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Video Game: DEFCON
aka: Defcon

This page is about a work. If you're looking for the trope, that's Defcon Five.

"It's Global Thermonuclear War, and nobody wins. But maybe - just maybe - you can lose the least."

A unique Real-Time Strategy from Introversion Software, the makers of Uplink, Darwinia, and Multiwinia. You play a general in control of your chosen side's nuclear arsenal, and your goal is to exterminate the enemy's civilian populace while preserving your own. In order to win, you must strike against your enemy's population centers while at the same time crippling their ability to retaliate. Easier said than done since launching a strike reveals the locations of that strategic asset to everyone in the game. The game is inspired by the 1983 cult classic WarGames and designed to simulate the paranoia and anxiety of the Cold War.

There are 3 scoring modes in DEFCON:
  • Default: Score two points for every civilian kill, lose one point for every civilian loss.
  • Genocide: Score one point for every civilian kill.
  • Survivor: Score points for every civilian you keep alive. The score counter starts at 100 and decreases for every percentage point your own population falls.

There are also multiple game modes:
  • Diplomacy: Everyone begins with a perfect score and starts in an alliance. One point is lost for every civilian death.
  • Office Mode: A bit of a joke by the developers. This will run the normal game without sound in a separate window in real time for six hours. Also has a handy escape function to minimize it "if the boss appears".
  • Speed DEFCON: Matches run at full speed and last no longer than 15 minutes
  • Big World: Every player has twice as many units and nukes but each unit has half the size, speed, and range. This is meant to be a long and drawn out campaign style.
  • Tournament: The regular game rules are enforced except that mutiple rounds are played with the territories randomly assigned to each.
  • Custom: Make whatever game type you want.

When playing the game, the DEFCON level increases as the game progresses. The level determines what actions can be taken in the game.
  • Defcon "FADE OUT" 5: Can place units.
  • Defcon "DOUBLE TAKE" 4: Radar coverage reveals the Fog of War.
  • Defcon "ROUND HOUSE" 3: Can no longer place units: air and naval conflict permitted.
  • Defcon "FAST PACE" 2: No change from Defcon 3
  • Defcon "COCKED PISTOL" 1: Nuclear attacks permitted.


DEFCON contains examples of:

  • All Nations Are Superpowers: North America, Russia, even a single Europe make sense. A united nuclear-armed Africa, less so.
  • All There in the Manual: There is a manual available for download off the Introversion website which teaches you the basics of the game. However there are some parts where you might not be sure if it was written by a paranoid or a Cloud Cuckoolander.
    • It's a reference to the Protect and Survive pamphlets that were planed to be handed out in the UK (along with the tv and radio broadcasts) around the height of the Cold War.
  • Anachronism Stew: The former Soviet Republics are separate from Russia (and the European ones are a part of a United Europe), but St. Petersburg is named Leningrad in game and East and West Germany are separated by borders (although both are part of said United Europe).
  • Bombers on the Screen
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: There is no I in team, as in I win.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Everyone starts with the same assets and the same population count. Population centers are spread out differently between the continents though.
    • It's not entirely cosmetic, however, in that some continents are easier to defend than others due to city placement. Europe, for example, has all of its' population centers placed in a relatively tight group, so it's easy to cover them strongly with antimissile defenses. South America, on the other hand, is much more spread out.
    • Everyone hates Europe, except Russia, because most nukes fired at and from anywhere arc over Europe, allowing European air defences to shoot them all down. Also because so many arc over Europe there is the chance that European air defenses are shooting at missiles not aimed at them allowing the ones that ARE aimed at them to hit.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Stances offer a bit of utility but overall, the units breakdown into either direct combat or support roles.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Subverted with silos and air bases. Getting hit by a nuke reduces their arsenal.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: On a larger scale in terms of setting and development, anyway. The map the game takes place on is exactly the same one from the connection menu of Uplink.
  • Defcon Five: Done correctly.
  • Dual Mode Unit: Units can be toggled between different modes to fit certain roles. For example, a silo can switch between anti-air mode (where it provides your only defense) and ICBM launch mode. There is a timed delay before a switch takes effect, and the time needed to switch back to anti air as warheads bear down on you can seem very long indeed.
  • Easy Logistics: Your nuclear stock pile is limited, and your planes have fuel. But that's about it.
  • Enemy Mine: You can form alliances, just make sure to keep an eye on your "friends".
  • Fog of War: Radar units and planes reveal the fog of war.
    • Forming an alliance also reveals everything your allies sees - including their assets (and vice versa).
  • Homage: DEFCON takes inspiration from WarGames. A number of shout outs are included in the main menu.
  • Kill All Humans: The goal of the game.
  • Lost Forever: If you haven't placed your buildings by Defcon 4, or your fleets by Defcon 3, then you'll just have to do without.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The more missiles you fire, the more that can be expected to get through an enemies defences and hit their target.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: A missile hit on a city is labelled (say) "Manchester hit, 1.2m dead", but the civilian population is just a means of keeping score.
  • Non-Entity General: You, the player.
  • One World Order: The diplomacy game mode begins like this. And slowly breaks down as nations chip away at each others' population centers to reduce their scores.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Justified in that missiles are slow in relation to the size of the earth, and the parabolic arc they follow is how they'd actually fly to their target. However, it's still obnoxious watching your missiles get shot down as they slowly inch toward their targets.
  • Power Glows: Radiation from nuclear strikes is depicted by a Sickly Green Glow (the colour can be changed.)
  • "Risk"-Style Map: The world is divided into North America, South America, Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia. Australia is non playable because that would be OP.
  • Scoring Points: Scoring kills against enemy population centers earns points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the time limit wins.
  • Sensor Suspense: You only ever see icons moving on a map; you never get to witness the effects of your orders firsthand. The only hint of what might be really happening is the occasional sound of a woman crying.
  • Shout-Out: The menu has a terminal readout that displays random information, from a staff roll, the effects of radiation exposure and symptoms, to listing "Civilian Targets in Megadeaths", and asking if you'd rather play a nice game of chess instead.
    • Aditionally, many of the stranger seeming excerpts from the game manual come directly from the 'Protect and Survive' information handed out in the UK during the Cold War.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There are soft, slow piano chords and One-Woman Wail, with occasional sighs or sobbing to accompany the end of humanity.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Fighters beats bombers, bombers beat battleship, battleship beats fighters. Parallel to that— battleship beats carrier, carrier beats sub, sub beats battleship.
  • The End of the World as We Know It : And you're the one orchestrating it all !
  • There Is No Kill Like Over Kill: SAN FRANCISCO: 10 IN FLIGHT.
    • The Steam version of the game has the achievement "Have you had enough?", which involves nuking a city whose population has been already reduced to 0.
  • Unfriendly Fire: You can manually target your allies assets and population and avoid any retaliation from anti aircraft fire. Just make sure to leave the alliance before the nukes fall or you'll lose points instead.
    • Steam has an achievement for this.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Civilians are little more than points to be scored in a game of war.
  • Villain Protagonist: The whole point of the game is based around being a General Ripper and ensuring them commies/capitalists/whatevers die in a nuclear fire.
  • War Is Hell
  • We Have Reserves: Since fighters respawn and everything else doesn't, sending in waves of fighters to draw AA fire from bombers or missiles is one way to try and ensure they make it through, albeit limited by the fighters' short range.
  • You Bastard: Suffice to say, between the somber music, the unnerving sound effects, and the grim news reports, this game is not trying to make global thermonuclear war fun.
  • You Nuke 'Em: You are given the entire nuclear arsenal of a continent, and your goal is to nuke everyone else off the face of the earth.


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alternative title(s): DEFCON
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