a lot, I mean every 30 seconds. At one point I wondered if something was wrong with my console, and had to switch to another game to make sure it wasn’t broken. This, combined with the rest of the game’s issues, leaves me with only one word to describe the game as a whole: bleh.
- Solid difficulty
- Invokes that old shmup nostalgia
- One of the few in the niche’ genre to be released recently
- Boring levels and enemies
- Cluttered visuals
- Poor controls
- Framerate stuttering
- Occasionally unfair bullet patterns
Final Grade: D
This review was conducted on a PlayStation 3 version of the game provided by Rising Star.