GameOver Game Reviews - Descent 3 (c) Interplay, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher Descent 3 (c) Interplay
System Requirements P200, 32MB RAM, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 87%
Date Published , at EST


Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Descent? as Doom pioneered the first-person-on-foot genre, Descent pioneered the first-person null-gravity genre, to which the likes of Terminal Velocity, Descent 2 and, more recently, Forsaken adhered. They weren't always for the easily sickened, because the complete freedom of movement meant that you could go either way, upside down if necessary, and getting lost wasn't all that hard. Or, I should say, getting lost was harder in the earlier games, like Descent and TV where level sizes had to be controlled. With increasing hardware prowess, however, later games like Forsaken could afford to have bigger levels where whichever way you'd turn you'd see a ventilation shaft, a corridor, or whatnot - down which you could always go and find yourself in places unknown and heretoforth not visited by Man. Which, as a side effect, was a reason I haven't played much Forsaken.

Descent 3, the latest incarnation of the original classic, has been awaited for a few years. Having resulted in a spinoff in the meantime (Descent: Freespace by Volition), the loyal fans couldn't wait for this release - and they won't be disappointed. But let's not rush opinions - let's look at the game in more detail.

Of the most importance in any game is how it plays. Graphics, music, sound, et cetera all come later. One improvement that I like a LOT in Descent 3 is that you no longer have to (a) blow up the core and (b) escape the premises in pitch darkness in every mission. I'm not sure why it took three games to realise that many people would feel unnecessarily pressured to seek out the exit in 85% darkness where everything looks different from what it looked before. Missions are a lot more sensible this time around, for example - go in, find data on some person, exit the area; then go into the next area, rescue the person, exit the area and so forth. However, I must admit that had the game been done the old way, at least it would be a lot easier to find one's way around it, since the graphics are significantly better. In addition to that, the computer AI is improved - robots will seek you out, but when they see that you'll completely annihilate them, they retreat and attempt to take a better position. As well, the Guidebot is a neat little gadget - I haven't made much use of it before, which I now regret - it's really neat, useful and also has an R2D2-like sound. It's also really polite - for example, if it starts deploying flares and accidentally bumps into you and puts a flare on you, it will apologise (see screenshots). It's also quite impatient - if you fail to follow it quickly, it'll come back to you and start hurrying you. The good thing is, though, that it deploys flares as it goes, so even though your ship is significantly slower that the Guidebot, you're still able to follow it.

Graphics-wise, the simple fact that the game uses 3D acceleration doesn't give it enough justice - many games use 3D ineffectively and don't use the full power of it. Descent 3, however, does an amazing job of it. The visuals are well-balanced, not overly bland and not excessively extravagant and foreshadowing the gameplay - they are just right. While the laser blasts could have been a bit more refined, other than that everything looks quite polished. Models of all the robots look quite good, colored lighting is abundant, and on the outside levels the sky looks quite impressive, too. As well, should you find yourself wishing for more graphics detail, have a look at the graphics menu - you can adjust the complexity of the visuals. Interestingly enough, the 'High' detail option doesn't max out the detail. The sliders used for adjusting the complexity aren't even halfway on High, but with good reason: set to the maximum, at 800x600 my Voodoo 2 on a Celeron366 was somewhat lagging. But the graphics do visibly improve: when objects get hit, particle streams emit from them (supposedly signifying an outflow of parts or debris, but which are, on a closer examination, nothing but simple blue streaks which are identical for all objects, whether robots or turrets. But they do look cool). As another somewhat useless but cool effect, when you turn fast on outside levels, the stars become lines, sort of if you were to take a long-exposure photo of the night sky with a film camera.

The controls are an important part of Descent. Unlike the first-person shooter universe, where your movement is mostly along two planes, with an occasional jump, Descent is very different in that movement can be done along these two planes, i.e. left-right and forward-back, but you can also move in a third plane, i.e. up-down, as well as rotate around three axis - lateral, longitudinal and dorsoventral, or, in simpler terms, you can turn left-right, up-down and spin (though don't say "Let's try spinning - that's a good trick." - please). Which makes controlling the ship fairly non-straightforward, but you get used to it. Having had no joystick for the first Descent (and having one, but not using one for Descent 2) was probably one of the reasons I never appreciated it much. You HAVE to use a joystick for this game, and, much as I dislike saying it, I would suggest a Microsoft one for its Z axis (twisting the stick). I find that feature quite annoying in other games, especially ones where ultimate precision is needed - but for Descent, spinning any other way would be a nightmare.

Since I mentioned Microsoft joysticks, I should mention that I have a Sidewinder Force Feedback. Although the initial configuration program couldn't figure out whether it supported Force or not, within the game I was able to turn on force feedback? and, well, I must say I wasn't particularly impressed. In fact, the only effects I was able to experience were collisions - weapon fire, such as lasers and rockets didn't feel like anything at all. Being close to an explosion, however, also resulted in a slight rocking of the stick. Overall, though, the force effects are nowhere nearly as impressive as those of Mechwarrior 3 or, on the further end of the good gaming spectrum, those of Episode I: Racer.

The sound score is solid. The music has an epic ring to it, which, I find, would be more applicable in a more story-based game where you lead a proverbial fight of Good against Evil, but it fits quite well nonetheless. The sound effects are fitting, as well; however, nothing to be said of any extraordinary achievements in the field of either music or sound, or, on the opposite, anything abysmally bad in either department.

In order to describe multiplayer, I would have to compare it with Forsaken. Or rather, I'd have to draw a parallel - if you've played Forsaken multiplayer, that's how the Descent multiplayer feels. While there aren't as many corridors, vents and shafts to escape a well-armed opponent, but nevertheless, since it's quite hard to aim with zero gravity, escaping isn't hard. At the same time, dogfights become ammo-wasting, too, since, considering you can't aim, you have to squeeze the trigger and hope to hit the enemy. It's fun, however.

So how does Descent 3 measure up to the current flock of first-person shooters? (Since essentially, it's but a yet another shooter - so what if it's nullgrav). It depends if you liked the original Descent. If you don't find the true 360 freedom of movement confusing and subduing, you will definitely enjoy this game. If, however, the likes of Half Life make you motion-sick, then this will be the end of you for sure. If you haven't tried the two originals, however, I would strongly suggest you give it a try. It's a worthy contender.

Highs: Innovative (this arena still isn't chock-full of budget games, so almost any game is more or less innovative), great graphics, sound and music, impressive computer AI;

Lows: Weak force feedback, some explosions look fake, nothing earth-shattering to make genre-haters turn into genre-lovers.

Rating System
Graphics18/20
Sound13/15
Gameplay24/30
Funfactor17/20
Multiplayer5/5
Overall Impression10/10


Rating
87%
 
  

  
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