Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5463)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2003
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Like an odd-numbered movie.

The Good

Away Team begins very promisingly. The holographic technology aboard the USS Incursion has led a Romulan Warbird away from a Klingon Research facility, leaving your away team with enough time to disable the Romulan forces and rescue the Klingon scientists. As Data directs you from on ship, your team sneaks around Romulan snipers, deactivates force fields, and throws concussion grenades. Sure this level is pretty linear. Sure the handholding is borderline insulting. But hey, this is the training level isn’t it?

Here’s how Away Team works: Prior to each mission, you receive a briefing. Early on in the game these feature rendered view screens, later on there is just a generic star field. Based on the briefing you have to select your crew. While there are six slots on the transporter, you are usually limited to around four crew members. There may also be some crew members you have to take. There will also be required equipment you have to take (like a sniper rifle) so you will have to select crewman from the appropriate specialties (Security, Medical, Engineering, etc). This process resembles the team and kit selection from Rainbow Six, except for the extreme amount of handholding.

You then beam down to the surface. After beam down the game pauses and Data reviews the map and mission objectives (go to point A and activate the switch). The game is presented in an isometric view and you are able to see all the “enemies” onscreen. While this is feasible due to ST technology, this tends to make the game too easy.

While the away teams of the television series were part of the “explore strange new worlds” métier, this away team resembles
Elite Force. You’ll be using your phaser far more than your tricorder. Even some medical personal have more neural disrupter charges than hyposprays. You even have some Vulcans for the neck pinch.

The team members do represent the different career choices within the Federation and the various species. In an interesting touch, some crewmembers converse with others and if a crewmember has visited a planet before, they’ll have special insight. Whether you like all your crewmembers or not, they all have to make it back home. This seems like an odd design choice since historically the away team seems to be expendable.

This game does have a large combat portion although there are stealth elements. You have the option to toggle sound circles (which represent how much noise your character and his/her actions make) and you can see the vision cones of “enemies” and security cameras. If you choose combat, you may be surprised that while it only takes one stun hit to disable a target, it takes several kills. Stun whether induced by neck pinch or phaser lasts 10-15 seconds- according to the difficulty level.

Finally, each mission has primary objectives and secondary objectives. Primary ones must be completed for the level to end and the successful completion of secondary objectives allows access to more powerful weaponry and defenses later in the game.

The Bad

For the most part, Away Team bravely does away with strange new worlds and recycles life and civilizations we’ve seen time and time again. I know in the 1980’s, if you wanted to create a ST game you had to buy the rights to each race individually, but that’s no longer the case. I got quite tired of the Borg and Romulans by the end of this game.

This game is far too linear. The reason is that this game isn’t an action game or an adventure game, but a puzzle/strategy game. This is also revealed by strange design choices like allowing five away team members one level and then only four the next. By requiring certain team members and equipment, rather than trusting the player to make educated choices. And finally, by preventing the player from losing any away team members. You knew in Rainbow Six, that if you were losing team members, then it was only going to get harder in the end. Listen, give us characters we care about and we’ll keep them alive.

This game could have been improved by customization. I mentioned earlier that you gained abilities by completing secondary objectives. Why not have instituted a point system where the player could choose which upgrades were important. Why not have the option to purchase more ammo or hyposprays. Why does Sinjin Kirk have seven Sniper Rounds but T'Andorla have only three? What’s the point in having a sniper with only three shots? Why can’t team members swap gear?

Why have statistics for the crewmembers? They are rated on speed, stealth and stamina. They all run at the same speed and all make the same amount of noise, the only difference was in the amount of damage they could take.

What’s up with the AI? Enemies either walk a patrol with such regularity that you can time when they’ll be where or they guard a door. Your own team has no AI. They won’t even return fire. It would have been really nice to have a defensive setting. How can this game have gotten wrong things that Fallout Tactics got right?

Finally the graphics are good, but the characters are much too small even at the locked in 640x480 resolution. The maps are small and static and beg for dynamic lighting or battle effects.

The Bottom Line

While I enjoyed parts of this game, I cannot recommend it. The game feels long at eighteen levels. Strip away the Star Trek franchise and you have absolutely nothing left.