Monday, February 05, 2007

Snore Trek: Lame-assy

You know what really stinks about Star Trek: Legacy? This is the pretty Xbox version, the one with all five series-starring captains voice-acting including -- thank God -- Kate Mulgrew. She’s just so great, with that really, really old “put me to sleep” cat inflection: “Ensign Kim … Harry, have a seat -- Neelix tells me your emotions haven’t been conforming to regulations lately.” Anyway, what stinks about Legacy is it’s not quite fun enough. So not exactly all that different from modern TV Trek, now in its, what, 438th year? But you know. Fundamentally flawed. This makes me very sad as a nerd. Plot-wise, it’s the newest Trek we get till the rumoured animated series (set 150 years apocalyptic after Nemesis) plops.

Anyhoo, the point of Bethesda’s generation-hopping, hi-res play-thru of the history of the Federation’s self-made woes is to be the captain on deck. But sadly, never to see the captain on deck. In this sense, the graphically strong answer to, “I wonder if V’ger and the Borg are related?” is largely a radio play … with special effects. But, ironically, it lacks a human touch. Honestly, I would have taken stills from the TV shows and shut up about it. A face does so much, especially Bill Shatner’s in his heyday.

Instead, in special features, with no caution of spoilers, imbedded are the crappy, panned-over drawings of the back story surrounding a long-living Vulcan scientist, including the tale’s denouement. So it’s quite easy to accidentally watch the entire narrative, right up to Jean-Luc Picard dusting himself off and summing up the moral about the needs of the many. Yet. Again.

Well, who cares about all that collectible card game trivia shit, right? You just want a wicked fight! Then too bad for you the spaceship dynamics are such a wet bagpipe. Even the Klingon scout ships careen painfully slow on full impulse -- and I know, “you can’t turn in warp,” I hear Geordi LaForge telling his imaginary Holodeck love doll. But a limitless game can’t even match the physical dynamics of one of the greatest battles of all time. If you remember the classic head-on of Kirk vs. Khan, these Xbox babies move with that weight -- but those ships were damaged from the get-go. Still, even that Enterprise could drop straight down. Nothing like that here. In terms of space-battle simulation, it’s a huge crime. In the later TV space battles like the Borg’s massacre at Wolf 359, properly working destroyers are skidding all over the place, firing blindly as the collective hacks them to slivers. I would seriously like to play that game. Quick and dirty, especially against friends. Something with the physics and ping-pong pace of Sega Genesis’ Star Control (see BACKBEEP below).

There’s more. Beyond moving your admittedly beautiful space turtle around its celestial pond, you’re required in the missions to fleet-command four ships at a time. Which is, frankly, hell in later levels. Is it fun to micromanage a ship’s repairs system by system in the middle of screaming space ambush, babysitting three other dumb-ass AI ships who don’t fight back? Well … take every time you press A as shorthand for Kirk riding Scotty’s fat ass, maybe – but even a game starring James Doohan in the Jeffries tube would, rest his soul, suck shit.

To bitch even more, the cosmos are not 360 degrees. Remember the turtle pool? Your little NCC-1701 or spicy Bird of Prey can only poke its nose to the, er, top of space, but no loop-de-loops over your enemy to launch photon torpedoes into his “dirty.” Did the crew of the USS Yamaguchi die for this?

Casting aside the laborious missions, the one-on-one is enjoyable with lots of practise. Though vs. the computer you can’t hand-pick its ship, with a buddy online it’s possible to recreate any battle you like, with the mandatory molasses drive and fire-only-when-locked weapons systems. Unfortunately, Bethesda didn’t have the decency to program a split-screen two-player combat mode for the living room. This is the final straw, a self-destructive snub at the nipple-raising wave of party gaming going on. But even a bridge-screen view would have gone parsecs. And: sighing.

Honestly, I’ve had more fun sitting around at lunch break trying to throw a bolt into a bucket first from a distance, but it’s better than sex with someone you dislike. If the ships could motor or even hit another object in space (they auto-veer), I’d rise up and testify to the power of a good tractor beam. But in too many ways, this game just adds to the legacy of laziness itself. An adequate, fly-by one-on-one with some nerd-candy voices and pointlessly stunning graphics does not the most engaging game make. Score? Half impulse at best.

BACKBEEP: STAR CONTROL II – SEGA GENESIS (1992)
Now this, cadets, is what I’m fucking talking about: Dozens of races with their own theme music and fascinating weapons, including the mermaid power of the Syreen to seduce your crew into space and the “LAUNCH FIGHTERS” attacks of the mighty Ur-Quan! Speed, gravity and witty weaponry like the VUX version of gooey Oobleck made this 2-D descendent of Asteroids resonate to this day - though we did cheat and steroid the game up by blasting the theme music to Wrath of Khan and Sneakers. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

2 comments:

forbesfield said...

please consider becoming a philosophy student. both of you.

Roger said...

Hey there!

Good article. I have Legacy as well and I've actually stopped playing after the first few missions. Fleet control is clunky and just plain awful, in addition to the other annoyances you mention. The game looks great... I wish it played the same.

I've gone back to Bridge Commander for my starship battles.