Defense Grid is basically Home Alone in the 22nd Century where, instead of Micro Machines at the bottom of a stairwell, you place a glowing laser turret that literally shoots the legs off marauding, but ultimately dumb, invaders. Careful strategy and tower placement can lead enemies around a pulsating, bullet-frenzy funhouse of a map where they’ll be continually bombarded from all angles as they trundle to their inevitable demise.
These single-minded alien bastards are after your valuable ‘cores’, which lie at a specific point in each cleverly crafted map, and, by Christ, they’ll do whatever they can to walk in a fairly linear manner to get there. As the waves of aliens increase, so do their resistance to certain types of turrets; their speed increases, their shields become more powerful, their mutating abilities become terrifying. It’s here where smartly devised layouts and shrewdly chosen towers will pay off and you’ll end the level with all of your cores intact.
We were big, stupid, drooling fan-freaks for the first Defense Grid title, but Defense Grid 2 seems less like a sequel and more like a refined remake. Familiar turrets like Tesla, Mortar and Temporal (which spins wildly, slowing down any aliens in its sight) return and one welcome addition is a Boost tile, which allows you to quickly and cheaply block out paths and build towers on top.
But while DG2 comes seemingly packed with customisations and options, it’s tightly controlled. You can customise some of your turrets, but on a very limited scale; you can select that all Laser towers have shield piercing abilities, or that they prioritise the strongest targets, yet there’s no customisation on an individual level. There are now special weapons for selectable team commanders too, like the old faithful Orbital Laser which can obliterate anything within the radius of your cursor, alongside Precision Targeting and an energy beam of core protection.
Nevertheless, Defense Grid 2 should have a degree in Delivering Satisfaction from the University of Fuck Is That The Time I Thought I Was Only Playing It For Half An Hour – it’s an absolute life-vacuum that relies on trial and error and the associated payoffs. The ability to skip backwards through waves after you’ve realised the terrible error in a decision from earlier really extends your patience with it rather than having to restart long levels. There’s the semblance of a story too that simply serves to poke annoyingly at your ears while you’re busy planning tower-placement like a right prick. But, we’re happy to hear the familiar tones of Fletcher return as he cries ‘The COOOOORES’ like Jools Holland announcing a new buzz band. Sadly, the tongue-in-cheek melodrama of it all in no way reflects the level of threat we’re supposed to feel from the unremarkable lines of fodder acting as your enemies. While screeching voices may try to reinforce the interstellar peril, the aliens are often so small and indistinct that it’s tough to really care what’s happening beyond upgrading your towers to decimate them quicker.
With about 20 campaign maps and some co-op/PvP as well as additional handicaps and level customisations, Defense Grid 2 is more about taking a solid formula and delivering it without tampering too much with what obviously really, really works. New level designs, transforming environments, multiple entry and exit points and refined controls all make up for the fact that, yeah, there are basically no new turrets to play with and there are no huge twists or surpirses to the core mechanic. It’s also clear that something as carefully designed as Defense Grid 2 just doesn’t need all that extra shit.
Defense Grid 2 is available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.