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Review: Star Trek D-A-C

6:00 PM on 05.21.2009 // Brad Nicholson

Shame. It’s what I feel whenever someone asks me what I think about the new Star Trek movie. Before you jump to conclusions, let me just say, I haven’t seen it yet. My shame is purely based on speculation. I feel its wretchedness in my future-predicting bones. Seriously.

It’s obvious I don’t get out much, but the good thing is that my lack of experience with the new movie doesn’t affect my review of Star Trek D-A-C, an Xbox LIVE Arcade game. As with most downloadable titles, D-A-C is light on story and heavy on the top-down shooter action.

Hit the break for our review.

Star Trek D-A-C (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Developer: Naked Sky Entertainment, Bad Robot Interactive
Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment
Released: May 13, 2009
MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points

Star Trek D-A-C is a top-down shooter devoid of both character and complexity. But its simplicity is not a gateway to euphoria; D-A-C is no Peggle. Instead, the crude shooting action and movement is a naked pit -- a dangerous entrance to the mundane. D-A-C lacks the substance to be entertaining for more than a few minutes, which is a shame considering the wide range of fiction and personality that the developers had to draw from. Call it another busted film-licensed game or just an additional space shooter in a genre-flooded downloadable market; it doesn’t matter. D-A-C fails to deliver.

The title screen betrays the game’s identity. A monolithic, shiny USS Enterprise glides large on the screen. Accompanied by music, always the Star Trek compliment, it conveys a sense of scale. Space -- this vast unknown, curious and sometimes dangerous place -- begs to be explored. But explore, you shall not.

D-A-C is a collection of three game modes: Team Deathmatch, Assault, and Conquest. Each mode has basic objectives (the latter two are “capture” the circle affairs) and are available for single-player and full online play. That’s D-A-C.

My biggest issue strikes at this core: the three modes lack substance. Every match, regardless of objective, turns into a basic free-for-all where players are pumping protons and missiles in each other’s ships -- circles to be captured or not. Yet, even if everyone behaved and sat on objectives like good little boys, the game would still reflect this beastly nature. There’s no strategy. Just kill the other team.

Speaking of killing, let’s talk ships briefly. The two teams are split between the Federation and the Romulans. Each team has three functionally identical ships: a flagship, a bomber and a fighter.

The key, I believe, is to create diversity on the field. However, a silly balance problem complicates things. The weaponry is extremely weak. You can upgrade your guns by collecting white orbs on the field of battle. Problem is, if you’re a little late to the show, expect to get pummeled and decimated within seconds -- lumbering flagships can be taken in seconds by an upgraded fighter.

The natural recourse to this is to hang back in the spawn and collect white orbs as they pop on top of the starry backdrop. However, while doing this, you’re no help to your team. Also, if a pumped enemy catches you, prepare to die alone.

It can get frustrating, madly so, until you catch a long enough break to get the needed upgrades to compete. At this point, every time you die, you respawn with a little bit less than what you had previously. Not bad, but you can still be overpowered easily.

I died a lot while playing, but I actually began to enjoy the respawn system. When your ship loses all of its health and shields, a fire ignites, giving you a few seconds to fire off a nimble and lightning-fast escape pod. If you happen to clear the area without being busted by another ship, you can avoid a respawn penalty. It's cool that it doesn’t punish, but unfortunate that it happens so much.

The spaceship mayhem is confined to maps with, again, little flair and substance. A few broken tubes that you can venture into dot the landscape, but it’s otherwise boring.

A good Star Trek title is hard to find and it’s definitely not here. D-A-C doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value. If you rock out by yourself or even via Xbox LIVE, you’ll quickly become numb to the action. The simple victory parameters coupled with the painfully basic shooting provide an experience that you can become accustomed to in seconds, but there’s nothing there to explore. No strategy, no campaign, and no complexity.

Best to save your 800 Microsoft Points for another game.

Score: 3 -- Poor (3s went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice the game has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.)

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