Thankfully the AI need not be worried about when playing against other human players. The PVP in Defiance is solid, that much can be easily said. There was little latency or noticeable lag in these matches and maps are designed well enough, even if they are somewhat run-of-the-mill. Moreover, the PVP felt balanced from all angles: map layout, weapons and armor, the whole shebang. This is especially impressive when considering the number of weapons and armor pieces there are to acquire in the game. Trion clearly spent a good amount of time polishing this aspect, and it shows.
This PVP component feels like the focus of Defiance, especially when taking into account the game’s other form of player-versus-player combat: Shadow War. This mode is a competitive match type that pits players against one another in the main game world. Unlike the other, more traditional PVP that players can be transported to by entering in a matchmaking queue anywhere, Shadow War sees that folks take on specific objectives on specific maps that exist in the actual game environment and not in the regular PVP. Here teams must capture and hold special “arkfall” pieces that have fallen from the sky. These pieces essentially contain valuable data that can be uploaded to high-paying clients for as long as one team holds onto the piece. Once a team has reached the goal amount of data (which is represented by a score at the top of the screen), they win. While this may sound like just a type of gameplay mode, the best part about it is that it can be accessed like the other competitive PVP mode, or players can just stumble across these skirmishes while off doing their own thing. At that time, they can hop right into the match and go from solo or co-op play to a team fight without ever consulting a menu. This smooth blend is a small addition, but one that feels damn good.
None of Defiance would matter, however, if it didn’t control well. After all, this is a shooter and must feel like one. In that regard, it seems to fare pretty well. Controls feel especially tight on PC, though noticeably a little squirrely on its console counterparts. One can tell, however, that this game was designed with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in mind, as the controller layout is practical and easy to navigate, though they still don’t hold a candle to a good old mouse and keyboard. The PC version ultimately feels like the version to go with it, if not for the controls, than for the presentation.
On Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Defiance is not a game that’s easy on the eyes. In fact, it’s downright ugly at times. Character models are shockingly angular, textures are muddy and lacking any type of real quality, especially environmental ones, and there’s more slowdown than we care to admit. For a shooter, it’s important that the game runs without a hiccup, but that simply isn’t the case with Trion’s newest baby. These visual issues are made all the worse by the game’s generally bland art direction. This might be one of Defiance’s biggest drawbacks, and also one that sort of sums up the experience as a whole: the style is painfully dull and lacking any kind of defining, unique elegance. In fact, the game at times feels a bit soulless thanks to its lackluster character. The game’s soundtrack is, however, quite wonderful, with great sci-fi themes and pulsating ballads that rock during the game’s more intense moments.
Defiance is a game that tries really hard to be liked. In fact, the number of options and general mechanics all work well enough, and nothing is outstandingly heinous or offensive; but the game just does nothing to stand out. It’s bland to the point of becoming mundane at moments and hard to be interested in for a long time. It’s a competent shooter and MMO with an appropriate amount of content, and will probably find its largest playerbase on consoles, but there are a number of technical issues, especially on that console side of things, that could keep people at bay. Aside from the unimaginative visual flair and overall concepts, the frame rate issues, poor AI and graphical deficits don’t help to off-set the game’s list of modes, adequate shooting mechanics and solid storytelling. That being said, as a unique media endeavor, Defiance will probably gain more steam as the television show goes live and as Trion tweaks and implements more features down the line. As far as MMO launches go, though, Defiance has been surprisingly smooth for the most part. In the end, the game is off to a decent start, but it faces some inherent hurdles that could hold it back from being what one can tell it’s meant to be.
Version Reviewed: PC