Monday, July 11, 2005

Descent 2

Descent 2 is an oldie that was ahead of its time. A completely original 3D space shooter, itmade great use of the hardware and provided great original game concepts and an enjoyable experience.

That said, I wanted to point out a few of its major strengths and weaknesses.

First of all, the graphics were superb by the standards of the time. The system functioned well and had no glitches while still incorporating some cool effects, like translucent ships (when they were using cloaking). Lots of things could definitely be improved about the graphics, but all in all they were very good for the day and made good use of the hardware.

The sounds were great too. Building onto and expanding the dark-back-alley feel to the game, the music was intense, and often increased the suspense level. The sound effects were right on target as well, providing the player with truly wierd machine sounds for the robots and great original weapon noises.

What really made the game a smashing success was its use of a 6 degree-of-freedom movement system. Something that had never been used before, it allowed the player to move freely through the 3D world while pulling off all sorts of moves not possible in flight simulators. Sometimes it was fun just to see what moves you could pull on a robot before moving in for the kill.

The weapon variety is what really made this game awesome though. While no weapon is more powerful than the last, they each work in a different way, forcing you to alter your strategy depending on your weapon while simultaneously causing you to develop favorites. Although the laser is the default weapon, they can range from mega missles and smart mines to vulcan cannons and homing missles. Each provides a totally different kind of gameplay, making replay value a huge factor.

Another fun feature is the level editor. Using the level editor the player can create missions of any type with an easy to use interface and a powerful texture engine. Triggers, secret walls, hidden powerups, even customizable textures allow the player to create any world he wants to play in.

Gameplay is really kicked up a notch when two or more players play multiplayer over a LAN. Suddenly the game is not learning the robot's strategy, it's about outsmarting real live opponents with moves that you can't predict or expect.

Overall, Descent 2 is an awesome game. You can find it for PC here. Unfortunately, Descent 3 doesn't pick up where 2 left off. It becomes a different game altogether as it took on the standard "complete the mission" style of the time. No more blow up the reactor. Now you have to rescue Dr. Somebody. The story is okay, but it doesn't fit. Better to settle for its predecessor.

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