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Descent 3

Score: 100%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Interplay
Developer: Outrage
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: Flight/ First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Oh my God! Descent 3 is absolutely beautiful. Descent 3 is veritible eye candy filled with lots of special lighting effects and optical effects, such as specular mapping and mirrored surfaces. But be forewarned, Descent 3 REQUIRES 3D acceleration. Descent 3 most highly recommends the 3dFx Glide 3D acceleration, but also supports Direct 3D and OpenGL. This evaluation of Descent 3 is based on a 3DFx glide acceleration running on a Voodoo 3 2000 (PCI) graphics card. One of Descent 3's most oustanding graphical features is it's general handling of lighting effects. Much of the action takes place in small rooms or corridors where there's very little ambient light. This presents an excellent backdrop for showcasing the light source shading used in the game.

There are several ways to light up your surroundings and be able to enjoy the yumminess of this eye candy. One fairly straight forward and obvious way is to simply turn on the headlight equipped on your Descent vehicle. You also have a seemingly endless supply of projectile flares. These are not long lasting, but allow you to light up an area without facing it. For a laugh, tag one of your enemies with one of these flares... they won't sneak up on you easily for a little while, anyways! These projectile flares can also serve a more tangible function. Open a door and fire one of these flares into a door jamb, and the door won't be able to close until the flare is completely out. Another cool way to light up the dark is to simply fire your weapons. As your shot speeds off away from you, it will light up everything around it. Lastly, there's your guidebot. He may flit around like a two year old strung out on caffeine, but at least he does generate light, which will light up the room when he's around you.

The sound effects and background sounds in Descent 3 are fantastic, as well. Descent 3 supports several different audio configurations, including surround sound(?), stereo, A3D, and DirectX Sound(?). Crank this baby up and run it through an A3D compatible card, a slew of speakers, and preferably an Intensor thrown in for good measure, and you can get lost and forget where you are. When you finally quit playing, you'll have to get used to level ground again. (No, I'm NOT kidding.)

Both the graphics and the sound in Descent 3 are top notch and work together to provide a very rich and emmersive environment. NOTE: If you experience lag while playing Descent 3 or short, intermittent drops in frame rate, and you are using a 3DFX based accelerator, you should download new drivers from 3Dfx.com. I had this problem originally, but once the new drivers were installed, the game ran beautifully.


There is an old adage that says, "Be careful what you ask for... you might just get it." On the surface, this appears to be the case for Descent 3. I'm sure that many gamers like myself have wanted a certain game to allow them to move in ways that it would not before, leading one to think, "I wish I could move like this." Descent 3 answers this wish by offering pretty much every possible type of movement in any direction. Descent 3 allows you to configure your controls so that you can move forward/backward, slide up/down, slide left/right, turn left/right, bank left/right, pitch up/down; plus controls for weapons management, throttle, etc. So, instead of being frustrated by the lack of control, you are now overwhelmed with the possibilities.

The thing to bear in mind is that just because all of these motions are available, doesn't mean that you have to use every last one. I had great success using a driving controller, in particular, the Act Labs Force RS, by simply assigning left and right banking to the steering wheel, and assigning forwards and backwards to the pedals, and assigning a few other various controls to the various buttons on the steering wheel. One part of this setup that worked particularly well, was that I set the primary weapon and secondary weapon to shift up and shift down on the built-in Formula 1 style steering column mounted shifter. This allowed me to fire off my primary or secondary weapon with a slap from either hand. Pretty Sweet. Once you stop trying to use every single possible command, you can design a control configuration that works well for you, and dive right in.

Descent 3 has some other features which can be customized to suit your preferred style of gameplay, such as automatic ship leveling, or autolev, which causes your ship to attempt to level out, keeping you level with the horizon. Gamers who are unfamiliar with Descent 3 should start with some degree of autolev turned on, but for a completely emmersive experience, it is best to turn autolev off. If you do, you may find that you sometimes lose track of which way is down and which way is up, and you experience a certain freefall-type feeling, which can greatly enhance gameplay.

Descent 3 is a lot of fun in Single Player Mode. However, I can see that the potential for fun would be much greater in a Multiplayer Mode. Due to technical problems I experienced with Heat.net, I have not yet tested the Multiplayer aspect of Descent 3. When these problems are corrected and I have played the Multiplayer Mode, I will add that section to this review.


Descent 3 can be challenging, yet is still very enjoyable. In the Single Player Mode, the enemy robots are small, tenacious, and like to gang up on you. When more than two of these enemies attack at the same time, you could be in for quite a beating. To get a little bit of an edge, assign precision (analog) controls for both heading and pitch. This will allow you to target your enemies with greater accuracy. If your controller(s) don't offer enough analog inputs to use with pitch AND heading, then pitch and heading should be assigned to four buttons - pitch up an down, and turn left and right, in an easy to reach D-Pad arrangement.

One thing that helps out a lot is the save feature. Descent 3 allows the gamer to save their game at any given point, and even takes a snapshot of the screen and displays a thumbnail of it when you are selecting a saved game to load. In addition, each time you die in the Single Player Mode, you are treated to a cinematic shot of your demise, then you are allowed to continue from a point just before your demise. The main thing in Descent 3 is to find a controller configuration, and then practice, practice, practice.

Game Mechanics:

The graphics engine in Descent 3 is beautiful. Period. This is especially true when using a Voodoo 3Dfx based graphics accelerator and Glide. Descent 3 uses its own physics engine to control the gameplay, known as the Fusion engine. This Fusion Engine allows for seamless transitions between internal and external environments. Another mechanical feature worth praising is the highly flexible joystick configuration. It would be quite maddening to attempt to use every single control offered by Descent 3, but this wide variety allows for complete customization of a suitable control setup. Hopefully, other games will follow in Descent 3's footsteps in this respect.

Installation: Descent 3 installs easy. Just pop in the CD, and if you have autoplay, it will automatically open a customized interface. From there, you simply select 'Install' and direct it as to what folder to install into. Prior to playing Descent 3 for the first time, you will be automatically taken to the Setup Menu. From there you can choose your audio, video, and joystick configurations, as well as select the level of detail.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

200MHz Pentium, 32MB RAM, 3D accelerated video card supporting Glide, OpenGL, or Direct3D, 4x CD-ROM drive, Windows 95, 98, or NT 4.0 (SP3), More RAM may be required with certain 3D video cards that use Direct3D. Supports 3D sound cards

Test System:

K6-II 400, 64MB RAM, Voodoo 3 2000, Aureal Vortex II 3D Sound Card

Windows EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark Windows Grand Prix 3

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated