E3 06: Star Trek: Tactical Assault

Bethesda is reviving the Star Trek gaming franchise with two new games coming respectively to consoles and handhelds. We take a look at the new portable game.

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LOS ANGELES--After a long absence, Star Trek is back on the gaming scene thanks to Oblivion makers Bethesda Softworks. We got to look at one of their new games, Star Trek: Tactical Assault for the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS, at the company's E3 booth today. The new game will put you directly in the captain's chair in two single-player campaigns that will span many years of the trek timeline, and from the looks of things, Tactical Assault will go a long way toward restoring the Trek name to good standing with gaming aficionados.

Tactical Assault will feature around 30 missions split into two campaigns, one that lets you play as the Federation and one as the Klingons, and all of them seem to be set around the timeline of the original Trek movies. You'll play the game from a third-person, behind-the-starship view, and you can essentially perform all the functions that you'd see any good Federation captain giving orders for as you complete one mission after another. For instance, in the demo mission we saw, the player was able to hail a nearby starbase to receive new mission orders and was directed to a particular system to conduct an investigation. Upon arriving, a sensor sweep of the sector revealed an incoming Bird of Prey, at which point the player was able to enable a yellow or red alert and raise shields in preparation for the coming conflict.

Once you're in combat, you'll find the game lives up to its "tactical" name, as you won't be simply zooming around with the controls and firing on enemy ships like in a shooter. Instead, the combat seems to be slowly paced and methodical, as you'll get separate readouts on the enemy's shield and hull strengths, and you can target different parts of their ship, from weapon systems to warp nacelles, to disable their vital systems. You can even issue commands internally to transfer power to your own specific systems to boost your weapon strength, shields, and so on. Also, we appreciated that the game notified the player of the presence of another Federation ship in the same sector, and allowed for the ability to hail it for assistance.

It seems like there will be some depth to the proceedings in Tactical Assault. For instance, you've got some control over the way you tackle a mission, such as when you hail an enemy ship, you can choose what tone of voice you want to use to address them. You'll gain "promotion points" through good performance as you play the game, and you can choose which of your officers to promote and thus which areas you want your ship to improve in. Promoting your weapons officer will give you more power in your phasers and photon torpedoes, for example, while promoting your helmsman will make your ship more maneuverable. Though you'll change ships between missions as the story dictates, you'll always keep the same crew, so any promotions you've made will continue to benefit you throughout the game.

Outside the Federation and Klingon campaigns, there will be a skirmish mode available that'll let you conduct battles among different combinations of ships. Though only those two factions are available in the main game, they'll be joined by three other types of playable ships--the Romulans, Gorn, and Orion--in this skirmish mode. Lastly, we first saw the game on the PSP (which looks impressive), but we were curious how the DS game would stack up. While the graphics are understandably at a lower level, on the upside you'll have a computer display on the touch screen that looks like a typical Star Trek computer interface, and you can actually control every aspect of your ship without ever touching the D pad or buttons, since everything from ship's navigation to weapons and shield controls is available on the touch screen.

Star Trek: Tactical Assault looks like a great way to bring the venerable franchise back to handhelds, and in addition to the very impressive-looking Star Trek Legacy, it'll be nice to see the Trek franchise again alive and well on consoles. Tactical Assault is slated to hit in September, and we'll, uh, beam up more information soon.

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