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Defender - Xbox Live Arcade review

And you thought you were a good gamer


  • Brutal challenge
  • Adjustable difficulty
  • Choice of "classic" controls


  • Brutal challenge
  • Unremarkable HD graphics
  • Simultaneous control schemes conflict

Defender is one of those masterpieces of gaming's golden age that 5% of the population could play well while the other 95% played something that didn't crush their soul. None of the multi-fingered challenge of Defender has disappeared since 1982, but playing it again makes us simply realize how much we suck.

The goal of the game's complex control scheme was to make you feel like you're piloting a least for the 15 to 20 seconds you’ll be alive to do it. A two-way joystick plus buttons for Thrust, Fire, Reverse, Hyperspace, and Smart Bombs... that’s a lot to manage. All the controls (unlike victory) feel comfortably within reach on the 360 gamepad, but mapping Reverse both to a button and a joystick motion makes the Default and Classic control schemes fight with each other – they're active simultaneously.

The versus and co-op modes on Live are a nice perk and we are thrilled to see adjustable difficulty, though the touted "enhanced" graphics don't look notably upgraded. But overall, fiendish alien enemies that can lead their targets with uncanny accuracy, a smoothly scrolling planet, and a frantic need to save humanoids from being spacenapped combine in the same exact whirlwind of confused frustration as they did when you were a wee lad. It's almost too hard to be enjoyable.

More info

DescriptionDid you suck at Defender back in the day? There's a damned good chance you still do on Xbox Live Arcade. For better or worse, it's the same experience you remember with only minor tweaks for Xbox 360.
Platform"Xbox 360"
US censor rating"Everyone"
UK censor rating""
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)