Star Trek: Away Team

a game by Activision
Platform: PC
Rating: 7/10


From the beginning in the original Star Trek, nearly every episode and movie has focused on one thing: the Away Team. Now Activision has given us a game dedicated to the exploits of a special team of Starfleet Officers as they take on jobs that heroic figures like Kirk and Picard never saw -- the Black Ops of the Trek universe. The covert action team under your control is responsible for handling the "sticky" situations that arise throughout the Federation. Comprised of handpicked Starfleet Officers, they are the best of the best, equipped with top secret infiltration and reconnaissance gear that includes a prototype stealth Starship, the USS Incursion (registry designation NX-74808), which takes them where they are needed.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

In Star Trek: Away Team you control the movement of your team in a three quarter isometric perspective that allows a top-down view of the action and environment. As you enter each mission you can scroll around and see the entire play area, and often you’ll be able to see all enemy equipment and personnel as well. In each of the game’s eighteen missions your team will consist of three to six members. You don’t get to choose how many of the crew you take -- it’s set by the mission script. There are 17 highly trained specialists on the Incursion and which ones you select can mean the difference between the mission being a cakewalk or challenge.

The gameplay combines strategy and action elements, but the action is as slow paced as you like it, as at any point in the game you can pause and issue orders to your crew without real-time pressures. One plus point -- nearly everything in the environment can be manipulated in some way. Some items and plants can be processed into weapons, tools, or medical packs to help the team, while others can be manipulated to change the enemy behavior, and just about anything can be scanned with a tricorder for more information.

My major complaint with _Away Team _centers around the game’s AI, or actually around its lack of one. The enemy in each level do have some basic intelligence -- they will react to shots fired near them, will attack when they see your team, and will defend themselves if fired on, but they often show signs of incredible stupidity. If you stun an opponent and then move on past their position they will soon regain consciousness. Rather than raise an alarm or react in a manner that I would consider logical they will get to their feet and go on about their business as though nothing happened. Also, if they come across a phasered comrade lying in the hall, they will just stroll on by without caution or alarm.

Compared to your team however, the enemy units are very intelligent. If spotted or attacked, your units will take no action without your explicit command -- they will stand there and die rather than return fire. To work around the fact that your team is incapable of thinking for themselves the game will automatically pause if they are discovered or threatened while off-screen.

Due to the limited capabilities of the game AI, succeeding in Away Team is more a matter of perseverance than skill. Creativity isn’t required for the game, but sadly micromanagement is. I found myself more and more bored with the game as I progressed. The storyline had a lot of promise, but the mediocre gameplay made it not worth pursuing.

Graphics & Audio

The graphics are nicely done. With a mix of indoor and exterior locations, the scenery is varied and detailed. The characters move smoothly and are detailed enough that each officer is easily identified. The voice acting is topnotch -- Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn reprise their roles as Data and Worf from Star Trek: Next Generation and the other actors are equally good.

System Requirements

Pentium II 266, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95/98/Me/2000, 4X CD-ROM, and DirectX 8.0

Bottom Line

Away Team is another in what is becoming a long line of disappointing Star Trek games. With a solid premise and well done graphics and audio, it showed a lot more promise than other Trek games I’ve played recently, but its sub-par AI made it boring. I found myself pushing to get through each level as fast as possible (which is pretty fast against the unimaginative enemy). Away Team certainly isn’t the worst game I’ve played, but it’s nowhere near the top of the list and won’t be occupying space on my hard drive any more.

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