If I had to name one PC game that had totally melted my heart from the start, like the Girl Scout who sold me her last box of Thin Mints, Descent would be somewhere at the top of the list. With its unique play physics, winding mazes and weapon variety, Descent took action shooters to the next level and beyond, with the only complaints being redundancy in level design and mission objectives. But now, Descent 3 comes correct with all these complaints remedied and could possibly be the best PC action-shooter to date.
Descent 3 starts off right where Descent II left you... I can feel some blank stares. Let me guess, you didn't follow the story in Descent II, did you. It's ok, I barely did myself. Outrage has recognized this and has added quite an intriguing back story filled with all sorts of twists and surprises.
So I'll start over from here. Descent 3 starts off right where the warp-core exploded in Descent II. Well, you miraculously survive the incident, only to be left floating in space, unconscious, headed right towards something that appears to be the sun. Right when you're body is just beginning to look like the world's tastiest pot-sticker, a PTMC mining ship snatches you just in time, but not for free. At the price of saving your life, you now have to endure some of the same duties you had to do in the first two Descent adventures, but with a whole lot more going on. Eradicating enemy mining bots is one of your goals, but your mission also includes the investigation behind the virus causing the malfunction of the mining bots' AI. If memory serves, Dravis, the pile of poop that hired you in the first place, was responsible for leaving you high and dry in Descent II. You think there's a connection?
Many of you still seem a little overwhelmed by the story. As well as you should be, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Unlike the previous Descent adventures, Descent 3 not only lets you run through a series of subterranean environments, but now, with the help of its new "Fusion Engine", allows gamers to travel, not only on the inside, but on the outside of underground structures. That was one of the biggest complaints of Descent II, it was so, tunnely. In fact, the outer levels look just as good and detailed as the inner levels, if not better. There's this one level, 15 in all, it's like this futuristic Korean town (I say Korean because that's the neon language that they used), and you can fly over, under or around these beautifully rendered buildings. Some, you can actually fly into and discover these huge underground environments filled with all kinds of robotic nasties and power-ups. The transition is seamless -- I've dubbed it as the, "out-of-building-experience"... ok, that was a crap pun, but it's really late.
While I'm on the outside level topic, there was one small complaint I had. I was thinking, you're in this real high-tech ship, with all these advanced weapons and controls, yet, when you go outside, there is this invisible restriction that doesn't allow you to leave the atmosphere. Sure, why would you want to? You've got a job to do! But man, there are some missions that are super-challenging and there are times where you just want to say, "," and leave. To somewhat alleviate that frustration, because some of the levels do get really difficult as you progress through the game, Outrage has added a skill level adjustment that can be altered anywhere throughout your adventure -- good call. The first few missions, you can start as a "hotshot", but later on, the robots and gun turrets get brutal. I don't want to admit it, but I found myself switching back to "trainee" mode from time to time... don't laugh. You just watch. This game is fun, but it's hard.
Since Outrage has pumped up the robot AI, it wouldn't be fair unless they added more weapons and ships to destroy these new and improved mechanical monsters. That's right everyone, Descent 3 now has three ships in all to choose from, all possessing different strengths and weaknesses. As you progress through the single-player mode, you'll be able to unlock and use the ships against your enemy foe. More importantly, though, this definitely enhances the multi-player experience in a huge way. In death-match, you can use one of the three ships right from the start. There's the Phoenix, which is really fast and agile, the Magnum ship, which sacrifices speed for shield strength and weapon power and the Pyro ship, a fine mix of the two. So if hitting and running is your forte, well, the Phoenix would be you're best bet -- weak weapon fire, but fast and agile control. If you're the marauder-like type, the Magnum would be your best bet. The Pyro is my personal fav. It's fast, has a wide weapon range and average control. It's a ship for newbies, but it has all the essentials. At any rate, the addition of new ships alone has made the game way more enjoyable than the last Descent.
With its added story elements, new play features and improved game engine, Descent 3 has clearly distinguished itself from its other 'descentants' (I swear, it's really late right now) and is one of the best vehicular shooters I have ever played. If you're a big fan of the series, or just a fan of the genre, Descent 3 is a must have. In fact, don't even bother reading below, I gave it a nine. Go out and buy it.
-- Jay Boor
There is some bad news. Interplay has just told us that the map editor was not added in the full boxed version. Now before you start throwing the tomatoes, Interplay has told us that the level editor is almost done and will be made available for download shortly.
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