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Star Trek: Away Team

Star Trek: Away Team

Activision Promoting "Next Generation" PC Game

by Jim Bray

Have you ever fantasized about beaming down to an alien world with crew members of the Starship "Enterprise?"

If so, you may enjoy Activision's "Star Trek: Away Team," a strategy game for the PC. It doesn't actually assign you to the Enterprise (you're aboard the USS Incursion), but it does put you in control of Star Fleet adventurers beaming into dangerous situations.

Away Team's scenario surrounds the uncovering of a force that's trying to subvert Starfleet officers. Your job is to beam your elite Special Forces team down to do its dirty work and then zip back out again, hopefully in one piece.

At the start of each scenario, you're given a short mission briefing from Starfleet that lets you know the rationale for the operation, as well as its goals. You're also told what types of weaponry and gear will be of most use to the player.

From then, it's up to you to choose your Away Team from some 17 potential members. You select your gaggle based on the special abilities of each crewmember. For instance, some are good at being stealthy, some are whizzes at adapting technology they find on the way, and some are just really good shots.

Don't go "AHA! I'll take the really good shots!" That's too easy, and it won't get you through your missions. Sometimes it's better to sneak in and out without firing a shot, if you can - and you'd better not leave your phasers on "kill" when you're facing corrupted Federation personnel: if you do anything more than stun them your mission ends in disgrace.

Take care, too: some of your enemies are wearing the same uniforms as your team, so you may not know at any particular time which character is your friend, and which are interstellar wolves in sheep's clothing.

Until they open fire!

The cannon fodder you send into harm's way comes from five disciplines: Command, Engineers, Science Officers, Medicine, and Security. Each person has his own strengths and, unfortunately, weaknesses. For example, while you can choose from three different Medical officers, one is a particularly good fighter (but can't carry a lot of medical supplies), another has plenty of hyposprays (which heal team members' wounds), but couldn't shoot the broad side of an extraterrestrial's barn door. The third balances the two.

The other disciplines have similar abilities and hang-ups. Choosing incorrectly can make for a very long and painful mission.

Depending on the operation, you may be tasked with searching for special technologies, rescuing hostages, or whatever. Your inventory of nifty high tech gadgets includes such neato blow 'em up things as phasers, grenades, mines, explosives, and rifles, as well as tricorders, medical hyposprays, and assorted sci-fi tools.

Since stealth is very important in some of the adventures, the game allows you to ensure you aren't seen or heard by monitoring your enemy's line of sight; you can even see how far the sound your team is making travels.

The action can get fast and furious, which made me really grateful for a neat new feature called "Pause Time." This stops the game to let you catch your breath, look around, or issue orders to your team members without having to worry about being shot all to heck while you're doing it.

Okay, real life wouldn't be like that (can you imagine the enemy standing around waiting for you to be ready to fight?), but it sure comes in handy here!

If you want to move on to the next mission, you have to complete your primary objectives; secondary objectives are like icing on the cake and by the time you're finished some of the missions you're glad to be beaming out with your crew intact: forget the darn secondary missions!

Sometimes you'll be given new objectives as you work through a mission. This is really annoying if, like me, you're only a part time gamer and are having enough trouble keeping track of the tasks you're already juggling.

The graphics are pretty good, though not spectacular, and the audio is also fine. A multiplayer option lets you play with a friend over a network.

I didn't enjoy Star Trek: Away Team as much as I did games like "StarCraft," but on the whole it's a pretty neat Star Trek adventure, and it sure beats working.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006