Defiance PS3 review – All talk and no walk for ambitious TV tie-in

defiance ps3 review

[Update: There's a large Defiance PS3 patch on the way which promises to fix numerous bugs.]

Not a game, a ‘trans-media experience’. It’s one of those hoity-toity phrases that sounds all big and clever when rubbed up against other bits of flowery PR rhetoric, but in practice forcing a sci-fi television series and an MMO shooter into bed together and asking them to form a complex relationship after the initial under-the-duvet fumble is no easy task.

Defiance PS3 review

In the case of Defiance, the game and TV show barely make it past foreplay on the sofa before storming off to separate bedrooms, with the only links I noticed after having sat through the 90-minute pilot being the sterile post-apocalyptic setting and the occasional in-game appearance of small screen protagonists Nolan (rough and ready drifter) and Irisa (feisty, moon-eyed she-alien).

defiance ps3 reviewNot getting on with its 9pm-on-Tuesday sibling is the least of Defiance’s concerns, however. What it should be worrying about is banal third-person combat, visuals that took a wrong turn somewhere in development and ended up in 2002, and servers about as stable as a three-legged Ikea coffee table.

I’ll put the latter down to teething problems, but when those teething problems boot me out of the game mid-mission and I lose all my progress, I tend to get a bit sad and lower scores – especially when grinding through Defiance’s perma-spawning waves of identi-mutants is such a chore. To be fair, the daunting enemy numbers aren’t designed to be tackled alone, and there’s a pleasing sense of camaraderie in chugging through a scrap with mates.

It’s just a shame the core combat doesn’t match the scale of Defiance’s ambition – weapons feel light and impotent, especially against some of the game’s hardier damage-sponges, and a lack of enemy variety means battles soon descend into repetitive tedium.

Defiance offsets not being a particularly good game by being a bloody massive one

Thankfully it’s not all bad news, as Defiance offsets not being a particularly good game by being a bloody massive one. You’ve got around ten square kilometres of the San Francisco Bay area to explore, and it’s an open world that’s been terraformed to hell and back. Roads are cracked and twisted (the gnarled remains of the Golden Gate bridge are a haunting highlight), towns have been replaced with ramshackle hovels of scrap metal, and for some reason there are bulbous sci-fi mushrooms all over the place. It lacks both the stark desolation of Fallout 3 and the vivid brashness of Borderlands 2, but it’s teeming with shooty side-missions, vehicle-based time trials and – most importantly – random ‘Arkfalls’.

defiance ps3 reviewThese are unscripted events involving chunks of space debris plummeting to Earth along with countless enemies – best them all and you’re rewarded with wads of EGO, the game’s currency. There’s plenty of depth here, with passive abilities to upgrade and weapon mods to collect, all of which can be taken into the specially (but not particularly well) tailored competitive multiplayer.

You certainly can’t fault Defiance for lack of content, then. Sadly, what you can fault it for is being an ugly, buggy and monotonous shooter with a tenuous link to a mediocre sci-fi TV drama.

Our Score

Score: 5