The lights are on
If I were to imagine what kind of game the quirky, cheesy, and occasionally philosophical sci-fi television series of the 1960s Star Trek, now reimagined for the current generation, would be, a 3rd person shooter would be low on the list.
That is, however, exactly the kind of game we got.
Simply titled Star Trek and set within the new J.J. Abrams film's Star Trek universe, the game, with the exception of a few cool moments, never manages to capture what makes both the old and new Trek so popular and enduring.
Players step into the iconic shoes of either series hero Captain Kirk or science fiction icon Spock in an adventure that in many ways feels like it could be an episode for a new Star Trek TV series. The reptilian Star Trek race known as the Gorn have a received a major face lift from their TV counterparts, and thanks to the irresponsible use of a powerful new technology by the hands of the Federation, have entered Federation space through a wormhole, intent on galactic domination through deadly force. After the Gorn steal the new federation tech, it's of course up to Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the USS Enterprise to get the device back and protect the Federation and its people from a full-scale Gorn invasion.
One critical aspect of the series and especially the new film to which the game is loosely tied is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. The two characters, in many ways polar opposites but at the same time the strongest of friends, make up one of TV and cinema's most powerful bromances.
The game focuses heavily on this relationship, and for the most part succeeds. Players can step into the shoes of either character, while the other is controlled by AI or another player through online or offline co-op. Their bantering back and forth during the game is definitely true to the series and make for quite a few memorable quotes. One moment towards the end of the game involving science fiction's dynamic duo in particular is a brilliant throwback to the original TV series that will make any Trekker smile. Even better, they are both voiced by their actors in the new films, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. It's fortunate the developers managed to snag their voices, as they both do a great job of bringing the characters to life. Without them, it just wouldn't have been the same.
Unfortunately, the same praises can't be heaped upon the use of the likenesses of the actors. The game character models are all based off of their respective actors in the film, which is a definite plus. The only problem is the graphics simply are not up to snuff - faces and animations are at best below average and at times atrocious. I shouldn't be able to count on two hands the number of times a main character was delivering dialogue despite their mouth not moving, and even when they are moving the animations are so stiff and the lip synching so poor they might as well have kept their mouths shut. Poor Simon Pegg, playing lead Enterprise engineer Scotty, looks as if he suffered a near fatal stroke, and something similar can be said for the remainder of the Enterprise crew.
Graphics are definitely not Star Trek's strong point, and sadly neither is any other part of the game. The bulk of the gameplay consists of shooting waves upon waves of a variety of generic looking lizard people through uninteresting environments of grey or orange while using a solid if imperfect cover system. In between you and your partner will be stopping way too often to perform a hacking minigame that is both time consuming and devoid of any entertainment. Also, cooperative door opening. Sometimes you even cooperatively open a door by doing a hacking minigame. I'm not sure why opening doors is still a feature of cooperative games. Surely developers can think of a more original or fun way to build a relationship with your cooperative partner. Mashing X as fast as possible to open a door together every 10 minutes is not it. Stop it.
Almost every shooting gallery segment also comes with optional stealth objectives or nonlethal options. I really appreciated the ability the option for players to go the non-lethal route and even be rewarded for doing so in the form of additional experience points that can be used for upgrades. Star Trek is not Gears of War, something I can at least tell the developers kept in mind when they made the secondary fire function of the majority of the game's weapons a stun blast.
Sprinkled between the thousands of Gorn and hundreds of hacking and door opening minigames are poorly conceived platforming segments. It is often unclear what jumps can be made and which ones can't, what ledges can be grabbed onto and which ones cannot. It makes for a frustrating experience, especially since every time you make a jump the poor animations make it looks as if you are going to fall to your death before jerking your character as if by a magnetic force to the ledge. Scanning the environment with the do-all tricorder is also used liberally. It literally does everything, from scanning enemy corpses, to healing teammates, to hacking doors - all from a distance. There is nothing really wrong with the idea of using the tricorder to scan anything and everything, there is just little to be gained from it.
Aside from a handful of segments like the Kirk and Spock centric moment mentioned above and a Portal-esque teleportation pad puzzle area, the bulk of the game is uneventful and largely boring. I know 3rd person shooters are probably easy and, as we all know, popular in this current gaming age, but Star Trek just doesn't lend itself all that well to the genre. The mission of the USS Enterprise is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before." A TellTale adventure game version of Star Trek with occasional shooting segments similar to their The Walking Dead game seems far meore suited to capturing the sense of exploration, character relationships, and plot driven action that the show is known for. Star Trekthe game does none of this, and instead not so boldly goes where just about every other licensed game has gone before - the bargain bin.
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