Written by  :  Chris Martin (1204)
Written on  :  Apr 24, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Not just for mining anymore...

The Good

Descent 3 is the last game produced in the award-winning series by Parallax. The storyline continues form the first two games, and throws some spins on the backstory of the Descent world.

The Graphics in this game are extremely well done. Gone are the days of jagged rooms and blocky hallways. Arches, round tunnels and circular portholes are abundant in this game. Also, you are no longer confined to the interior of a mine or building. In almost every mission, you break the boundaries of the building, and soar outside in the terrain. And the transistion is flawlessly executed. The game gives you a real good feel of switching environments when you are flying around. The graphics engine is very smooth, and most of the cutscenes within the game are done with the in-game engine (with the exception of the introduction scene - a really nice work of CG in my opinion). The robots are very detailed, and some even have non-standard weapons (you'll love the napalm weapon), and the AI of the bots is pretty good, although I've only played the game on easy level. Environmental effects are abundant as well. For instance, when you fly out into the open and it's raining, water droplets splash on your "windshield". Electrical effects and fire are rendered very nicely as well.

The sound in incredible as well. Explosions, alarms, ambient sounds, laser fire - all done in great stereo sound. And if you are lucky enough to have a nice sub-woofer system as well, it really enhances the gameplay.

The controls are so-so, depending on what you are used to. I like playing space sims with a joystick, but with Descent 3, you need to adapt a different style of flying. I use the classic WASD for forward, backward, and sliding left and right, while I use the joystick for pitch and yaw, but not rotation. For rotation, I use the hat switch on the top of the joystick. But this setup works for me, and if you can find an easier one for yourself, go for it. Every control is completely customizable.

The gameplay is very cool. It's very much a combination of a twitch shooter like Quake 3 Arena, but has the grace and precision flying you'd need in games like X-Wing or Wing Commander.

Also, Parallax has released the incredibly powerful (and complex) Descent 3 Level Editor, which is downloadable at their website - www.descent3.com. If you ever wanted to design maps for the game, this is the tool to do it with.

The Bad

The only gripe i have with this game is the Extremely Steep system requirements for the game. I originally got this for my P3 1gz, and with 128MB of RAM the game was chugging. Real bad. After upgrading my RAM, the game still stutters occasionally, but it's a hell of a lot better than before. I don't know what the programmers were thinking, but the mininum they say is required to play is ridiculous. Make sure you have a fast machine and plenty of free RAM loaded BEFORE you start playing.

The Bottom Line

I'll say one thing - had I reveiwed this 2 months ago, before I got my RAM upgrade, I wouldn't have gived this a thumbs up at all. The steep system requirements alone can scare you from trying this game. But if you have the hardware available, by all means, pick up Descent 3. In fact, you can probably pick up Descent 3 and its expansion pack - Mercenary - for about $10-15 dollars at you local Wal-Mart or K-Mart. So if you got the hardware, it's worth the purchase, and it's a blast to play.