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Act: Global Defense Network [by Evertt]

Game Review: Global Defense Network
Release: July 12, 2004
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Evertt
System Requirements: 700 mhz, DirectX 8.1+
Players: 1
Price: $14.95
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Not a big genre to begin with, quality gallery shooters are a rarity in the independent gaming world and all but completely gone from the mainstream. So you can imagine my surprise when a game like Global Defense Network appears that possesses such a unique visual and audio aesthetic in addition to quality production values. Forget all the derivative “army” or “duck hunt” style shooters you have seen in the past, Global Defense Network is not only fun to play but also blurs the line between game and interactive art.

Global Defense Network alternates your gameplay between beautifully conceived simulator levels and occasional real world missions. The majority of your time will be spent in “simulation” mode where you select training levels to improve your skills and earn credits that allow you to upgrade your weaponry.

You begin the game armed with a lightning gun that is of questionable value and you will want to upgrade it as soon as possible. You can either upgrade the strength or recharge times of the standard weapon or change to a different style of gun (steel ball, machine gun, missile launcher or shell-shot cannon). This customization will help you achieve higher scores and earn more credits.

There is also a communications window that looks like your typical Internet bulletin board and I must confess that, like other reviewers, I thought some of the posts were real at first. It is an excellent way to draw the player into an unfolding story line and a technique I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

The gameplay is standard for shooting gallery games in that your score is based on the number of objects you hit with bonuses provided for accuracy, quick responses and clearing an entire wave flawlessly. Using the mouse to aim, you fire your weapon with the left button and can purchase secondary fire modes, which are controlled with the right button. The simulator levels are all timed to high-quality, original techno themes and at times it’s hard not to just sit back and watch as the whole level plays out like a surreal music video.

Every now and then you will be called upon to take a mission in the real world to clear areas of “alien infection” and track down and destroy the source. Unfortunately, the real world looks like just another simulator and it makes the emotional transition between practice mode and real world conflict non-existent. The only difference in the real world missions is that your gun can take damage and be destroyed if you don’t hit incoming objects. The real world levels are also much shorter (about 20 seconds each location) and not as graphically interesting as some of the better simulator levels.

Despite a few minor flaws, Global Defense Network stands apart from other gallery shooters on the PC with the simple beauty and uniqueness of its design. It is especially gratifying to be able to recommend a shooting gallery game that doesn’t settle for the typical “shoot the animals” or worse; “shoot the people” themes.

Graphics: 8
The graphics in Global Defense Network are abstract and low in detail with most objects consisting of combinations of colored spheres, cylinders and boxes in a very basic environment. At the same time the polish and smoothness of the objects mostly makes up for what they lack in detail, if that makes any sense. I can’t imagine how this game would play if you were shooting highly detailed enemies or spaceships. Something tells me it would lose some of its charm if that were the case.

The downside to this abstraction is that the game lacks overall variety in level design. I can understand that the simulator levels would generally look alike but there should have been much more of a difference when you leave the simulator for missions in the “real world”.

Sound: 9
The real star of Global Defense Network is the music, which although being “techno” is far from the generic beats typical of most shooters. These are highly atmospheric and emotive, professionally composed pieces that complement the gameplay beautifully. Normally, I can’t stand techno and end up turning the music off when I’m playing a game but anyone who does that with Global Defense Network is doing themselves a disservice. The music is the main component that drives the game.

Gameplay: 8
The game ran smoothly on all the machines tested with no slow-down even when there were lots of objects on screen. There were no noticeable bugs found during testing and the load times are minimal.

The one negative in the gameplay experience is the log-in screen when you first launch the game. The program requests that you login with the name of your character and it loads your saved game using that log-in ID. The problem is that if you misspell your character name or simply can’t remember it there doesn’t appear to be any other way to load your saved game.

I understand the desire to create an immersive experience but a simple screen where you could physically select a character name to load would have been preferable. Sometimes you can take the simulation of the real world too far but as complaints go it’s an extremely minor one.

Options: 8
Global Defense Network gives you control over your display and audio settings, basically the standard options for any game of its type.

Value: 8
While the unique music and presentation of Global Defense Network drew me in quickly, I found that the overall experience wore thin after a while. The real-world missions broke up the monotony of the simulations but only slightly since the visuals generally did not change.

Fun: 8
This game is both fun and frustrating. The levels in the simulator seem to run on a little long and leave you wondering when it will end. It’s not that you want to stop playing, it’s just that you need a break so you can blink again!

The real world levels especially the ones when you find the source of each infection (basically the “boss” bad-guy) are tense, carpal-tunnel inducing experiences. It might be a good idea to invest in an ice pack for your wrist beforehand.

Overall: 9
Global Defense Network is one of the more original games to grace my hard drive lately. There aren’t a lot of entries in the “mouse-shooter” genre and few of the ones that exist approach the slick and unique presentation values seen here. If you are a fan of shooting gallery action then this is definitely your game.

There is enough play value that seasoned pros will always be able to find a challenge and room to improve their skills and yet the controls are forgiving enough for a beginner to feel a sense of accomplishment after each mission. I recommend giving this one a try!

Added: September 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Kyle Nau
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