Descent 2 is a superb sequel to one of the most original shooters to come along in ages. If you call yourself a die-hard space shooter fan, but have never played any Descent game before (for example, if you have been living in caves for the past 5 years ;)), here is the skinny: Descent II throws the real world out the window and immerses you in a world where basic concepts like gravity, spatial awareness and up-and-down have no place whatsoever. You pilot a small spacecraft around a zero gravity maze, blasting away flying robots and collecting power-ups as you go. It's a bit trippy at first, but once you get the hang of it (or rather, * if* you get the hang of it), you're in for an incredibly addictive experience that no other game can offer.
Forget the plot, since it doesn't really matter ;) Descent II expands upon the original's x-y-z axis combat with 30 new levels (culminating in a battle inside the enemy mothership), a scout recon robot which comes back for you if you fall behind, a suitably loud and grinding soundtrack, a cool but very annoying "thief-bot" enemy that hunts you down and steals stuff, and a new AI that supposedly learns over time to counter your tactics.
From a multiplayer point of view, however, things can get just that little bit too confusing, and this is one that you really need to clock up a few hours on before you start to enjoy it to its full potential. There are two key problems with the game that will confuse and discourage newer players in an online game. First of all, when you get shot you lose all your weapons, and whoever it was that shot you can then collect them all. That means they get even more powerful, while you go back to a pathetic little laser. It can be hard to break that cycle, because it's hard to fight back with nothing. The other problem is that you can often get killed without even seeing who was shooting you. That's not much fun. You can be bumping around in a corner, trying to get your bearings on the world, when all of a sudden you're blown to bits. Both those key problems assume that the players can actually find each other. Sometimes that's unlikely, especially with some of the mazes being so fiendishly complex that you can simply never really get your head around them.
Despite problems that make multiplayer mode more frustrating than fun for newcomers, Descent II is definitely one of the most rewarding games you will ever play. If you like space shooters or action games in general, you will love this game – but keep that airsick bag handy and be careful not to walk on ledges after you turn off the computer ;) Two thumbs up, way up!
Note: Parallax has released the source codes to the first two games to cheers of fans worldwide. This has resulted in numerous fanmade levels for the game. The best places to start looking for them are Descent2.com and ZappaFan's Descent Hangout.Reviewed by: Underdogs