Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defence game set on a future world decimated by an overwhelming alien invasion force. All is not lost however as a long-dormant defence Artificial Intelligence (AI) that conducted a series of successful battles against the aliens is reawakened by the player and is now at their disposal. Replete with plummy English voice and witty quips that fall on the right side of imitation. Aided by this virtual ally, and using different classes of defence towers to thwart the Aliens plans, the player sets about defending what meagre resources are left in the form of power cores.
Set across a variety of locations, Defense Grid starts out nice and gentle, luring the player in with a well judged difficulty level, slowly drip-feeding them a new tower here, more variety of enemies there, until they`re confident at managing everything. Once familiar with these, each new subsequent area expands in scale, requiring deft management of resources. Every enemy killed will provide you with energy – gather enough and you`ll be able to build a new tower. From the basic guns to temporal towers that create bubbles in time slowing down advancing enemies, everything can be upgraded to the power of three, increasing range, damage and power according to their class.
The variety of weaponry soon stacks up and the player will be grateful to each and every piece of ordinance they can get their hands on as things become hectic pretty fast. Each area poses its own conundrum; do I place a Meteor Tower here? Do I have too many laser towers? Constant re-appraisal is required, but while it might sound like micro-management hell, it never manages to feel like a chore since the experience is so compelling. Each core lost feels personal, and as more get stripped away from an area the margin between victory and defeat can come down to having just one core remaining. These fraught battles which swing back and forth require focus and sound tactical placement of certain towers to gain ultimate supremacy.
Hidden Path Entertainment have created an elegant control interface for Defense Grid, one that will surprise and delight those who might be expecting to have to fight with clumsy and frustrating inputs. The wonders of flicking the right analogue stick up to zoom in and down to zoom out is extremely well done, letting the player see the battlefield from whatever magnification they desire. And the detail is preserved once zoomed in, with minute detail evident on towers, aliens and surroundings. Selecting, building and upgrading your defences is also effortless.
There is even the ability to speed up the action with a press of either of the shoulder buttons, but the final master-stroke is being able to press the back button to reload the last saved checkpoint if things are going badly, proving just how much thought has gone into making Defense Grid a positive experience using the 360 pad and one that anyone can pick up and play.
Blessed with a confidence and assured feel to just about every aspect, Defense Grid is a giant step in making a usually unwelcoming genre accessible to anyone. You can tell the developers really took the time and effort to make sure it controlled beautifully, done with a deftness not often seen in the transition from PC to console. With downloadable content apparently in the works, this is a title that rightly deserves a wider audience.