Terror group ISIS has taken over North Africa in the year 2020, and begun a push into Europe, beginning with Italy. The introductory cinematic for IS Defense takes us step-by-step (plus several dozen more steps) through the situation, with the narration ending: "The situation was dire, and the forces of NATO united for the first time in history in order to repel the invasion."
Cut to: a single soldier in a machine gun nest on a beach. That's you! Good luck defending the entirety of Italy alone against thousands of heavily armed terrorists.
Okay, you're not entirely alone in this fixed-position shooter made by Destructive Creations, creators of the controversial but ultimately unremarkable twin-stick shooter Hatred. As you defend Europe from ISIS on one of the three different maps (yes, a whopping total of three), you gain points that allow you to call in supply drops, reinforcements, artillery, and air strikes.
Let's talk about ISIS's naval assault, in which small motor boats speed to shore, stop instantly, and expel terrorists, and in which larger transport ships arrive and dispense... white Toyota pickup trucks. So, ISIS has conquered several countries, including their military infrastructure, and is now invading Italy in pickup trucks. Well, I guess that explains why NATO only stationed a single soldier on the beach.
As scores of terrorists storm the beach you swivel from side to side and shoot them with your machinegun and rocket launcher, and... that is pretty much the entire videogame. Call in reinforcements and two or three UN soldiers arrive and stand on the beach in front of your nest, unprotected and barely moving. As you kill more enemies, you're awarded skill points you can invest in upgrades to health, weapons, and reinforcements. Your skill increases and death tally are persistent, so even when you die (you will, often, there are a lot of Terries) you start over with your earnings intact. Kill 2,000 members of ISIS and destroy 200 vehicles, and you can begin playing on the second (again, of three total) maps.
It's not much fun! The entirety of IS Defense is like a turret sequence from a bigger game, the kind of sequence that we tend to hate when we have to play through them. It's also not a well-made game in general. Hit detection, as in Hatred, is spotty. Sometimes a single shot or two will drop an attacker, other times a long spray of dead-on hits appear to pass right through them. Not much AI is required to have one million dipshits run straight at you forever, but they somehow even messed that up: I've watched a few enemies run across the beach sideways, slowly, one end to the other, without ever attacking.
Enemy drivers follow the same routes in their Toyotas, piling one after another into the burning wrecks of earlier drivers, though at least that can be funny to watch and lets you chain some explosions together. Your reinforcements stand there stupidly and allow themselves to be run down by vehicles or simply shot dead. I've also encountered long stretches where almost nothing happens. Sometimes the chaotic assault will pause, and after a while only one little boat will show up, miles down the beach, and me and my brainless UN meatbags have nothing to do but just sit there, waiting for them to run close enough to be shredded.
It's a shame, because there is some talent evident at Destructive Creations. Hatred occasionally looked great, and IS Defense looks fantastic. I like the reinforcement system, which can force you to make tough choices. Call in a supply drop, or wait until you have enough points to rally some troops or air support? Amidst the mindless, endless shooting it can make for some occasionally bracing moments, when you're out of rockets and bleeding health, but desperately want to hang on long enough to call in a chopper. The skills upgrades are mostly unimaginative boosts to your health and weapons, but the effects are immediately noticeable and once your main gun has been upgraded it becomes a little more enjoyable to use, though that's only in comparison to how initially bland and toothless it is to fire.
IS Defense isn't really much of a game. Again, there's three freakin' maps and nothing terribly interesting or even that fun going on except for some nice explosions and visuals, and the occasional laugh at some AI misfire or ragdoll. It's pretty cheap at $8/£5.5, but it feels like half a game that is only half-made. I checked, twice, to see if it was an Early Access release, but I guess this is it.
The question some are perhaps dying to know: is it offensive? I dunno. I didn't find it so, but that doesn’t mean others won’t or can’t. Killing thousands of bad guys from the Middle East is certainly nothing new in games (or pop culture in general), so I found it no more or less distasteful than any number of shooters. Maybe it’s just another attempt by Destructive Creations to generate attention from hot-button topics and real-life misery just to sell another not-good game. If you're looking for offensive, though, you can always browse the predictably glowing Steam reviews from people who have played for 0.2 hours. If you're just looking to grow bored quickly, you can play the game itself.