Star Trek: Away Team
Windows - 2001
Description of Star Trek: Away Team Windows
Star Trek television shows have dropped like flies at a minor league baseball game. First Next Generation, then DS9, now Voyager - all sent out to deep space. It's a shame, but also a blessing in disguise. All that creative talent has been reborn on computer screens across the globe, producing a distinctly uncharacteristic winning streak for the license.
Star Trek Away Team could be defined a winner, but with some major caveats. It's a compelling mix of several genres, including the real-time strategic combat of Commandos, the tactical of Rainbow Six, and the good old-fashioned blast-em-up action of its older brother, Star Trek Elite Force. Although the game is billed as squad-based strategy, it's the combination of these genres that make the game intriguing. You never quite settle into one game mode, thanks mostly to some relatively creative scripted sequences that force you to strategize on one map, use stealth on the next, and clear roomfuls of Romulans on another.
Away Team starts with a better-than-average cutscene to help set the stage. It seems the Romulans have been poking around in Klingon space, engaging them in a few isolated skirmishes. Because this poses a serious political threat to the Federation, a new starship - the USS Incursion - is called in to investigate. The ship is equipped with holographic technology, so it poses as a friendly vessel (something that would have been really handy in every Star Trek episode made). During their investigation the crew discovers that the Romulan aggressors have hijacked two Klingon research officers. This is not a good thing. Fortunately, an "elite force" of specially trained commandos are dispatched to free the Klingon captives and resolve the political crisis.
Thankfully, instead of dragging the plot out across several maps (which was an irritation in Star Trek: Armada), each excursion is a self-contained mini-episode - although some do extend beyond that. If you get tired of the current story, just finish the map and you'll be on to something else. There are plenty of twists and turns, on par with classic Trek episodes. But we'll let you discover those for yourself.
After a brief in-story tutorial from Commander Data, you'll get a chance to select the team members you want for the next mission, configure their weaponry, and jump into the action. This reminded me of Rainbow Six, except that it's a lot less complicated and there's some extra hand-holding. For example, the game doesn't let you proceed unless you have the required skills or weapons represented in your team.
The crew isn't really all that varied - one science officer is practically as good as another, usually only differentiated between one or two items of equipment they carry. A more well-defined skill matrix would have helped this part of the game significantly, allowing me, for example, to select an engineer with weapons skillpoints, that accumulate as the game progresses, much like the one used in Deus Ex. Instead, the game singles out specific crewmembers like Slovaak to use mind melds or acquire equipment that stays with him on subsequent missions. Also, while the crewmembers look and sound different from one another, they all act the same way. You might expect your security office to have better aim than a science officer, but they both hit their targets just as easily - and they all move at the same speed.
Despite this lack of character definition, the gameplay is entertaining and fast moving. Because the missions have primary and secondary objectives (all easily identified in either the mini-map with blue squares that denote the destination or the pop-up objectives window), the maps are not just an exercise in room clearing a la Diablo. This can also be a detriment, as every first-person shooter fan knows. The worst mistake in FPS is forcing the gamer to follow a linear path as they trip various scripted sequences, and in Away Team, there's rarely any sense that you can roam at will.
Still, it's fun to switch weapons and characters, rush your unsuspecting enemies, and blast them with phaser rifles and grenades. Because each character can sneak up on opponents, you can use stealth tactics as well. Unfortunately, this is where the game might appeal only to Trek fans. The stealth tactics are really fun if you get into the television shows. Sending a Vulcan to do a nerve pinch is a blast, mostly because you can imagine Spock doing it. If you can use your imagination in the game and assume the various alien identities, Star Trek: Away Team, becomes very much like a TV episode, in a good way. If you're a serious strategy fan, you might laugh at the lack of character depth, restrictive mission structure, and linear storyline - meaning, it becomes very much like the TV show, in a bad way.
Graphics in the game are a mixed bag. In some ways, the development team should get extra credit for creating such clean, crisp visuals with sparkling ships, waving flags, and energy emitting force fields. This is no surprise since the Star Trek license virtually demands a squeaky clean environment. All the ships, locations, and characters are rendered nicely - although the 2D backgrounds are a bit too static for a gaming community who expects everything to look like Sacrifice.
What you'll hear in Away Team also sounds a lot like the television shows. Klingons grunt appropriately, warp cores drone like they should, and phaser gunfights are perfectly orchestrated. What's interesting here is that the borrowed television audio makes the game seem even more scripted and predictable, whereas the sounds in Elite Force made it seem more vicarious.
The cooperative-only multiplayer mode is a thoughtful addition, though rather limited. While you can have up to six members on your squad, only two PCs can be connected together. The most efficient method is for each player to decide beforehand which team members they wish to control, and only selecting the others in emergency situations. Oddly, there's no option to assign hotkeys to custom squads, so it becomes a bit tiresome having to manually select your own crew members. But it's certainly an enjoyable way of spending a few evenings with a LAN gaming partner (no Internet play possible), especially when you're deathmatched out.
Probably the biggest disappointment with the game is with the AI, which fails to both create the illusion of realism and artificially increases the game's difficulty by requiring the highest level of micro-management. Enemies do little else other than patrol pre-defined routes, come after you with guns blazing when spotted, and laughably, rub their heads after being stunned, then go about their business. Your own team members are brain-dead when left alone and stand rock-still unless specifically ordered to move or attack. You can't, for example, order them to run around an enemy or camera's line of sight, nor can you place them into a defense stance, so at the very least, they return fire when provoked. The pause-time obviously helps you get your bearings, but constant babysitting doesn't bestow you with much confidence in your highly trained team.
In the end, Star Trek Away Team is an interesting blend of genres that never really delivers a full-featured strategy game. It's perfect for Trek fans who want to get immersed in an interactive television episode (that is, assuming you're finished with Elite Force or just don't like FPS games), but not so great for hardcore gamers looking for a Fallout derivative set in the Star Trek universe. The rest of us might be content with the clean visuals, interesting scripted missions, and mostly entertaining combat. It's one of those games where the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
Jack 2019-08-06 0 point
I used to play this game all the time on my pc ( I think was running windows XP/98 at the time ) and it was such a blast.
The pause-time feature was the first game and probably the last game that I have played that would allow you to pause the action right when it was happening and make decisions. Very cool indeed!
Thank you abandonware for sharing this title
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