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Star Trek: Tactical Assault

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PSP
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Bethesda


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PSP Review - 'Star Trek: Tactical Assault'

by Tim McCullough on Sept. 6, 2007 @ 12:27 a.m. PDT

Star Trek: Tactical Assault features real-time spaceship combat from the universe of the original Star Trek series. With a wide array of authentic Star Trek races, ships, and weaponry, you can engage in single-player battle through either the Federation or Klingon campaigns or in head-to-head wireless multiplayer combat.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Quicksilver
Release Date: November 14, 2006

Besides a famous mouse that will go unnamed, Star Trek has to be one of the most marketed entertainment products of all time. Unfortunately, most of the game development for this franchise has been about creating fortune instead of fame.

Star Trek: Tactical Assault combines real-time strategic elements with increasingly intense space battles, and it features the races, weapons and starships with which Star Trek fans will be familiar. The only element absent from the formula is the Star Trek characters. As you progress through the two single-player campaigns, you'll be required to investigate and decide the best course of action. You'll complete missions and earn upgrade points which can be used to upgrade the capabilities of your crew. In addition to the single-player campaigns, Star Trek: Tactical Assault includes multiplayer modes that offer some excellent competitive fun for up to four players.

There is little to complain about with the visual presentation of Tactical Assault. There are a few noticeable "jaggies" to some of the graphics, but overall, the game is quite visually pleasing. It's worth mentioning that the opening sequence of the game is excellent, especially with the included voice-over work of William Shatner. Unfortunately, beyond some movie and TV quotes which are displayed during load screens, there are no further "tie-ins" to the Star Trek personalities that made the series and movies memorable.

The strong musical score works well to heighten the intensity of battles as well as bring the "feel" of the Star Trek experience to the PSP platform. The sound effects are what you'd expect from a space-action title, and they consistently blend in with the gameplay. Control-wise, there are too many two-button commands for my taste, but the game is still fairly comfortable to navigate and play.

The single-player segment consists of a Federation and a Klingon Campaign, and you must successfully complete the former in order to unlock the latter. In both campaigns, you'll start out as a new captain who must prove his/her skill in both leadership and combat. Training is performed during the first mission after you're introduced to your crew and new starship. Missions will always begin and end with a captain's log entry. The starting entry usually provides a clue as to what to expect during the mission, and it can often help with posturing during any conversations that might occur. Assigned missions will often require you to investigate situations and choose the best course of action; any decisions will directly affect the campaign's ongoing storyline. As expected, you'll find that most of your time won't be spent chatting, but by engaging enemies in combat.

As is consistent with Trek universe, if you're playing as a federation captain, you're required to set one of three alert levels, depending on the situation. This has never made much sense to me because if you're being attacked, you shouldn't have to first issue a command to go to yellow or red alert before your shields or combat systems come online. I suppose it's only fair, however, since Klingon captains are also required to set alert levels, although they only have two.

Tactical Assault's upgrade system acts both as a reward and leveling system during the single-player campaigns. After successfully completing a mission, you receive crew upgrade points, which can be spent to upgrade the capabilities of the crew members in five different positions: Captain, Executive Officer, Helm, Tactical and Engineering. In each of these positions (except for Captain), three different upgrades can be improved up to three times. The upgrade system is a critical factor in succeeding in missions; since mission difficulty substantially increases as you progress through the campaign, choosing the best upgrades early is important.

Each of the three distinct races in Tactical Assault have special abilities during gameplay. Federation ships have the ability to recharge their shields while Klingon and Romulan ships have cloaking capabilities. Except for a few tactical adjustments that you'll have to make to address special abilities, you will find that all combat in Star Trek: Tactical Assault will follow the same recurring pattern. You first maneuver your starship back and forth near your target, spinning carefully to avoid hits to failing areas of your shield while you fire back using your port and aft weapons. Additionally, you do have some tactical control during combat by managing your emergency power assignments. You can choose to overpower your weapons to hit your enemy harder, or make emergency turns, accelerations, or stops. During combat, it's rare that you'll only encounter a single enemy, so expect a fair amount of repetition during combat.

If enemy starships weren't enough to deal with, the high density of asteroids, moons and planets that will often occupy the same small battle space will significantly raise the difficulty level of most confrontations. You may be wondering what kind of space captain would be foolish enough to hit a moon or a planet, and the answer would be: the kind who would expect these types of objects to have the proper scale.

In what I consider to be one of the most serious flaws I've seen in a space adventure, the planets and moons in Tactical Assault don't have proper scale, and they don't change in scale as you approach them, either. While playing, you'll experience the sensation that a particular planet is miles off in the distance, but in reality, you're right next to it. It's as if the celestial bodies are cut-out movie props, and if you hit any of the props, err … planets, you'll most likely fail your mission, unless you only scrape your ship across one and manage to come out relatively unscathed.

Asteroids are another matter altogether. Your view of space is normally restricted to the direction in which your ship is facing, and if you're moving fast enough, you will most likely end up colliding with an asteroid before you even see it. The best solution is to first be aware of all the different obstacles around you and position yourself as far away from them as possible prior to engaging the enemy.

While you may find the single-player campaigns to be a bit mediocre, Tactical Assault does offer some great multiplayer action using the PSP's networking capabilities. You can set up to host or join in on three different multiplayer modes. The first is a basic Skirmish mode, where you can battle with up to four friends with various starships on five different maps. The second type of game is called Battle Fest, where you start with the lowest class of starship, and as your starship is destroyed, you start the next round with the next vessel class. If you're the first captain to run out of starship classes, you lose the game. The last game mode is a subset of Battle Fest and only lets you compete through three starship classes.

Star Trek: Tactical Assault really tries to present itself as a tactical real-time strategy game, but unfortunately, it just doesn't measures up due to the lackluster storyline and repetitive nature of the gameplay. Although the Star Trek tech is present, the characters who really made the franchise interesting are absent. The saying goes, "Space is a really big place," so why would you have to regularly dodge planets, moons and asteroids while fighting your adversaries? Tactical Assault does offer excellent multiplayer gameplay, and it will be this feature that will keep dust from collecting on its case. If you're a true Star Trek fan, you'll most likely want to add Star Trek: Tactical Assault to your collection, but everyone else may want to consider warping over to a different title.

Score: 6.5/10

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