Descent 3

At a time when more and more publishers were looking to create online-only games, developer Outrage was adamant about creating a highly compelling singleplayer experience to go along with the multiplayer. Descent 3’s campaign certainly achieves that goal.

4_1The action opens as the Material Defender (that’s you) is about to meet a fiery death as his ship plunges toward a star. You’re suddenly extracted and brought to the Red Acropolis Research Center for treatment. Here you learn that a big shot in the PTMC (the interplanetary mining corporation you worked for) named Dravis has been working with the alien virus that sent the mining robots haywire in the first two Descent games. But Dravis hasn’t been working on a way to nullify the virus; instead, his experiments have led to a nano-technology that can re-program those ‘bots to kill every human in sight.

Putting an end to this scheme will take you through the game’s 15 diverse missions. Instead of being confined to underground mines and corridors as seen in the previous Descent games, you now explore huge, sprawling installations. You will even travel outside to take out base defenses and find entrances to key areas. Sure, you still get to travel down the occasional mine shaft, but you’ll almost always find yourself back in an industrial setting guarded by some of the most wicked robots ever devised for a computer game. Whether flying down a darkened subway tunnel or skimming along the craggy surface of a moon, the sensation of “being there” was almost overwhelming – especially since your ship is dwarfed by the size of some of these structures.

But Descent 3 is first and foremost a game of combat, and Outrage pulled out all the stops to make this one of the wildest, most gratifying shoot-’em-ups. You can tell the designers like to see stuff blow up, because every explosion and detonation results in near-psychedelic clouds of smoke and flame followed by showers of debris. Blast a robot with your laser, and before he’s blown apart, you can see sparks from short-circuiting wires dance wildly around his frame; fire your microwave cannon at an object (like a generator), and it wobbles and distorts wildly before it finally detonates.

Ten new weapons have been added to your arsenal, each with special capabilities and boasting some hot graphical effects. Standouts among the new primaries are the Microwave Cannon, which fires two streams of deadly concentric rings, the auto- targeting EMD Cannon, firing a stream of electrical charges, and the one-shot Mass Driver Cannon, delivering a Herculean punch from long range (thanks to a sniper-style Zoom feature). For heavy-duty destruction, you’ll love secondary weapons like the shrapnel-filled Frag Missile, the flame-spewing Napalm Missile, the mighty Impact Mortar, and the Black Shark Missile, which is kind of a mini-nuke that toasts any ship or defensive turret touched by its blue-and-white mushroom cloud.

7_1You’ll need that firepower in Descent 3, because even on moderate difficulty settings, you’re facing a seemingly endless stream of ‘bots. On the first few levels, a few blasts from your laser or a couple of Concussion Missiles is more than enough to get you out of nasty encounters, but as you move further into the game the ‘bots get bigger and more cunning. The ‘bot AI is great – not just because enemies are harder to defeat, but because it gives each of them distinct behaviors. Some hover solemnly in front of an area they’ve been assigned to guard until you tag them with a few Vauss rounds.

Descent 3 is a highly recommended for fans of the previous two games, but even players who’ve never played a Descent game can jump right in and have a good time. Simple and addictive, the game has all of the hallmarks of a classic Descent shooter.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 RAM, Windows 95

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