|When the first Descent came out, it was one of the
most revolutionary games to hit the market. It had great level design and very good
gameplay but, alas, was lacking in story. Then a little over a year later, the second
installment of Descent came out, with a bit better gameplay, more weapons and
hardware acceleration for some video cards. But still no story. Even though both games
were fun to play, the single player experience fell short without a story to drive it. So
when Descent 3 ads first started hitting the magazines, I wasnt sure what to think.
Frankly, I had gotten tired of the same game with better graphics and more weapons.
However, with the release of Descent 3, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. Descent
3 still offers the same 360-degree fast paced action, but adds a very well put-together
story element to make the game flow.
When you first open the box, you are greeted by the usual--a manual, a 2-disc set, and a few registration cards and ads. Interplay kept up the good work and put a decent paper manual in the box instead of cheaping out for an online one. The CD case the 2 disc set came in was pretty lame considering the 45-dollar price sticker the game carries. Instead of a 2-disk jewel case, interplay boxed it in one of the 2 disc cardboard sleeves that I hate. I must say that in the future I would like to see the discs at least come in protective sleeves and not a chintzy cardboard sleeve.
Installation on the game was a snap. It does demand a large install, though, so expect to use about 600 megs of space for the game--without the movies. The hardware setup was pretty easy and their hardware detection program did a good job of choosing the best options. The sound setup was simple but I did have to change some options on my SB Live! to get things set up properly for EAX support.
Once I got the game installed, I was greeted by a pretty decent intro explaining what had happened to the Material Defender from the last 2 Descent games and why you were no longer working for the PTMC. For those of you who havent played the other Descent games, the PTMC was the all-encompassing "evil" corporation that controlled all the mining operations off world. After the intro, and entering the game, I was greeted by yet another FMV explaining who I was helping out and why. After the two FMVs I was dumped into the first mission and given my mission objectives. Descent 3 has removed the old "blow the reactor and get the hell out" theme from the game and put honest to goodness missions into it instead. One of the missions even involves rescuing the scientist from a maximum-security prison. In order to do the mission you have to infiltrate the base, get the scientist transferred to minimum security and turn off the force field so the shuttle can pick him up. Each mission has an entirely different objective--even the one with the "blow the reactor and get the hell out" theme. The AI on the robots is very well done as well. Robots will run when they are losing and will find backup when there are others around to help. Some of the robots in Descent 3 even do an excellent job of sneaking up on you. Another new feature in Descent 3 is the addition of outdoor areas to the game. Now instead of the underground caves and mines, there are outdoor areas with a sky above your head. Although the change is nice, you arent offered free roving freedom, either. Not having total freedom is a bit of a disappointment, but not too surprising considering that the game is only 2 disks.
The graphics in Descent 3 are nothing short of amazing. The new added hardware acceleration and direct sound support are very well implemented. The transition from indoor to outdoor areas is very smooth. The graphical effects that are used in the game add very well to the whole experience. Not all the robots explode--some shut down, some simply fall apart and others explode spectacularly when hit. The graphical effects for each situation are very well done. I particularly like that you can see a robot start to shake before it explodes. Other graphical effects in the game are also very nicely done, such as the rain hitting your windshield as you rove around some of the outdoor areas. Overall the graphical effects and engine of the game get an A+ in visual quality and implementation. This game even looks good enough to compete with Unreal, the current king of graphical effects.
The sound in Descent 3 is good--not the as ground breaking as the graphics, but is still very well done. You can hear stuff coming up behind you when in the tunnels. The left/right channel separation for some of the sound reflections in rooms do a good job of simulating that particular environment. The sound effects for the explosions are good and the people at Tantrum and Outrage did an excellent job on the storm sound effects when in the outdoor areas. Overall the sound is well done, but not the best Ive ever heard either.
Hardware requirements are one of the areas where this game takes a little bit of a hit. The hardware requirements to get this game running smoothly are a bit on the steep side. I would probably recommend a Pentium 2 300 with 128 Megs of ram and either a Voodoo 2 SLI, a VooDoo 3, or a TNT 2 Video card. This game looks great, but in order to turn on all the graphics options, you need one heck of a computer.
Overall, Descent 3 is a great sequel to a very good game. Improvements were made to Descent 2 in all the right places. This game takes all the elements that were missing and puts them together with all the good points. If you like 3D shooters and space flight sims, than the chances are that youll love Descent 3.
Bottom Line: A great sequel to a good game. If you liked Descent 2, youll love Descent 3.