The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot took the concepts from the
original 1960s television series and made them more palatable for a
larger audience. The original series, while full of fun characters and
clever storylines, was presented with gaudy sci-fi aesthetics produced
on a ‘60s television budget. Digital Extremes’ newest game, based on the
J.J. Abrams film series, reminds me more of the original series than
the recent films; the game has a few clever mechanics and moments, but
its overall lack of polish ensures that it doesn’t stand the test of
This game slides into the timeline somewhere between the 2009 film
and this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. After losing their home world,
the Vulcan race has settled on a new planet. To aid construction, the
Vulcans build a machine called the Helios Device, which collects and
harnesses the power from a pair of nearby suns. Unfortunately, the
reptilian Gorn race gets their hands on the contraption and begins using
it as a doomsday device. The only things standing in the Gorn’s way are
Captain James T. Kirk and his logical science officer, Mr. Spock.
The story starts out promising, and is filled with fun little
character moments, but quickly devolves into a race for the Helios
Device that shuffles players from one firefight to the next. Maybe that
wouldn’t be a problem if Star Trek’s third-person cover-based shooting
was compelling, but everything – the alien planets, the weaponry, the
occasional climbing sections – feels generic. Star Trek doesn’t even
have a traditional melee attack; you have to stun an enemy with your
phaser before you can perform a close-range takedown.
The action is equally flawed. Digital Extremes has made creative use
of the tricorder (the handheld scanning device), allowing you to boost
your teammates shields in battle or remotely hack enemy grenades so they
explode before thrown, but these clever ideas don’t make up for the
loose aiming or the tired enemy AI that walks straight into oncoming
fire while shooting from the hip, Terminator-style.
As you travel through alien worlds and derelict space stations, you
power up your equipment with credits earned from scanning objects
throughout the environment. These upgrades allow you to turn your phaser
into an automatic weapon or boost your tricorder so that you can level
up your teammate’s shields. Unfortunately, this upgrade system feels
thin and fails to encourage experimentation. Your tools only have a
limited number of upgrades, so once you’ve purchased your desired
loadout, you have nothing left to spend credits on. I maxed out my
equipment halfway though the game and ended up with a Scrooge
McDuck-sized piggybank by the end.
Star Trek encourages you to be stealthy, but these sequences are so
tedious that I often found it easier to just run through with my guns
blazing. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a chameleon to sneak past a
Gorn; enemies often fail to notice their companions getting stunned in
the face by a phaser blast. I watched so many Gorn take nosedives in
front of their friends that I have to assume that toppling over is a
traditional Gorn greeting.
Big action moments serve as a counterpoint to the stealth. Calling
down an airstrike from the Enterprise and chasing a Gorn through the
interior of a turbolift are ultimately marred by an overall lack of
polish. Background textures flicker, characters fall through the world,
and my system crashed completely. These distractions make it impossible
to enjoy what should have been the most impressive moments.
Even though I was grateful to have my AI partner complete many of the
simple hacking minigames, co-op is still the better way (though not
necessarily a good way) to play. Kirk and Spock have different tech
upgrades, and occasionally assist each other during combat. At one
point, Kirk hurts himself and Spock has to help him hobble to sickbay
while Kirk defends them both with his phaser. In another sequence, one
player has to clamber across a ravine while the other scans the
environment for enemies with their tricorder. Digital Extremes did a
good job of coming up with creative ways for two players to assist each
other, though you also do plenty of ledge-boosting and door-opening.
Star Trek is ultimately a generic third-person shooter that stumbles
in the execution of its few cool moments. Co-op might have saved the
experience if Digital Extremes had fixed the bugs, polished the
controls, and made the AI repeat basic training – but that’s a lot of
work just to bring the game up to baseline standards. The Star Trek
franchise is built on the concept of a hopeful future, but fans should
keep looking toward the horizon, because this present trek is hopeless.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.