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The PS2 gets it's fair share of Bethesda's new Star Trek license and the results are better than you might expect.

Star Trek, as a game license, has certainly been through it's ups and downs. Long time fans surely have both fond and horrid memories they could share from Star Trek games in the past. Enter Bethesda, who is best known for their Elder Scrolls series. They grabbed up the license and promised to breathe new life into the Trek pantheon. The first game out of the gates from Bethesda is Star Trek: Encounters for the PS2 and the results are mostly positive. It's important to note that Encounters is a budget title. And let's be honest, the hardware is in it's final days. However none of that stops this game from being both fun and challenging. The gameplay is pretty basic arcade style space combat. There's nothing particularly new or innovative here, but that can't really be counted as a negative. Using the left stick for movement, the right stick aims your "sensor slice" for aiming purposes. Shoulder buttons offer Y axis up and down movement, target lock on, and weapon fire. Face buttons are for weapon selects in two categories; main and secondary fire. With a little practice it's easy to get the hang of the controls and they work the same for all the ships so there's no new learning curve as you switch chapters. Speaking of chapters, they are broken into categories relating to each of the five TV series and a sixth chapter called "Star Trek: Sovereign". Each chapter's intro is voiced by William Shatner, but there are no other voice overs to be had. Sound design is otherwise pretty basic with a Trek inspired, but utterly unmemorable, musical score. Sound effects are just as you would expect them as Phasers and Photons fly, ripping apart hull plating from your unfortunate enemies. The graphics are nothing spectacular but they do a decent enough job and there doesn't seem to be any slowdown thankfully, even when the action gets pretty ramped up with half a dozen fighters blasting away at one another. The Phaser and Photon torpedo effects are exactly as you would hope for and it makes it all that much more satisfying when they strike their intended targets. It's also worth pointing out that this game is not exactly easy. And that is one of the games greatest strengths. If you are wanting something you can easily blow through in an hour, this is not for you. Instead the missions are challenging with a good amount of enemies working against you and plenty of debris and landmines to avoid in your travels through the big black. While not all the challenges set forth are ideal (you'd think after Superman 64 no one would ever design a game with a flying through rings level again) for the most part the games challenge comes from good design and lengthy goals to accomplish and is never overly frustrating. It's good to have Trek gaming making a resurgence this year, and if Encounters is any sign of things to come, it's gonna be a good year for Trekkies. This game is easily worth the $20 price tag for any fan of the source material.

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