Star Trek: D-A-C
Big budget summer movies usually mean a tie-in video game. It's a well-known fact amongst game fans, that these games are generally rushed, buggy, and/or are just plain terrible. With the release of JJ Abrams' "Star Trek," comes "Star Trek DAC" an XBLA game that sadly falls into that last category of being just plain bad. The most apparent flaw in the game is the fact it is a generic top down shooter with a Star Trek license pasted over it. There is zero plot or story in this game and the only connection it has with the new film is in ship design. "Star Trek DAC" is the very definition of a 'cash-grab' release.
The three game modes in Star Trek DAC make up the cryptic acronym in its title: Deathmatch, Assault and Conquest. Upon initially firing up the game and running through the latter two modes, I began to feel frustration as the differences between Assault and Conquest are purely minimal. The game plays the same in each mode. You start out as either Federation or Romulan and have your choice of three ships: fighter, bomber, or flagship. As you go up in class you get a ship that increases in armor and firepower, but loses a lot in speed and maneuverability. From there you either duke it out against the opposing team in Deathmatch, or try to capture the four control points in Assault or Conquest. In Conquest, both teams are vying to capture the two neutral points, which then unlocks the home base of the opponent. If this is captured, then the capturing team wins. In Assault, it's the same mechanic, except one team tries to capture all four points while racing against the clock and also eliminating defenders. After the time limit expires or all four points are captured, roles are reversed and the team who captures the most points wins; in a tie, points determine winner.
This is the depth of the game play: shoot and/or capture. While I initially had fun with the stripped down game play, by the thirty minute mark I was growing tired of the game. The game allows you to play these modes offline with AI teammates and enemies, or take it online against all humans or co-op, which pits a human team against AI enemies. Not once in the few hours I've logged online with the game did I run across anyone on the microphone trying to rally teammates to work together. It seems no matter what mode you play, it's every man (or woman) for themselves.
Thankfully, the control scheme of the game is fairly well polished. The left analog stick controls movement, while the right stick moves the targeting reticule on the flagship class. Right trigger handles firing, while left trigger handles a speed boost. The last button used is the right bumper that activates one of the randomized power-ups you can pick-up. I didn't once have a problem navigating the map or attacking foes, but perhaps this is likely to this style game play having been refined years ago.
Graphics and Sound
While this is a generic top-down shooter with a Star Trek theme pasted on, the developers did hit a high note in terms of graphics and sound. The maps themselves have a pseudo-3D look to them, which reflects the environments of the new Trek franchise. The ships also sport this new look, and while there are only six different designs, they are all unique, with the highlight being the classic Constitution Class as the Federation' flagship class. The graphics aren't the best I've seen from an XBLA game, but they toward the top of the heap. The sound helped pull me into the environment of the game a little more and classic sound effects such as phasers, photon torpedoes and warp engines populate the game sessions. A generic, but pleasing score rounds out the better than expected sound design.
Despite quality graphics and sound and a responsive control system, there just isn't anything here to make Star Trek DAC worth playing. I could see at a fun 10-20 minute diversion from time to time, but at a price tag of 800 points, there are far better games to spend your money on. Even if this was priced at 50% off, the player is still paying for an uninspired top down shooter with a flashy Hollywood license. The 12 achievement points are relatively simple to obtain with the exception of a secret achievement that reportedly forces the player to enter a yet undiscovered cheat code (as an homage to the Kobayashi Maru test).
The remaining 11 simply require either a lot of time in the game to rack of a set number of kills or to complete some game modes under specific stipulations. There's an online leader board to track your total score among the modes. At the time of this review there were about 800-900 users listed. With a few more hours of playtime, I could easily take a top spot on any of these boards, another testament to the game not being as popular as one might expect. Still, if you're a huge Trek fan or think you want a barebones top down shooter, download the demo, but I'm pretty certain, you'll feel like your time has been wasted. Better yet, go download the free computer game 'Netrek' it's the same game play concept, less impressive A/V, but packed with far more depth and a much more active and involved user base.