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Under Defeat HD Review

Under Defeat was old even when it was a new release back in 2005 at the arcades, harkening back to the more simplistic gameplay elements of the arcade cabinets that came before it. This was a game inspired by a different age, hidden away at the back of some derelict seafront slot machine venue, inviting you in with its action packed running demo of flashing lights and large explosions, then leaving a bitter taste in your mouth as it gobbled up all of your 20 pence pieces with its brutal difficulty settings. The HD revision does not change a thing.

Played as a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, you control a helicopter fighting seemingly impossible odds against a whole nation full of heavy weaponry and violent machines of death. There is an actual story pinned to Under Defeat HD but it really does not sell itself well with a tiny little square in the middle of the screen showing some bland sepia toned pictures and the smallest possible font explaining that a continent has been split by war, with the Empire and the Union battling for years. Being aware that this never-ending war will eventually kill everyone a ceasefire is agreed, but rather than laying down their arms both sides use this as an opportunity to launch an even more vicious attack on one another, creating even more devastating weapons and combat vehicles. So considering they are as bad as each other, there is no real clear side to vouch for, so you are inexplicably placed in the cockpit of the Empire and their newly engineered attack helicopter.

As with pretty much all scrolling shooters, the idea is to battle your way to the end of each area, avoiding a seemingly infinite torrent of bullets whilst trying to shoot down the many enemy tanks, boats and aerial craft along the way, taking you to the inevitable one on one against the end level boss. There are plenty of levels to play though but they do tend to start to look very similar, using a very bland colour palette. Where most shooters distinguish themselves from one another by way of the unique weapons like R-Type?s multiple splitting lasers or gameplay elements like Ikargua, Under Defeat HD has nothing like this, it is just shoot and survive for as long as possible. The action never really lets up but has a very high difficulty level with bullet patterns that are quite unreadable and mostly unavoidable due to the size and also slow handling of your helicopter; instead you rely on your smart bombs to clear bullet hell, granting you a few more seconds of life. The unbalanced gameplay is made even harder by the fact it is, for you at least, a one hit instant kill situation, with salt being rubbed in the wounds as even the weakest of enemy vehicles take a few of your shots before going down. There is an attempt to include more weapons in the way of an Option, a small drone that is launched in front of you for a set time that is able to utilise powerups dropped by enemy vehicles like a Vulcan fast firing cannon or slow but deadly rockets but in reality it is just lots of shooting and dying.

Where most shoot-em-ups just have you firing away in one direction, Under Defeat HD tries to add a little variety by allowing you to change the angle of fire by about 45 degrees each way, handy when trying to dodge bullets but a real pain in execution, with your ship locking into position only when firing, requiring deft fingers and planning to get the right angle to take on the baddies. To get around this you can fiddle with the options and choose to aim using the right stick, something that should of been default as it makes gameplay that little more bearable.

Under Defeat HD boasts two game modes but I am hard pushed to tell the difference. The New Order Mode has all of the HD visuals and extra smoke effects from destroyed enemies where the Arcade Mode seems to be exactly the same game. It is hard to tell the difference in visuals as Arcade is presented in its native screen size, something not appropriate for a modern widescreen TV as it is squashed into a third of the TV screen, then surrounded by a selection of very boring borders. Again via the uninspiring option screens you can flip the game 90 degrees and fill up the whole of your TV and even change the orientation of the game controller to make it a horizontal shooter but due to the angle of the camera looking down at the action, it is quite vomit inducing. Of course to resolve this you can always just tilt your expensive TV on its side.

I feel I am coming across as rather harsh on Under Defeat HD, the graphics are good for this sort of game but the action and the pointless inclusion of the original Arcade Mode make this more suited to a digital release. Fans of shoot-em-up games who love the fierce competition of online leaderboards will get some pleasure but it feels too dated to appeal to the current generation of gamers.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version tested: Xbox 360)


Online leaderboards
HD version of an arcade shoot-em-up
Classic gameplay


The two game modes are identical
Very repetitive

Edited On 04 Nov, 2012

( 5 )
Dead's avatar
Dead 4 years ago
Probably a mistake putting this on a disk, even at a budget price. Would have been much more tempting as a £10 download.
Bruticus's avatar
If that....
Bruticus 4 years ago
adwan's avatar
adwan 4 years ago
I'm shocked that this is a full disc release. This will never sell. I think the days of side scrolling games is long gone, even a HD remake is not going to make it any more appealing.
Dead's avatar
I don't know about that, some of us still like a good shmup, it's just the pricing of it, why would anybody pay nearly thirty quid when there's the likes of Ikaruga available to download for under a tenner.
Dead 4 years ago
Anonymous user's avatar
Rachael 4 years ago
There is no doubt that this would have sold better and made the developer more money if it was released as an XBLA/PS3 Download game. Very bad marketing idea in my opinion.

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