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PC / Review / Descent 3
Descent 3
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Publisher: Interplay
Developer: Outrage Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Teen
Graphics: 5.0
Control: 5.0
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Review by: Carl Reed
Posted: 01/01/00 [view screens]

Descent 3 is a white-knuckle adrenaline ride of twisting tunnels, laser-turreted alien landscapes, and eye-popping pyrotechnics. Firing off missiles and blasting away with an assortment of cannons, you'll have more fun blowing things up than a drunk in a fireworks factory.

If you've ever played Descent or Descent II, you know what to expect. For those of you just now deplaning from Shangri-La, you fly a nimble fighter, managing weapons, shields, and afterburner while navigating a deadly subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and caves to take out hordes of robotic enemies. Your ship is equipped with a recoverable drone which can be launched to help you find the next objective, nearest power-up, level exit and so forth. Six degrees of movement means that you can move forward, back, up, down, or at any angle from any one of these main axes of movement. Got your Dramamine? The faint of stomach need not apply.

New to Descent 3 is the opportunity to take your craft outdoors and shoot up various bunkers, gun turrets, and defending fighter craft. Combat planet-side changes the dynamics of the game. The omnipresent sense of claustrophobia vanishes when you can spot your enemies coming from miles away, and sideways strafing to avoid incoming fire is a breeze.

Outrage has also given us 10 new weapons to play with. The microwave cannon can take out the toughest foes with one or two bursts, and it shakes the entire screen when you fire it. The napalm gun sprays a jet of flaming plasma that will have onlookers oohing and aahing at your 3D card's stunning flame and smoke particle effects. At the same time, multiple difficulty levels and the ability to completely customize your controls ensure the Descent novice will have no difficulty in coming to grips with this game.

The 17 levels are inspired. Each is unique, and varies greatly in look and layout. Subway trains, acid lakes, giant stone heads, and molten rivers of lava are featured prominently. In addition, each contains one or more puzzles that must be solved before the player can progress to the next. The puzzles are, for the most part, logical: downloading data from terminals, collecting keys, tripping switches, and so forth.

Enemy AI is varied and believable. Some bots dodge and return fire, some flee when hit, and the Hulk-Will-Smash, heavily armored, ultra-aggressive ones just keep on comin'.

On the downside, some level-end boss monsters seem way too tough. (Should it take 25 game restores to defeat one of these beasts?) Seventeen levels seems a bit lightweight for a major game. About once every four hours, the game locked up my system and I had to reboot.

And be forewarned: only those with a 3D accelerator card and a 266 MHz or faster machine get to play. (200MHz? Slide-show city. Sorry.)

But, all in all, Descent III is a remarkable game: immersive, challenging, beautifully designed. Unlike a lot of the other eye-candy out there, it has both steak and sizzle. The level designs contain some of the most breathtaking sights ever seen in a computer game and they are filled with cunning enemies just waiting to sink their steel claws into your smoking carcass.

Well done, Outrage. Definitely the best of the Descent games to date.

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