IGN Review of Star Trek: Tactical Assault
The quest for a seminal Star Trek videogame has taken a few rough turns. The license has produced great games in the past, just look at Bridge Commander, but for the most part few developers have made Trek games worthy of mentioning. In steps Bethesda with Star Trek Tactical Assault for the PSP and Nintendo DS. Like Bridge Commander before it, Tactical Assault honestly tries to incorporate actual trek into the way the game plays.
It tries to blend the strategy and depth of Bridge Commander with the pacing of an action game. It's a noble pursuit, as any Trek fan would admit, but unfortunately the game never gets the formula right. For everything the game has to offer, it still suffers form the same problems that plague most trek games - indecisiveness. Tactical Assault gives would-be captains certain control over their ships, hence the strategy, but it never feels like enough. And the variety of objectives and encounters seen in the TV shows never makes it into the game. Having said that, Tactical Assault still offers more real gameplay and diversity than the average Trek title.
Tactical Assault takes place during the Original Series, which saw Captain Kirk blasting baddies and romancing space ladies. The story itself is pretty basic and deals with Romulan and Klingon political intrigue. At least it's supposed to be intriguing. Players will read lines of dialogue on COM screens and receive hails from nearby space stations, but there's little actual drama in Tactical Assault. Players receive mission data and objectives before leaving space dock, usually related to the aforementioned Klingon/ Romulan conflict, but it never amounts to much. Thankfully, crewmembers jump in during missions to add their thoughts, which help make space less lonely. But like the story, it's all shallow stuff.
The action itself fares a little better. Players command each vessel, Federation or Klingon, with a handful of crewmembers. Every person on the ship has a specialty, just like on the show. This includes everything from science and tactical officers to engineering and helm ensigns. Each member of the crew grants bonuses in battle, such as enhanced maneuvers or shield recharge bonuses. They all benefit from experience and upgrades, too, which is nice but brings up an issue. Even with names and faces, the crew just doesn't feel like a crew when actually playing. And really, that's one of the coolest aspects of being a captain or commander or whatever. Upgrading an officer doesn't improve their personal skills, making them more effective in battle -- it merely improves the ship. In terms of actually playing the game, they may as well not even be there.
This means the player handles everything from energy management to steering the ship. Which is fine, but having the option to set certain systems on autopilot would have been better. During a typical mission, players will guide their starships through asteroid fields and nebulae, blasting through Klingon and Romulan ships. And for a while it's actually pretty fun. Players need to rotate their ships to make optimal use of phaser banks, torpedo bays and shield strength, just like Star Trek games should be. In the best cases, this sort of gameplay makes the game slower-paced, but nevertheless rewarding, since players need to spend equal time maneuvering, strategizing than shooting. Only Tactical Assault lacks the depth to make things truly compelling.
Still, one needs to emphasize that the lackluster combat in Tactical Assault is still better than many previous efforts, like the recent Star Trek Encounters for PS2. Players can learn a number of maneuvers, such as emergency stops and turns, weapons over-charging and even cloaking. There are also the requisite comm systems, such as hailing, and also long-range sensors to scan sectors and enemy vessels. Players can also switch between different alert status, which brings shields and weapons online, complete with authentic Red Alert sound effects. And, of course, there are the obligatory multiplayer modes, which lets a handful of friends blast each other till' their heart's content. Sounds like a simple summary, but really, there's not much else to tactical Assault's multiplayer.
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