Like a certain sexually transmitted disease, it seems that we’ll never be rid of shameless game tie-ins. Just a few weeks ago, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was met with some disdain from gamers and critics alike for being dead boring. And now, Star Trek the video game comes under fire. Despite the (best?) intentions of the developers, by the time the last credit has rolled, Star Trek does nothing to stem the tide of tired tie-ins. A terrible movie may be finished in an hour or two but game tie-ins often need to be endured for much longer. Several hours later and I’ve concluded the captain’s log on Star Trek, a video game that does not reach warp speed but sputters into mediocrity.
Star Trek tells the story of Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, and the crew of the USS Enterprise as they aid their Vulcan friends to repulse an invasion from the Gorn. Things are lost, people are kidnapped, and the poop has hit the impulse engines. As a matter of life and death, Kirk and Spock must travel to space stations and alien planets to defuse the situation. The game is set sometime between J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot and the upcoming movie sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.
Co-publishers Paramount Studios initially secured the likeness rights and voice acting talents of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto for the two main characters, but also bagged the other actors to reprise their roles as Bones, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. While it’s a nice touch to include character voices from movie, the likenesses seem to have been hit with an ugly stick on their trip to video game land. The character animations are lacking detail, the textures look primitive and frankly quite embarrassing, given the quality of some other titles available on the current generation of consoles. There is certainly a lack of polish at almost every turn, and in places you might not except. For example with some of the cutscenes, the aiming dot is still visible firmly in the centre of the screen. Oversight or just laziness? In any case, that’s just sloppy.
Hacking puzzles are often used to access locked areas or operate machinery. They serve more as an irritation, where you have to play “snap!” to find pairs of matching signals before a timer runs out, or guide a neon light from a start point to its destination. You tire of these after the first one but mercifully you can instruct your A.I. partner to do the drudgery for you. You CAN, but you won’t get the XP from it. The in-game currency, XP feeds into the obligatory upgrade system where you can enhance the characteristics of the phaser to increase the firing rate, or to allow more powerful stun shot, or to extend the scanning range of the tricorder. Naturally, upgrades aren’t free and need to be purchased with XP that can be found by hacking or scanning various collectible objects, guns, and lifeforms with the tricorder. You can install a maximum of four upgrades to your tricorder at any given time, and three for your phaser. Or you could just as easily play the game without these perks. Of all the upgrade systems I’ve encountered, the one in Star Trek must be one of the most ineffectual.
The gun and movement mechanics are clunky. They are not nearly as polished as in other third person action adventure titles. Often times your A.I. partner is more a liability than anything else, especially in the health department, so be prepared to interrupt your shooting to inject many a rejuvenating serum into your downed partner. That’s if you’re feeling particularly compassionate towards your A.I. mate. If you choose not to help them, they’ll eventually get up and carry on as if nothing happened. Also, know that the reviving process can be bad for one’s health, so if your partner is shot to death while trying to resuscitate you (and vice versa), it’s game over.
There is the usual gamut of futuristic guns in Star Trek, from the standard Starfleet phaser rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles to the Gorn variants. All come with some form of secondary fire, be it stun shots, grenades, or friendly drones that take out the trash. But none feel all that satisfying to fire, where scoping out and downing an enemy from afar feels more like work than fun. Your player tends to favour the phaser and is changing to it every moment they get, be it post a cutscene or just having opened a door. It’s irritating especially when it’s not your weapon that you want to be using at the time. You’ll be aiming the pointy end at the Gorn, a velociraptor-type enemy that isn’t especially imposing or terrifying, but there are a few different types including the kamikaze rushers, standard grunts, armoured ones, and irritants of the flying variety.
Platforming comes via the ETT tool, essentially a way of teleporting your partner short distances. In a tiresome level, you and your partner are required to traverse to different sections of a satellite using the ETT tool to jump from one platform to the next. It’s so mundane with little action to be had here that a hop-skip-jump cutscene could have replaced this wholly unnecessary and mind-numbing section of the game.
Checkpoints, too, are sparsely laid out, and if you die on the way to the next one, time is wasted repeating these sections. Towards the end of the game one needs to power up two of something and four of something else. A simple task, but if you happen to die shortly after all six somethings have been activated, you are taken back to the beginning to repeat the power-up process. Whatever fun might have been had before, is certainly being depleted the further the game continues. Thus, reaching the conclusion of Star Trek is more a relief than an accomplishment.
As limiting as Star Trek is, it does offer you some choices. You can choose to drudge through the game yourself, or share the pain by allowing your friends or complete PSN strangers to jump in and co-op with you. In the end, with it bland level designs, an uninteresting story, and dull shooting mechanics, the only journey Star Trek is likely to be making is where no game wants to end up: the bargain bin.
Final Score: 4 spock-ing prawns out of 10.
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Age Rating: 16