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Descent 2: The Infinite Abyss


Reviewed by: Richard Green
Author: In-house Price: Retail:$49.95 US  Street:$39 US
Category: 3D 360 degrees action shooter Released: November 1996
Platform: Windows 95, also on DOS. Version: Release
Multiplayer: Up to 8 via Modem/Serial, IPX.

Graphic modes: 320x200x256, 640x480x256, 800x600x256
Controls: Keyboard, Joystick, most specialised Gravis and Logitech joysticks
Sound devices: SB + 100% compatibles, Gravis, Pro Audio, Roland, AWE
Computer Memory HD space CD speed Other reqs/options
Minimum 486-50 16M 35M x2 Works with Virtual i-glasses, VFX-1, SimulEyes. Supports S3 Virge accelerated version.
Reviewed on P133 32M 35M x8
Recommended P100 16M 35M x2

Reviewer's Hardware: ESS Audiodrive, Quickshot Analogue Joystick, Velocity 3D 4mb video card


Hurrah for Interplay! We have a real stunner for you today, ladies and gentlemen, yes indeed! Not only do we have a brilliant, graphically superior, fast, thrilling, full 360 degrees of 3D action game here, but also a whole host of extras, new levels, enemy robots, mission builder and Descent 1 to D2 level converter. This is the definitive value-for-money package.

Descent 2: The Infinite Abyss has been released to enhance on the ever-popular Descent series. The original Descent was brought out a good few years ago, a little while after the first Doom game came out. It was greeted with a mixed reception, and has pretty much maintained the same "either love it or hate it" opinion from the 3D action genre gamesplayers. Whereas one selection of the public found it to be dull, and too difficult to control, the other side say it's a revolutionary, true 3D experience, action-packed, rollercoaster of a game. Whatever you thought of it, applause all round for the innovation involved; other companies had already started cloning Doom with their mediocre first-person 3D actions, but Interplay did something different.

A scene from the introduction

Many say that, technically speaking, Descent 2 has yet to be bettered, and that Quake merely accomplished exactly what the original Descent had, years ago. All the enemies in this game are real 3D, with actual parts that break apart realistically when shot at. This is unlike the technology that Doom and Duke uses, where the sprites are all two-dimensional, which 'jerk' into the front, back and two side-on positions.

As for the actual gameplay my personal thoughts are that it's all about player's expectations. There's no denying that Descent isn't for everyone. If you have a sole interest in getting the feel of being a lone soldier on foot, nothing but the gun in your hand, and the measly armor on your torso to protect you, then this game just isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you have a wide range of interests in action gaming, or you've always had the keen fantasy of having a small, maneuverable spaceship, speeding through narrow tunnels, blasting other ships into the walls, then Descent delivers.

The Game and New Missions

My own experience with Descent has ranged from one end of the enjoyment scale to the other; sometimes I've found it frustrating and tiring, other times it's been exhilirating and fun. One thing that it always is though: difficult. Oh yes, no getting away from that one. Especially with the way the game's mood can vary suddenly from one second to the next, giving you false senses of security; you can go from one quiet room to the next, and then out of nowhere 10 robots can pounce on you at once. I certainly can't recommend it to anyone who isn't used to very fast, very intense action.

Sniffle. It all happened so fast, darnit!

Descent 2 improved upon the first in many ways. Not only did it feature new, crisp SVGA graphics, but all new enemy creations, new levels, and best of all, a little friendly 'guide-bot' that can race ahead of you, scout power-ups and keycards, and generally make negotiating the tunnels much easier. It's very easy to get disorientated and lost down deep in the mine mazes.

The Infinite Abyss includes the full original game, plus 22 new levels labelled the "Vertigo Series", full of new texturing and scenarios, including Rat Mazes and Sewers. Note though, these levels really aren't for the beginner. You couldn't describe the first level of D2 as the type which eases you steadily into the game, so with this pack of levels, imagine that a hundred times worse.

These levels also include 12 types of new robot enemies with nothing on their minds but kill, kill, kill; and typically, that's kill kill kill you. Finally, the Vertigo Series adds a new type of multiplayer game, similar to 'capture the flag', which involves special gems being placed all around the level, with each player fighting to 'hoard up' the most.

New levels, new enemies to blast...

Other goodies included

This pack also contains a professional Mission Builder, for you to design and create your own monster levels to race around and give to friends. Generally, most people will use this facility to design levels for multiplay, which is in no question of being the best way of playing Descent; dogfighting another human opponent in the mines cannot be bettered. That said, the computer AI is the best I've encountered in this genre. Although, I've still yet to see a weakened enemy run from you (in any game, that is, with very few exceptions), they do dodge and attack in 'smart' ways.

The Mission Builder also allows you to customise the many enemy robots in different ways, including their strength, aim, weapons, sounds and general behaviour. Also included is a converter that can bring forward all your favourite Descent levels to D2 format, and vice versa. These accessories, allowing you to make your own levels, and convert from D1 to D2 formats, have been available in the shareware market for some time. However, the official Interplay Mission Builder has been classed by one D2 freak (no, not me) as "harder to use [than the Freeware ones], but more powerful in terms of what you can do with it". Although, keep an eye out for the latest version of Devil which will include many more of the Mission Builer's features, plus a 3D preview that lets you fly through your levels from within the editor.

The most impressive new feature was the inclusion of a 'Virge' DOS version to play. This can only be played if you have a 3D accelerator video card, that uses the S3 Virge chipset. For those who do, you're in for a treat - the visuals are too amazing for words. The main difference is the way that walls, objects, just about anything on screen really, no longer becomes a messy batch of blocks when you get up close to them. Instead, they maintain their integrity and detail, blurring slightly, but on the whole look fantastically real. All you need would be a virtual headset and some all-over body sensors to give you the motion feeling of the ship, and you would be there. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with these devices (well, one's yet to be invented!). And unbelievably, the sacrifice of speed is not as noticeable as you might expect; I found little difference between Virge and the regular SVGA mode.

The difference between regular SVGA and the
accelerated S3 Virge version is quite remarkable!

Special Deal

Interplay are going all out to win the Software Publisher of the Year Award. Whereas most companies would leave their loyal customers to pick up the full retail price on this new pack, current Descent 2 owners can simply send their game CD back to Interplay with a check for the reduced price of $19.95 (including S&H), and have the full Infinite Abyss mailed back to them. Call 1-800-969-GAME for more details.


So, let's round it up. We have an action game, cram-packed with goodies, that includes a full best-seller, along with a batch of new levels and enemies, new music, new form of multiplay game, mission builder, and level converter from D1 to D2. Not to mention that the game not only rocks in single-player, but is also up among the best multiplayer experiences, and plays well over the Internet (unfortunately, Interplay don't run their own gaming service, so you would have to subscribe to one to play, or preferably purchase the excellent Kali program).

One of the stills from the opening sequence of the "Vertigo Series"

With the exception of those who still demand they hate the game (come on, try it again, guys!), and the people who just can't keep up with its pace (and I include myself in that category quite often), then this is a must-buy, especially for those who haven't encountered any of the Descent's before. And those who already own D2 would do well to upgrade for a mere twenty bucks, and delve deep into the Infinite Abyss!


  • A huge package, overloaded with extras
  • Great game to begin with, if a little hard
  • Accelerated S3 version is stunning
  • Multiplayer is superb, and extends the already large longetivity of the game
  • Can't compliment it enough!


  • Appeal is limited to action fans


Appeal: Arcade action fans, Doomers, Dukers, etc
Originality & Storyline: Not much of a storyline, but the intro is fun nonetheless.
Graphics & Video: Superb. The enemies are fully 3D, and beat Quake's jagged looking polygons anyday. S3 Virge version can't be beaten.
Audio: Acclaimed CD tracks rock along with the game; effects of lasers, power-ups, explosions all brilliant
Longevity: The original D2 with 30 huge levels, 30 enemies, and 10 weapons, PLUS 20 new levels with 12 new robots, PLUS a quality mission builder PLUS all the multiplayer options PLUS .....
Presentation: Great all around. Cutscenes and menus all of high quality and complete the game's overall presentation.
Packaging & Docs: Everything you need, full mission builder manual with online tutorials
Bugs & Problems: None found

Copyright © Richard Green for the Games Domain Review, 1996. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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