Hands-On Preview: Truly next-generation.
If there was ever a case made for 3D videogames, Star Trek: D-A-C did it for me yesterday when I visited the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles. There, Paramount Digital Entertainment showed off its top-down $10 shooter on a sweet NVIDIA 3D Vision-equipped PC. Romulan ships were relentlessly shooting at my Starfleet vessel, and I of course fired back while artfully navigating around the bullets. All of this appeared as if it were happening two inches off the screen, thus combining two of life's geekiest things: 3D graphics and Star Trek. Truly a match made in nerd heaven.
Star Trek: D-A-C is an inexpensive download at $10, but to experience deep space in 3D you'll need a Windows 7 or Vista PC (the XBLA and PSN versions are not 3D) and a computer budget that's closer to that of NASA. Thankfully, a lot of gamers who are reading this probably own a majority of the hardware that's needed to make it happen. The first required tech is a 120Hz display, which, if you bought a monitor in the past year and a half and didn't go for a budget 75Hz model, you might already have one and therefore own the most expensive piece of the puzzle. Next is another gamer given: a GeForce graphics card that's an 800 series or higher. Considering NVIDIA is up to its tenth generation of cards (800 was the 8th) and we all know that the eleventh is on its way, your up-to-date rig should have a 3D Vision-compatible GPU if you went with the GeForce line instead of an ATI Radeon product.
So, what else does a hardcore gamer who already has a 120Hz display and relatively recent GeForce card need in order to play Star Trek: D-A-C in 3D? NVIDIA's 3D Vision Kit, which is made up of stereoscopic 3D glasses and the essential cables. The kit is $199, but these aren't your typical Disney 3D specs made of plastic from when you went to see Up and Toy Story 1 & 2 in 3D. No, you won't be returning them to the bin or trying to keep them as a useless souvenir. These are solidly built wireless frames that last for 40 hours on a single charge and can be recharged via standard USB cable. The 3D Vision Kit is currently compatible with hundreds of PC games
, so D-A-C is just one of many.
Playing Star Trek: D-A-C's new Survival game type in 3D brought ships and gunfire to the front, while the never-ending space backdrops remained in the distance, the far reaches of space. The menu interface is also in the third dimension, displaying items and health and energy bars in the foreground. As I picked off wave after wave of enemies and then picked up their loot, the impact of my weapons rose along with the game's intensity. It was like playing Geometry Wars in 3D.
The Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network versions aren't in 3D, but do support Achievements, Trophies and the same great overhead shooting action that we saw in the XBLA version back in May. They're also $10 with no hardware strings attached. Even better, if you bought the original Star Trek: D-A-C for XBLA when the film hit theaters in May, all of the improvements made since then will be updated through a free download.
Besides the new Survival game type, this downloadable Star Trek game boldly goes where the previous hadn't gone before by adding more, more, more. Listening to reviews and fan feedback, Paramount has added two new playable spaceships and three additional pick-up items. The Missile Cruiser and Support Frigate join the Bomber, Fighter and Flagship, all with different handling characteristics. Similarly, there are now a total of eight pick-ups, four unique to the Romulan race and another set of four exclusive to the Starfleet class.
Continuing with the more, more, more, mantra, there's a new, much-needed map for Assault mode, seeing how the game was heavily criticized in initial reviews for having just one. The game also addresses previous limitations by adding variable AI and adjustable match settings, so you can change the difficulty as well as amount of kills or time it takes to win a game.
The all-new Survival game type is a single-player only affair, but there's still Team Deathmatch, Conquest (takeover/defend four control points) and Assault (one team is on offense, the other on defense). They support online co-op and a twelve-player online multiplayer, six per team.