Well – just when you thought the Star Trek franchise was on it’s arse wonder-man J.J. Abrams comes along and drags it screaming and kicking into the light. Along with the new movie comes the inevitable game but this is no movie tie in. It doesn’t even pretend to have a story! This is old skool gaming, given the arcade treatment and some shiny Starfleet uniforms. Thing is though, is this a new Captain Picard or is it the guy in the red stretchy outfit you have never seen before who will be dead pretty soon after beaming to the planet? Well a review is what you need my friend and I shall “make it so”…
Star Trek: D-A-C is a frenetic top-down shooter inspired by swiping liberally from games like Super Stardust HD and Geometry Wars. This pick-up and play nature of this title was designed to allow you and your friends to choose various star ships and battle it out online. You can enlist in Starfleet or join the Romulan Empire and can take on up to 11 friends in this arena based combat.
Graphically the game is hard to score. Sure there is nothing particularly spectacular going on BUT what is on screen is very well rendered (the ships look great – especially the USS – Enterprise!) and animation is fluid and well done. Explosions are a little underwhelming and the laser blasts seem a little weedy but these become more satisfying as the game progresses and you pick up the power orbs to increase your ships capabilities. The various debris and rock floating around the battle arena look generic but well made and animated. For an XBLA game, despite the niggles I have mentioned, this is a tidy title and graphically complete.
As mentioned before there is no story to Star Trek D-A-C. There isn’t really even a single played game – this is all about online skirmish battles with the space craft of your choosing. The game play modes including Solo Play, Online Versus, and Online Co-op. Now I know I said “no single player” which was a slight half-truth. The single player element pits you in the same arena as every other mode it is just that you play against the AI bots instead of real world opponents. Basically makes no difference what game mode you choose you are still playing fundamentally the same game in the same arenas – I say arena but that is for definition terms, what it actually consists of is a large area of space that you all cruise around blowing the snot out of each other.
You are presented with three ship choices per side (so six choices in all). These are the powerful Flagship, the nimble Fighter or the devastating Bomber, each with their own unique capabilities.
In the online multiplayer the three game types are defined as: Team Deathmatch lets teams go head-to-head in a winner-takes-all fight to the finish. In Assault, teams must protect and conquer control points in space. In Conquest, teams take turns trying to dominate or defend a sector of space.
Sound wise the game is very “meh”. It does nothing spectacular or exciting with the materials on offer. The theme tune is recreated well on the menu systems and the spot effects are satisfying enough – once again I think the weapons look, sound and feel, for the most part, under powered. They real shame was the lack of thought on the use of sound. A great opportunity was missed for the injection of speech from your other crafts near by – distress calls, bridge chatter etc – would of pulled the team element together more.
So what we have in Star Trek D-A-C is a top down shooter that sort of does things well, but never strives to do thing better than average. The game play works well enough and you will be flying about blowing ships up fairly quickly as anyone who has played RobotTron or Geometry Wars will feel at home with the controls. You will die an awful lot in this game – trust me! But one good thing is that if you get close to death you can eject from your craft and make a break for it. If you survive the5 or 6 seconds needed then you choose your next ship type and keep some of the upgrades you have managed to grab. To help in your plight littered across the universe are weapon upgrades, which increase the power of your ship’s weapon, energy replenishing orbs and a variety of power-ups, including a cloaking device, a short-range smart bomb and the homing torpedoes. Grabbing these is a major key to surviving the onslaught. As is teaming up with fellow captains to take down enemies that have strayed in to the wild on their own. Watch out though if the AI takes control of any of the ships though as they will rocket to the top of the leaderboard as they are crack shots and complete masters of the environment!
Longevity is my main concern above all other niggles with Star Trek D-A-C. There simply is no “substance” to the game. Sure it is a great blast hoping online and getting in to skirmishes with your buddies but this used to hold your amusement 5 years or more ago when you played Hal-Life Death Match or something. These days people are looking for some sort of reward or progression from their online gaming. It seems like such a missed opportunity as you have these two military frameworks that your using and the developers could of easily incorporated this in to the title. It would of been fun to start of as Ensign and move your way up through Starfleet until you became Admiral etc. Even things like StarDust and Geometry Wars had the ability to measure yourself by the massive scores you achieved, sadly the scoring in this just does not meet that “Hell Yeah” factor of those games. As it stands the game is a blast for the short time you play it and a great little partner title to the movie – just don’t expect to get a whole lot out of it for too long- but then at £7 (800 points) would you really expect Oblivion?