Descent
Platform:  PlayStation
Players:  1-2 (when using PlayStation Link Cable)
Memory Usage:  5 blocks
Optional:  PlayStation Analog Joystick (not dual shock)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

    Let's be frank here, ever since I first saw Descent for the PC years and years ago it's been one of my all time favorite games.  "Custom PlayStation Editions" of popular PC game franchises were the order of the day during the PlayStation introduction back in 1995 however many didn't live up to the sound of the title.  Surprisingly, Descent delivers all the gut wrenching 360 degree vertigo of it's original PC counterpart - on that newfangled PlayStation system.  It may not look super impressive now days but at the time of it's launch Descent on the PlayStation looked far better than the game that most of our computers simply weren't fast enough to play to its limit.

Description:  The story is pretty simple, in the near future the Earth begins to mine other planets and worlds for their vast resources.  Most of the mining is done by automated machines and all is controlled by the PTMC (Post-Terran Mining Corporation), not shocking to anyone the PTMC is more worried about money and saving their own asses than the value of human life.  Fly your craft into each mine, wipe out the possessed machines, blow the reactor core deep inside each mine, and scramble for the exit before the whole works explodes.  The PC version had a wonderfully written opening sequence, however the was no voice work, only text.  The PlayStation version starts out in the same briefing room except there is a bit of animation and the conversation (including the smartass remarks you make to yourself) are all done by voice actors.  While the vocal performances are done extremely well, some of the original dialogue from the PC version is left out, but oh well.  As you dash through the mines you'll encounter all kinds of enemy craft with dead on AI, tons of cool weapons, and let's not forget: the mines themselves, they're recreated exactly as they were in the PC version and you can easily spend over thirty minutes just finding your way around a level to get your bearings.  Challenge is through the roof just as it was on the PC and as you get deeper into the game you begin to feel just how hopeless your situation has become.  That is all "Material Defender," prepare for Descent!

Graphics:  For the time the graphics were amazing and they still hold up relatively well today.  The frame rate compared to how Descent runs on computers from just a few years later is a bit clunky, but compared to how this game ran on most average level computers of the time, it's just as good if not better on the PlayStation.  Every ship, every twist, every turn, every weapon, every texture, and every explosion is perfectly recreated on the PlayStation.  Textures are solid and you don't get hung up on a bad polygon or fly through a solid wall ever.  Pretty much every last detail from the briefing screens to the pulse of the plasma canon is a perfect port of the PC classic.  Lighting effects are remarkably good considering how young the PlayStation hardware was at the time this game was released.

Sound:  All the sound effects from the PC version make the transition perfectly.  Laser blasts and explosions are crisp and clear, the sounds of enemy ships flying by are just as they should be and lend a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the game.  The music is kinda dreamy techno rock, pretty much the standard faire for games of this era.  Additionally all the briefing messages are read out loud, which always sounds cool and feels more cinematic.  You really can't go wrong with this game's audio, it's just as good now as it was then.

Play Control:  Spot on, control is extremely responsive especially considering many may think it hard to believe this game can be played without a keyboard.  Analog control support is limited to the big two grip PlayStation analog joystick but this understandable since it was one of the first PlayStation games.  It may take a couple minutes to get used to, but once you lock down your senses you'll be swinging around in zero gravity problem free.  This is important as it was the big draw with Descent, instead of just running around on a flat 3-D surface as many games of the era did, in Descent you can go ANYWHERE in the vast 3-D tunnels.. Descent invented video game vertigo.

Replay:  I've been playing this game for almost ten years now, it's simply always a blast.  There are so many levels that while there may not be a lot of replay value, the depth of game play and the sheer size of the levels gives you a lot to do and one monster of a game to accomplish.  Descent is that rare action game where although you're really just completing the same task over and over, it always feels fresh and original.

Final Verdict:  If you like games like Doom and Wolfenstein 3-D and are looking for an old school shooter that still holds up remarkably well, then you really should search out a copy of Descent.  There was also a sequel to this game released on the PlayStation called Descent Maximum with slightly improved graphics and control.  However I simply can't say any bad things about this game, it's simply a masterpiece that has yet to be equaled or surpassed (even by Descent II on the PC).  The only shortcomings of the PlayStation version are that it takes 5 blocks of memory to save (common with early PlayStation titles - this was before save compression was looked into heavily) and that the only analog control it supports is via the big two handed PlayStation analog joystick.  Yet both of these setbacks, if they can be called that, are because of it being released early into the PlayStation's life.  If you see this game, pick it up, simple as that.
 

Written on 08-18-04 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net
Last amended on 04-13-06 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net


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