The new Star Trek film wasn't bad, was it? Great special effects, good cast, spectacular action and the odd funny, too. Yeah, that Star Trek film, bar some time travel silliness, was just about as good as a Star Trek film could be. Shame the game released to tie-in with the movie is such a bitter, pointless disappointment.
Now, we weren't expecting anything special. Games based on movies rarely are. But this XBLA top-down arcade shooter is so wafer thin, so devoid of any lasting appeal, that it feels like a rip-off, despite the fact that it costs 800MS Points.
It's barely a Star Trek game at all. The two sides available to pick from, Starfleet and the Romulan Empire, are clearly Star Trek. Each side has three ships to pick from, but only two of these are from the film: the USS Enterprise and that giant Romulan mining ship that drops red paint into planet cores. That's it. That's as Star Trek as Star Trek: D-A-C gets.
What we've got is a fast-paced, 12-player top down shooter. Three ship classes are on offer to both sides: the Flagship is lumbering but extremely powerful, the Fighter is light but fast, and the Bomber lies somewhere in between, but can only lay bombs to the rear. The ships look different depending on the faction, but for all intents and purposes they are exactly the same. Gameplay mode variety is similarly threadbare. Three are on offer (which can be played in the single-player versus bots mode or in online multiplayer). Team Deathmatch does what you'd expect, Assault sees teams protect and conquer control points and Conquest sees teams take turns to attack or defend a sector of space. Nothing spectacular to see here.
One of the weird things about Star Trek: D-A-C is that it bears more resemblance to a Mega Drive ice hockey game than the kind of Star Trek game we all crave. Yes it's a top down 2D shooter, so the rules of actual space combat don't really apply, but we're pretty sure that the Enterprise doesn't control like a slippy slidey 16-bit ice hockey player. If that's one of the weirdest things about Star Trek: D-A-C, then one of the most disappointing things about it is the way every match descends into a mindless frag-fest. It's a case of heading to the action, letting off some photon torpedoes or phasers, dying, respawning and trying again.
The only thing to distract you from this endless loop of doom is the pursuit of power-ups, which are dotted about each map. There are two types: one gives you an instant ability – a shield, for example, or a doppelgänger – and the other level-ups your weapon, making it more powerful and faster. So, in a very simplistic manner, tactics are involved: do you spend time collecting power-ups before you engage the enemy or do you wade straight in?
The game plays extremely fast – the maps are small so you'll never be too far from a fight, but that also means that you'll die a hell of a lot and respawn a hell of a lot, which quickly gets tiring. We found that the Fighter was the best ship by far, because its speed allowed it to retreat after taking too much damage. The Bombers, however, are pretty much useless. Because they can only fire bombs to the rear, any smart player will attack from the front only.
The game's big problem, however, is not in the controls or in the constant death, but how bare bones it is. It's actually OK fun for half an hour, but after you've had one or two multiplayer matches it loses its appeal almost instantly. You pick your class, spawn, look for the dots on the map, get stuck in, die and repeat. There's no narrative or dialogue to make the game feel more Star Trek, and there are only three game modes and three ship classes to play with. This really is mindless shooting at its most basic.
Even if you're the biggest Trekkie the world's ever seen, we can't recommend a download. It's not particularly bad, just boring. The game carries the familiar whiff of the quick fire cash-in. For whatever reason – time, money, effort – this game doesn't do justice to the excellent film. We can't normally say this, but the movie lasts longer than the game based on it. Buy the astonishingly good Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 instead. It costs the same.