Star Trek D-A-C (Xbox 360) review
"At its very best, D-A-C is a good online game with the potential to offer up some epic six-on-six space wars. But when Xbox Live is slow and you canít find a full game, all thatís left is an empty and lazy solo experience."
Star Trek is a brand steeped in history, so it may come as a surprise that D-A-C comes with none of that baggage. Donít know Spock from Pickard, Voyager from Deep Space Nine? Fear not; thereís no traditional story-driven single-player campaign to speak of, with the developers instead choosing to deliver a decidedly multi-player focused package.
Itís a streamlined package of three game modes with slightly different goals: all see you piloting a space-vessel and battling it out in outer-space in a two-team, twelve-ship skirmish. Death-match is as it sounds, but with no scope to change the target of fifty, itís a little limiting and gets dull pretty fast. Thankfully, assault and conquest are far more interesting. In assault, each team is assigned to either attack or defend strategic points on the map. The attackers have a time limit to capture four points and gain extra time as they capture; the defenders are backed up with minefields and some AI guns that auto-fire on opponents. Conquest is similar to Ďking of the hillí; two HQs and two neutral points, and you can only begin to capture the opposing HQ when your team has secured the neutral points.
Choosing the right vessel is central to your success in any of the game modes: the fighter is fast-and-frail, the flagship is slow-and-strong, and the bomber is a nice compromise. Donít fret though as you can change your ship on respawn. Before you make that choice to stick or twist with your vessel, you can respawn more quickly and retain weapon power-ups if you survive in the escape pod. After your ship goes bomb, five seconds of survival in the pod will net you those bonuses.
Playing with eleven others online in assault and conquest can make for a genuinely enjoyable experience, especially for those who like to plan and strategise in their games. It might take a while to adjust to the fast-paced action and loose-and-floaty controls, but its fun when you do. Your kill and death statistics are tracked regardless of which mode you play: solo or online and in any of the three modes, and these can be broken down further by performance in each vessel type.
Unfortunately, it doesnít translate quite so well when those eleven are replaced with AI. Not that your artificial allies are particularly problematic, but itís nowhere near as spontaneous or exciting as a proper online skirmish can be. You should be feeling like a pioneering space-warrior fighting fantastic battles; that sensation is approached (if rarely fully-realised) when youíre online, but when youíre solo, youíre very much reminded these are AI-controlled opponents with fairly predictable routines.
To compound this, there is almost no scope to customise matches. You can choose the number of ships on each team but you canít edit victory conditions. There are also only a handful of maps to choose from, and on the most enjoyable modes, you either get a choice of two (conquest) or no choice at all (assault). As fun as assault can be, it loses its luster after you know the map. Itís not as if the environments are stunningly beautiful to look at, either. Sure, the fancy space-stations and floating meteor rocks are nice enough, but they could have been a lot better. The vast expanse of space is a great canvas, but the painting isnít quite there.
At its very best, D-A-C is a good online game with the potential to offer up some epic six-on-six space wars. But when Xbox Live is slow and you canít find a full game, all thatís left is an empty and lazy solo experience. Considering the difficulty in maintaining a twelve-player room in assault and conquest (which seems to be far quieter than death-match), you wonít be able to enjoy D-A-C to its fullest on a consistent basis: you shouldn't need a check-box of conditions to be able to fully enjoy a game. Ultimately it fails to utilise the Star Trek brand and falls short of becoming a good strategy-tinged shooter, instead occupying some sort of uncomfortable middle ground.
Downloadable content may mitigate some of these problems in the future, but there are plenty of games on the arcade for 800 MS Points that offer more complete experiences and better value for money.
Freelance review by Paul Josua (May 30, 2009)
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