Bright neon lights, gangs with guns blazing, a corrupt city council involved in an evil conspiracy – Defragmented, the latest release from developers Glass Knuckle Games, sets it’s cyberpunk tone well straight from the opening. Whilst there’s no doubting that the game is absolutely bustling with style with its bright lights and slick setting, does the gameplay have the substance to go with it? Thankfully yes, but not without a few hitches along the way…
Defragmented is set in the futuristic city of Entropolis; a city rife with gangs, rogue police agents and a corrupt city council. After arriving in the city you get into a dangerous encounter with one of these gangs, but are saved by Mai Vermouth – the leader of rebellion group ‘Via Ascencio’ whose goal is to take down the corrupt city council. After getting rescued by Mai you end up going under her wing, taking out her enemies and helping her bring her version of ‘peace’ to the city of Entropolis. Of course, things don’t go to plan and there’s plenty of twist and turns, but I won’t go into too much detail here.
The story will keep you entertained, though it does seem to have some pacing issues. A lot of different things seem to happen so quickly and with plenty of different characters introduced with such different ideals, it can be a little tricky to keep track of what exactly was going on. Still, I was never bored with the story and I enjoyed the visual novel style it adopted.
Defragmented opens by allowing you to create your own male or female character and choose their class. There’s no huge customisation options for you character’s appearance though – this isn’t like Fallout 4 where you’ll be spending hours carefully crafting each tiny detail on your face. In fact you don’t even have a face, with Defragmented adopting a blank polygonal style for character model’s appearances. It might sound unusual but it works really well in-game, fitting in perfectly with the cyberpunk vibe of the game.
You get the option of three classes to play as – the tough Cyberzerker, the quick and nimble Railrunner or the intelligent Ascended. Each class offers a different set of abilities to use in-game and each have their own particular benefits that’ll suit different styles of play. Admittedly, your class choice won’t affect gameplay too much – whilst the skills on offer are useful, in the end everything in the game boils down to how good you are at shooting your foes.
The game plays like a twin stick shooter, with all the action taking place from a top down perspective. You can switch to an over the shoulder camera angle, but that’s mainly used to scout what is up ahead of you. Defragmented adds an RPG twist to the shooting formula though, with the ability to level up and develop your character’s skills along with offering different equipment with varying stats.
Levelling up is vital to your success in Defragmented. Besides improving stats like HP, each increase in level gives you one skill point to level up your skill tree. The skill trees vary depending on what class you’ve gone – my playthrough as a Cyberzerker gave me access to skills that would toughen up my character defensively. You’re also able to increase your stats with ‘program cores’, accessories that you can equip that each come with specific stat boosts. Despite the stat boosts being helpful, the most important aspect of Defragmented is what weapon you use.
There’s an absolute ton of weapons on offer, each being one of five different types – pistol, SMG, rifle, shotgun and energy weapons. Each weapon you use has their own different pros and cons, with weapons like the shotgun for example being more effective from close range but a bit useless from a distance. Each weapon in the game has different stats, though the most important thing you’ll want to look at is the accuracy. This is where Defragmented’s main issue lies.
The accuracy of your weapons can be utterly useless at times, no matter what sort of distance you are from enemies. The game is designed to be difficult, but at times I’d be up close to an enemy and shooting only for none of my shots to actually hit, resulting in my own character constantly dying in the resulting shoot out. Whilst I’m sure the RPG elements of the game are at work here some clever algorithm responsible for my misfiring shots, it often just left me feeling frustrated – I’m used to my bullets actually hitting where I’m aiming in a game, especially in top down shooters. It was particularly frustrating that I first encountered the issue quite early in the game, with one level in particular taking over fifty tries before I was able to actually succeed.
Thankfully you’ll eventually get access to weapons that are able to actually hit with minimal fuss, and that’s when you’ll get to enjoy Defragmented’s better qualities. Level design is great, varying between tight corridors to wide open spaces. You’ll travel across a decent variety of environments, packed with obstacles to hide against or hit over as you smash your way through each level.
Enemies are clever too, offering stern opposition throughout the roughly four to five hour story mode. Whilst they follow set routes as they patrol each area, they’re also not afraid to come and hunt you down when they know you’re around. It sets up some great shootouts as you switch from cover to cover, picking each shot carefully as you take down each enemy. You have to be careful though – it doesn’t take many shots from the enemy to kill you, and each time you restart a level enemies will have a whole different set of weapons, just to keep you on your toes.
You’ll sometimes find the best way to succeed is to be cheap. There were plenty of moments where I’d grab the attention of a group of enemies, lure them around the corner only to have them walk into the blast of my shotgun. These moments are certainly satisfying, especially given my issues with weapon accuracy earlier on in Defragmented.
One of my favourite things about Defragmented was the soundtrack. It features a ton of banging tracks from electronic artists who have worked on the likes of Far Cry: Blood Dragon, Hotline Miami 2 and KUNG FURY. Each tune fits the cyberpunk theme of the game and I never got bored of them – even if I did hear them for the fiftieth time as I repeatedly failed missions.
There’s a whole lot to like about Defragmented. It’s got great level design that sets up some fantastic shoot-outs, an exciting and vibrant cyber punk theme and a synth-wave soundtrack that is pretty epic. My issue with the weapon accuracy has left a real sour taste in my mouth though.
It doesn’t do enough to break the game and it is easily remedied by using a weapon that has high accuracy, but I can’t help but to think players will be put off as they watch their seemingly well lined up shots completely miss. It’s a shame – once you work through those frustrating moments, there’s a highly enjoyable experience to be had in Defragmented. Try it out – just be patient and make sure you equip a weapon with high accuracy!
– Great level design sets up tense shoot outs
– RPG elements add an extra dimension to the top down shooter formula
– Banging soundtrack that you’ll never tire of
– The accuracy of weapons can be incredibly frustrating, especially since the shooting is solid when it works well