Where No Game Has Gone Before?
Games based on movies don't have the best reputation, and often with good cause. Hurried out of the door to meet the release date of the blockbuster whose elements they've borrowed, they often struggle to turn a handful of action scenes into a full length game, while even the best polygon creations can't live up to seeing actual movie stars strutting their stuff.
Star Trek The Video Game comes up with a simple but smart solution to the problem: although it's based on the rebooted Star Trek movies, the second of which comes out this month, it doesn't try to recreate the big screen experience through your joypad. Rather, it takes for granted that Kirk, Spock and the gang have a rich array of adventures that haven't been seen on screen, and opts to tell one of those instead.
Set between the 2009 movie and its sequel, Into Darkness, this game picks up one plot thread from the first film. The planet Vulcan has been destroyed, and Spock's people are searching for a new home. To this end, they've created a device that can release enough energy to remake a planet however they want, but it turns out that it also rips holes in space. Through this tear come the Gorn, a warlike reptilian race which decides that this device would be very handy for their plan to conquer the universe.
Enter the USS Enterprise, responding to New Vulcan's distress call, and then thrust into a race against time to stop the Gorn from following through on their wicked plan. What follows is an eclectic action game that finds Kirk and Spock working together to save the day, and in their own inimitable style.
Appropriately, given the team-based nature of the series, Star Trek is very much a co-op game. You can play as Kirk or Spock depending on your preference for yellow or blue jerseys, with the other role taken either by the game's AI or another player, online or locally.
For the most part you'll be engaged in encounters with the Gorn, which can either take the form of measured shootouts or tense stealth sections depending on how you choose to proceed. Take the action route and the game becomes a third-person shooter in the style of Gears of War. Opt for sneakiness, and you'll be creeping up on your enemies and knocking them out with a Vulcan neck pinch.
There's more to Star Trek than shooting and fighting, of course, and so the game breaks up the combat with a variety of set piece scenarios. You may work together to tag team your way past blazing emissions from a warp core. You may man the torpedoes and phasers of the Enterprise itself, tackling Gorn motherships in a pitched space battle. There are platforming sections where you'll leap and shimmy like Nathan Drake, and mini game puzzles that are used to unlock doors and hack vital systems.
Hacking is carried out using your tricorder, that classic bit of Star Trek kit that's been thoroughly woven into the fabric of the game. It acts as a handy compass, directing you to objectives, but can also be used to scan the environment. The more data you accumulate on the places you visit, the more upgrade points you'll earn to boost your abilities.
These abilities make the tricorder even more useful. You can use it to boost your partner's shields, or to play havoc with enemies. If you don't fancy a fair fight, you can make their guns jam or you can remotely detonate whatever grenades they're carrying. You can also hack security cameras so as to slip past undetected, or take control of enemy turrets so they open fire on the Gorn rather than you.
Live Long And Prosper?
It's just a shame that the game's ambition isn't matched by its polish. This is a game that struggles with a variety of quirks and glitches, from occasionally woolly control to daft AI. There's nothing game breaking, but for a game based on a big movie franchise, it has a few too many rough edges.
What pulls the game back to its feet after each stumble is the story and the acting. The script perfectly captures the characters of Kirk and Spock, with plenty of banter between the pair, while the plot has the sweep and scope of a true Trek tale. Also helping enormously is the presence of all the movie cast, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto giving their all as Kirk and Spock, while the likes of Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana all take the time to return to the Enterprise in voice form. None of them feel like they're doing the game out of contractual obligation, and their spirited performances are a welcome change from the usual dreary voice work in movie games.
Star Trek is far from a perfect game, and we wouldn't say no to a more polished sequel, but for Trek fans there's more to enjoy here than there is to dislike.
- All the movie cast provide great voice work
- It's more than just a shooter
- Co-op is really good fun
- Some elements feel unpolished
- Not much replay value
- Hacking puzzles become repetitive