Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC // Genre: Third Person Shooter
Platform Played: Xbox 360
Developer: Digital Extremes // Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Star Trek: The Game is a movie tie-in, which usually means that the game has suffered its quality, in order to release the game in-line with its movie counterpart. Developed by Digital Extremes (Bioshock 2, The Darkness II), this entry gives us a brand new journey in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek universe. The voice actors from the films are here, the likeness of characters are here as well, and the game makes itself aware of events that occurred in the original 2009 film. Yet this movie tie-in doesn’t recount the plot of Star Trek: Into the Darkness, and, in-turn, isn’t held back by the events of its movie equivalent. With this in-mind, one would think that it had a chance to provide an excellent experience and be the exception to the movie tie-in rule. However, Star Trek: The Game feels like a rushed product filled with many technical problems that shows sparks of quality in an otherwise forgettable and frustrating experience.
Star Trek‘s narrative revolves around a fairly sub-standard plot. Evil monster race steals doomsday device, wants to destroy the universe and turn its inhabitants into slaves. Basically the Gorn, which are an evil dinosaur-like race, have stolen the Helios device, and want to use it for their own evil doings. It isn’t ground breaking, and for the first half of the game, not explained too well. You will be venturing to different locations undergoing new objectives, but will be scratching your head as to the reason you were there in the first place.
The upside of the narrative is the brilliant voice acting, especially from Christopher Pine as Kirk, and Zachary Quinto as Spock. Their two characters butt heads in some genuinely hilarious moments, which fans of the first film will warm too right away. Though the rest of the Enterprise’s crew take the backseat to our main protagonists, their performances are quite enjoyable, especially Simon Pegg’s witty dialog as Scotty. However, Zoe Saldana does a very poor job with her character Uhora, the performance feeling completely phoned in, and giving the impressions that she didn’t want to partake in this role.
Star Trek‘s main highlight is clearly the game’s audio and musical score. Phaser shootouts sound amazing. From hearing the different sounds each piece of weaponry possess , every secondary fire, every grenade blast, it felt like something right out of the Star Trek universe. Not only that, but the actual musical score was able to lift the spirits of some of the most frustrating scenes, and provided this epic grandeur that raises the intensity of the situation. These musical pieces would fit perfectly into any high quality budget game or piece of cinema, with Michael Giacchino’s efforts shining through as one of the game’s main positives.
At its core, Star Trek is a third person cooperative shooter, which becomes a problem when playing alone. The partner AI is definitely the worst teammate I have ever experienced. Everything your partner does feels like a game of chance. Will he fire at enemies this time, or stand in on-coming fire? Will he heal me, or will he stand next to my downed body as the game randomly heals me on its own? My partner even forced me to restart my save 7 times by either refusing to help complete a cooperative hacking station, locking me out of doors that can only be opened cooperatively, getting stuck on pieces of the environment etc. It is absolutely amazing how an AI partner like this made it through to the final game. This hindrance during single gameplay is shameful. Oh, and did I mention that he died during a cut scene? Hmmm…
Controlling your character in Star Trek feels like controlling a car with no tires. Though it moves, it feels stiff and doesn’t allow you to control it efficiently. Multiple times, my character would either get stuck on invisible pieces of the environment, or start turning around in one place, rather than moving forward. Even taking cover feels non-responsive, the game suffering from the same issue encountered in Spec Ops: The Line – your cover button is your roll button, so expect to see your character roll out of cover to certain deaths on many occasions, even when you make sure to leave the directional sticks alone.
Whenever I tried to enjoy my time with Star Trek, I always encountered some glitch, some poorly controlled section, or something repetitive that continuously held back my enjoyment. Playing through Star Trek feels like playing an unfinished game. Dead enemies bounce around on the floor, and the game randomly killed my character while leaving a lift. Star Trek tries to freshen up the experience by offering underwater sections, Uncharted-like traversals, and even a chance to control the Enterprise in a space confrontation. Swimming felt awkward and challenging, and completely unnecessary. Traversal was another game of chance, since I never knew if my character would hold onto a ledge or not. Even the Enterprise combat felt completely underpowered and misdirected. I passed that section without knowing what I killed or how I did it.
Though there are definitely problems, Star Trek does succeed in some areas. The game’s main focus during exploration is the Tricorder. This device allows you to have a Detective Mode look on the world, which helps interact with objects and find scannable materials. The scanned materials work into the game’s upgrade system, each awarding the player with a certain amount of points to upgrade your weapons and Tricorder respectively.
You will also be given audio logs from various characters throughout the narrative, which, in all honesty, does a better job explaining the main plot and side characters then the story ever does. Players are also rewarded for completing Commendation objectives during their missions, which reward the player for completing tasks like a Starfleet Officer. For example, finding the alternate route to avoid combat, producing non-lethal take downs, or being undetected. These add quite a challenge, and give the player something extra to aim towards.
Visually, the game looks fairly good from a distance. However, when you are treated to close ups of either our characters or enemies, we face a different experience. The Gorn, especially, look horrible, with the occasional enemy spawning without various textures; which then presented a deformed version of your enemy that looked like it was in the middle of cloaking. I enjoyed the few missions that took place within the Enterprise. Exploring the ship’s interior was interesting, despite the fact it looked very similar to other places you experience during the game’s campaign. It feels like textures were rushed, as even parts of the world are not joined properly, giving you a clear view of the underlining game world.
Star Trek was definitely meant to be played as a two player experience, this allowing you to avoid dealing with the deplorable AI partner. Cooperative games work well, allowing for drop-in/drop-out experiences as you please. The game allows you to control whether you want random players joining your lobby, which was a nice feature and meant finding cooperative games a breeze. Despite all the issues I encountered with the single player AI, I found everything even more challenging with a second player. I cannot confirm if the game scales up its difficulty, but enemies provided more of a challenge, hacking mini-games took longer, and the overall experience became less enjoyable. The option is a nice addition, and works very well, with the option of couch co-op also being available.
You know those really terrible movies with the poor acting, outright shocking visuals, and a narrative that would make Steven Hawking confused, yet you still find entertaining? Well even Star Trek: The Game cannot muster enough qualities to reach this level of gaming enjoyment. This isn’t a quality game. It feels like the usual rushed movie tie-in, where promoting the movie or selling the game was more important than making a quality product. For that fact alone, I cannot recommend the game.
Though I still occasionally found myself enjoying my time with Star Trek, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that such a strong franchise was given this treatment. Star Trek deserves better; fans of the series deserve better, and gaming in general deserves better. There was a chance to tell an intriguing new story in this universe, yet what we were given was a generic plot, and a game riddled with broken AI and technical issues as far as the eye can see.
There might be some enjoyment to be had within Star Trek: The Game, but it ultimately disintegrates like the terrible Gorn AI.
+ Impressive musical score
+ Great sound effects
+ Banter between Kirk and Spock
– Worst partner AI I have experienced
– Poor, non-responsive cover
– Generic plot
– Stiff gameplay controls