"Bring me my roll, hon. Dealer's at the door!"
I once, long ago in a school newspaper article, praised computer and video games for being, "safer than drugs, cheaper than sex, and more addictive than crack." Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and girls... Outrage entertainment, the kindly Mr. Dealer, has delivered. My advice: stay not long from the dime bag.
Astonishing, fantastic, great, 'I loved it,' magnificent, smashing, rockin', unblemished, more fun than writing about creative uses of prized clan valuables (or worm taxonomy), embarrassing amounts of gushing praise -- all these words and more will be used. If you hate that sort of thing you might as well just stop reading this review right now. For the rest of you critically huddles masses, prepare to be the choir to my preaching. Descent 3, the latest installment in the long running, originally revolutionary, Dramamine requiring, zero-gravity action romp, has finally hit the shelves. Praise what gods you believe in, sacrifice your pets to them, sing praises in rain dances, buy quality multi-function joysticks en masse, just don't let your copy sit on the shelves for long... this sucker is better than heroin.
For those of you who might not know, the Descent series of games casts you as a mercenary, flying a zero- gravity craft in an attempt to kill robots who have been infected with an evil, nano-technology virus. As all the game mechanics are zero G, the movement possibilities, which are far to complicated to describe here, create gamplay were simply moving around is a joy, and combat utilizes the possibilities of a 3D engine better than anything else out there on the market. It's the sort of game that, once you get a good enough joystick and become proficient at advanced maneuvering techniques, will simply astonish you. It provides more of an intense feel of flight-sim bravado from pulling of a beautiful maneuver than you might get from taking out a squadron of Messerchmitzs over Ardennes, in a Spitfire, in real life.
On the other hand, full, 6-degrees-of-freedom movement can be too much for some non-hardcore gamers to handle. For the casual gamer, Descent 3 can be confusing, dizzying, and even neaseating. This is a game for the pro's.
New to Descent 3, though, is the ability to fly your craft not only through indoor, but also outdoor environments, a task done with much aplomb. Adding the outdoor element allows for an even greater use of the maneuvering capabilities, adds variety to the levels, and ensures that the game never gets dull or boring, even after repeated journeys through the single player campaign. A few new weapons, both missiles and primary guns (that's energy or projectile) have been added, each being incredibly effective, satisfying, and cool. The beautifully vicious flamethrower and the 'Ghostbusters-like' leeching Omega cannon being the most impressive of the bunch. Also added are a multitude of useful objects, including a variety of intriguing mines.
Furthermore, all of the enemies, each endowed with breathtaking AI, are new designs, each one being unique both in ability, structure, and behavior so that each requires a specific combat approach. The cute guide bot from Descent 2 is back, this time as carry-on baggage. His more intimate nature allows you to issue him a variety of orders, making the little 'bot even more useful than before.
The plot of Descent 3 involves you, reprising your familiar role of the Material Defender, being rescued from your cliffhanger hyper-jump malfunction (end of Descent 2) and proceeding to go on a quest to expose your evil former employers, who seem to have been doing some extremely suspect things with the virus.
Insubstantial as the plot may be (conveyed by almost laughable 3D characters in cliche, though effective, cut scenes), it does provide adequate reason to once again, go down into action, through 15 incredible, massive levels, enjoying the best graphics and action on the market. The designers have even gone so far as to give you actual, interesting objectives in each level instead of the tiresome "find the yellow/blue/red key cards" formula.
It's been just about one year since Unreal first hit the stores and finally, after all that time, there is a game that can actually best it in terms of graphics. From the modeling, colored lighting, incredible special effects, wonderful animation, to the sheer overall feel, Descent 3 is the prettiest game yet to grace a monitor. By merging a flight simulation engine with a more traditional indoor engine, Descent 3's 'Fusion Engine' provides outstanding graphics in both the indoor an outdoor arenas.
Sound and control are on a similar plane of greatness. The overall slickness of the audio, video, and tangible facets of the game make the action some of the most hard hitting, and utterly satisfying out there, especially considering the great variety and chaotic nature lent to combat by the advanced maneuverability.
In fact, the whole production of Descent 3 is very slick and remarkably bug free. This is one of the most professionally assembled products to be released in a long time. Its refreshingly balanced, consistent, simply oozing with high production values and the long loving effort of game designers who are at the top of their field.
Not enough? For once, an action game has shipped with intuitive, and perfectly operational multiplayer. Spanning over 9 multilayer modes, game styles, and connection types. Descent 3 even supports the old Modem-Modem connection so two good friends can go at it with no latency. When playing over the Internet, server listing and player ranking is provided seamlessly by Paralax Online. Particularly impressive in the Internet gaming is that even at high ping rates, say about 1000 or so, Descent 3 remains playable. And of course, the number of multiplayer modes and complexity of maneuverability make Descent 3 almost as deep a multiplayer experience as the ground breaking Starsiege: Tribes.
In every way that really matters, Descent 3 is a fantastic game. With killer graphics, sound, gameplay, stability, and multiplayer it is all you need for a long term action obsession. There is one thing though: aside from slapping in the face all those companies who release beta products instead of fully tested games, Descent 3 does not strictly do anything revolutionary.
However, let not an A- fool you. This is one of the very best games I've played in years, and an instant recommendation for anyone who has ever fondled a joystick or stroked a mouse. Just remember to come up for air though, there is such a thing as dying of starvation or thirst. So get a glass, a plate, and an i.v. drip.