Very few worlds are complex enough to give game creators such wide horizons as Star Trek and very few heroes are as well suited to cooperative gameplay as Kirk and Spock, but despite this, Digital Extremes’ Star Trek game released to tie in with the release of Star Trek Into Darkness still fails to reach where no movie based game has gone before.
As conceived, Gene Roddenberry`s universe aimed for evolved ideals such as harmonious coexistence, peaceful exploration and diplomacy over aggression, a set of beliefs which have inspired millions for generations. The demands of cinema have necessitated that J J Abrams has gravitated away from the values given breathing space in the extended format of the various television shows, making his version more action based, but what serves the big screen effectively does not always translates into a video game.
A fast paced third person shooter simply entitled Star Trek set between the two recent films and serving to tie both together, the game allows play as either Starfleet legend Captain James T Kirk or his executive and science officer Commander Spock. Belonging to the increasingly common cooperative game subgenre of cooperative, the gameplay is similar to that of Dead Space 3 in that it allows two users to play together or one to combine with an automated character, but is less well developed.
As the remnants of the Vulcan civilisation build their new home, the Helios device has been created to speed the terraforming process, harvesting the energy of a nearby star, but unexpectedly causing a rift in space through which the highly aggressive and expansive Gorn enter Federation space, stealing the Helios device. Predictably, it falls to Kirk and his crew to follow them through the rift to recover the powerful technology. While not a very original plot, it does fit well with Abrams’ vision of Star Trek.
The first problem is the fact that as a simple shooter game, it is against the primary goals which Starfleet stands for. The game offers two approaches, one direct and aggressive, blasting with phasers through every level, the other a stealthy approach avoiding confrontation, but while as a Starfleet officer the peaceful solution should be chosen, the game doesn’t encourage or reward the player for avoiding bloodshed, the only consequence of slaughter the comments from Spock as he proposes non-violent solutions.
A second problem is the crucial relationship between Kirk and Spock, their ying and yang an engine that has driven the story for almost five decades, but which does not exist in this game. Despite fantastic voice work from Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, both characters are flat, given the same set of skills save for Spock’s mind meld, with only the colour of their uniforms differentiating them in terms of their roles in the narrative.
More than any other science fiction show, Star Trek was defined by the characters and their friendships, and the key to the success of JJ Abrams’ two films has been the casting which stayed true to the original crew yet allowed them to develop in new and delightfully unexpected ways, but despite the presence of Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin, there is no interaction with the player, their roles limited to cut scenes. Instead of the warmth of familiar characters, moral dilemmas or witty dialogue every problem can be solved with the help of phaser set to kill.
Including elements of role playing games, with experience gained improving phaser and tricoder skills, the only variations from the linear plot are hacking mini games or brief moments when control is granted of the Enterprise’s phaser banks and photon torpedoes but all too quickly exploration of dull and empty corridors, and any innovation is outweighed by the all too apparent failings.
From a purely mechanical viewpoint, the game engine is outdated and doesn’t provide the quality of graphics expected from a 2013 release, with low resolution textures, stiff and unnatural animation, no collision detection, rudimentary facial animation, poorly controlled non player characters and a broken duck and cover system. The list of glitches is typical for the rushed development of movie based games, and suffering from every single fault, like its predecessors, Star Trek will be forgotten.
Star Trek is now available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC