Descent Maximum

a game by Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Platform: PSX
Rating: 6/10

Description

Overview

Ah yes, another port from the PC platform. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it is not so good. Although Descent Maximum is not a direct port, it is based on the same premises of the PC game. In the Playstation game, however, there are six new worlds, 36 additional levels, new weapons, and a much needed guide-bot.

This series has been very popular with PC owners and the folks at Interplay are hoping that the PSX crowd joins the Descent bandwagon. With all of the new additions to the game, it can't miss, right? Wrong.

Gameplay

Since a lot of people who own a Playstation don't play PC games, let me explain the whole concept behind Descent. You fly a tiny space ship, called a Pyro-GX, through different mines on different planets. Scattered throughout the mines are enemy robots, ranging in strength from wimpy to lethal. To combat the robots, your ship is equipped with various weapons, including bombs. Planted in these mines are other weapon pick-ups that will strengthen your arsenal. Your goal is to fly through the mines, locate keys to unlock doors, find the main power generator, knock it out, and find the exit before the generator explodes.

In Descent Maximum, you can either select a cockpit view or a full-screen view, both from the first-person perspective. The back of the box calls the levels "Stomach Flipping," which is about right. Your ship has a full 360 degrees of movement and the mineshafts make full use of this range of motion. If you have any trace of motion sickness, consider staying away from this game.

Your ship comes with two different types of weapon systems. You have your primary weapon, which is a laser or some other rapid fire weapon. Your secondary weapons are bombs of different types. Each of the weapons has a limit on the number of times you can use them, so conservation is essential. There are enough pick-ups throughout the levels to keep you from running out of weaponry, but if you do, you can always use your ship to ram the enemy.

The main objective on each level is to take out the main reactor, but there are also other things that are beneficial to complete. For one, there are hostages located in locked off rooms around each mine. You need to locate the hostages, pick them up, and bring them out with you. This will give you bonus points at the end of the level. Also, there are alternative exits that, if found, take you to a secret level. None of these thing will impede your progress through the game, but they add to the challenge.

One of the additions to this version is the Guide-bot. I can't imagine trying to play this game without it. The Guide-bot is a robot that helps lead you to the different items needed to complete the level. You also have control over what items the Guide-bot searches for. For example, you can instruct it to take you to the hostages. He will take you to the location that the hostages are locked up. You can also have him take you to power-ups, enemies, or other areas. I think this was invaluable. I just can't imagine finding my way through all of the different tunnels and branches without him. Everything looked so much alike that I found that I was lost most of the time. You do have markers that you can drop so you know if you have been somewhere before, but it is still difficult without the help. If you want to try and make it without the Guide-bot, you don't have to free him at the beginning of the level. So, if you think you have what it takes, go for it.

Now for the downsides. The biggest and worst problem of the game was the terrible slowdown. There were times that it was almost like the CD was skipping. This happened more than once. I would be flying along, and if more than a couple enemies were on the screen at once, the game would start to stutter and skip. This was one of the worst problems I have seen in any game, ever.

The next problem is the controls. The control system was definitely designed around a PC. I never really felt comfortable with any of the configurations. There were so many options that you had to hold select and press another button to perform some of the controls. When you are shooting down a passageway and getting attacked by an enemy, the controls should be instinctive. Not the case here. I found myself looking at the controller and having to think carefully about what I was doing before doing it.

Another thing I did not like about the game was that it was too easy to get disoriented. More than once, I found myself wondering which direction I was pointing and did not know how to correct my ship. It would have really helped to have some sort of gauge that showed if your ship was upside down or on its side or what position it was in. It became very frustrating, not being able to correct your ship without going through dizzying pains.

Finally, the biggest problem was the game just got repetitive. All of the levels were basically the same. Sure, the route changes and you did have some different enemies to face, but I kept feeling like I had already done that before. There was just not enough diversity in the levels to keep me excited about moving on to the next levels.

Graphics

The graphics were both good and bad. The explosions and lighting effects were awesome, but when you would get too close to a wall or object, they became terribly distorted. Still, I can't help but blame the slowdown on the graphics. Descent Maximum was played in a dark setting, since you were underground. This didn't hurt the game, but actually gave the feeling of being underground.

Bottom Line

This game could have been a lot better. The slowdown really turned me off and the repetitive levels also left me wanting more. I could see flashes of what made the PC game a hit, but I don't think this will ever receive the same attention on the PSX. The game adds a fairly original twist to the first-person genre—which was refreshing—but just came up short overall.

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