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Publisher: GraphSim Entertainment    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: G3 @ 233 MHz    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 300 MB    8x CD-ROM

Descent 3
March 3, 2000 | Matt Diamond

Descent 3 is an amazing first-person shooter, with great graphics and sound, good level design, and highly addictive multiplayer action. Its learning curve is a little steep for those new to the Descent series, but it is well worth the effort. Unfortunately the current Mac version isn't as stable as it should be. If you have a pretty fast machine, good coordination, and don't mind some trial and error to get it running, then this might be the game for you.

The Game
Like Quake and Unreal, the Descent series is basically about moving around and shooting things. The big difference is that you fly a ship that turns and moves freely through the air. In the single-player game your opponents are computer-controlled robots, while in multiplayer you fly against other players in similar ships. Although the battles are intense there is no actual blood depicted, just exploding robots and ships.

Descent 3 is the latest title in the Descent series. Improvements include hardware-accelerated graphics, new robots, new weapons, new ships to fly, a more involved storyline, physics, better collision detection and better multiplayer performance over the Internet.

Single Player
I found the single-player levels in Descent 3 to be much more interesting than those in either Descent or Descent 2. The levels are full of great-looking and plausible buildings, rooms, and tunnels. The textures and lighting are top-notch.

Descent 3 also includes outdoor areas, but to be honest these don't look very natural. The terrain isn't smooth, and the area that players can fly around in is limited. Still, it makes a nice change from being indoors all the time. The level designers added variety by including simple weather effects on some of the levels, and they sometimes tease the player with glimpses inside buildings that can't be entered until much later. (Trivia note: code for handling outdoor terrain was originally developed as a prototype for a different game, but after Bungie's Myth was released the programmers decided that they had been beaten to the idea.)

The robots that you battle are worthy opponents. Most of them are good at dodging, and each has distinctive attack. They also have a lot of character. One flashes blue and red police lights and says "Freeze!" (or "Burn!" if it's armed with a flamethrower.) Another crawls along cave walls like a spider. My favorite robot is the spindly Ol' Scratch. He quietly sneaks up to slash at your ship with his long claws and sometimes manages to dislodge one of your weapons.

I like the missions a lot. They tie nicely into the story (level 6 being an unfortunate exception) and the tasks are usually more interesting than simply hunting for color-coded keys. There are occasionally places where it is not obvious where to go next, but usually I was able to continue by consulting the automap, guidebot or the mission objectives screen.

One new feature deserves mention: in single-player mode you have an unlimited number of ships. If your ship is blown up you are put back into the level in a new ship, often nearby. At first this seemed to take some challenge out of the game, but in the end it just saved me time. It freed me up to explore the level without saving the game at every new room, and I didn't feel the need to restore a saved game just to avoid losing a ship. (Inexplicably, the documentation does not mention how to save and restore games! Option-F2 saves, Option-F3 restores.)

For new players there is even a tutorial level. I thought it was well written; it introduces the controls one at a time and correctly emphasizes the importance of sliding up, down, and side-to-side. In fact, Descent 3 has other new features that help new players, including an enhanced guidebot that can be consulted about mission goals, a screen that lists which mission objectives have been completed, and others. Still, the fact remains that Descent games require more patience to learn than most shooters. On the other hand, since mastering Descent's unconstrained 3D movement I have much less trouble playing other 3D games.


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