|Fellow Trekkies, get ready!
Activision brings next-gen home with the new Star Trek Invasion. You and your fellow Red
Squad members have been assigned to the U.S.S. Typhon under the command of Lt.
Commander Worf, and Starfleet is counting on you to protect our Klingon allies from
multiple foes, including (gasp!) the Borg. Youll be piloting a Valkyriea
small, fast, and fairly maneuverable vessel with some phenomenal fire-power, but
youre going to need every advantage if you want to make it through alive!
Invasion is composed of both dual play dogfighting and a campaign mode. The dual play allows you to take on a friend or team up to fight outside attackers such as Romulans or the marauding Kam-Jahtae. There are five dual/team missions in all. The campaign mode is comprised of sixteen major missions broken down into sub-objectives to make 30 total. Most of the missions take place in open space or within a planets atmosphere, although the training missions are all conducted in the ships holo-deck. The campaign mode allows the player to set difficulty at Cadet (easy), Ensign (normal), or Lieutenant (hard), and I was happy to note that these designations actually made quite a difference.
There are five types of standard weapons available on the Valkyrie, both directed energy and guided munitions, with some of the modular weapons array being capable of enhancement as you play. Your ship comes equipped with tractor and pressor beams, target/motion lock, a 3D radar screen, and an energy management system (which shifts energy to shields or weapons when needed). You can also pick up cloaking devices and utilize the warp plasma of destroyed ships for an added boost. When you are playing dual missions, you can pick alternative ships which have different specs for speed, shielding, weapons, and maneuverability.
There were high and low points in this game as far as graphics were concerned. Many of the cinema screens were incredibly pixilated and the movement of ships through space sometimes reminded me of caterpillars. The actual game screens were very nicely done, with the movement appearing smooth, and the starscapes were fabulous. I must say that parts of this game had some of the most amazing use of color I have ever seen. The enemy ships were detailed (I could tell the difference between the Romulan and Cardassian ships) and looked good moving in every speed from sub-light to warp.
The music for the game was total space orchestra and made a perfect backdrop for gameplay. There was the sneaking/stealth type overture and the out-and-out butt kicking concerto for melee. My only nag (and it is a very small one) was that there was a short pause as the music reel re-set itself to repeat in the longer sequences. The sound effects were also well doneits funny how nostalgic I get just from listening to the sound of a photon torpedo firing!
The movement in three dimensions was extremely exciting, and I got the biggest thrill strafing a planet and avoiding gravity wells while flying upside down! While the game set up most of the convoys and larger ships using parallel plains, the smaller ships got to use the full range of space. The movement of the Valkyrie could have been a little faster and more smooth at times, especially when fighting on the hardest difficulty setting. The other ships were flying so quickly that any lag time in my own maneuverability could end up being fatal.
Several small issues that came up during the game involved the radar and the motion and target lock mechanisms. The radar was a little hard to get used to at first because it was attempting to represent three dimensional space and the ships that this included. However, once I understood that the blips that had a vertical line attached to them were representing ships that were not on my plain but were above or below me, I was able to discern the location of enemies and friendlies that I did not yet have visual conformation on. The end result was that I really felt the radar worked well.
The target lock was a nice addition, as it was an effective way to identify the enemy that I had engaged, especially when things got fast and furious. The motion lock, which is meant to allow you to orbit the enemy without breaking off from combat, only worked marginally well. It did keep the enemy in sight, but the automatic sighting was off so if you fired where your target lock suggested, youd be firing until the Borg came home. I ended up using the target lock constantly, but I forwent the motion lock in favor of visual confirmation and some savvy flying of my own. It was more like playing chase for real that way
My major criticism for this game is less about what the game delivers (which is pretty darn fun) than what I wish this game included, but doesnt. During Invasion I had to chase all sorts of enemy ships, protect caravans, and attack space stations, but on the whole, there wasnt a lot of "space topography" to test my flying skills. I felt like most of what was asked of me was in the gunnery departmenta chase and shoot scenario repeated a little too often for my tastes. The objectives sounded different, but they really didnt play out that way. Perhaps a little something to think about for the next time we adventure to where no one has gone before?
I would recommend that any true Trek fan try this game out. The rest of the galaxy would probably enjoy it as well, but I dont think theyd get the same chill up their spine hearing Worf barking orders in the way only a Klingon can! There are some minor problems with this game, but on the whole, I think this is a game that has fairly good longevity (via the dual dogfights and the difficulty settings) and is a fun time all around. Were still not to the point of total realism in the space race, but were getting much closer with this one.