Developers: Digital Extremes
Publishers: Paramount Pictures | Namco Bandai
Star Trek is one of those games that frequently proves unintentionally hilarious, but mostly from a laugh-or-you-cry perspective. One scene early on sees Kirk downed by a wound to the leg, and I'm forced to crawl about on my behind as I wait for my AI companion -- Mr. Spock -- to come and rescue me. Except, Mr. Spock's AI has gotten itself stuck behind some flaming debris, and he's quickly dispatched. I end up eliminating all of the foes, but because my would-be saviour has bled out, I fail the mission.
This could just be an unfortunate glitch in AI, but I have a different theory: Mr. Spock is an utter b*stard.
There are moments in Star Trek when taking cover is fundamentally necessary, whether it's to prevent yourself from being barbecued by a nearby star or stealthily slip by some marauding enemies, but this can sometimes prove impossible. Not because moving from cover to cover is clunkily implement, it is but that's not the point, rather because so often you find that your AI companion has stolen the spot you were aiming for at the last moment. So many times, I've attempted to roll across a gap only to bump into my Vulcan pal, who looks at me as if to say "well, I'm in cover" as I'm riddled with lasers or flayed alive.
There have been firefights where my pointy-eared chum has just swanned about in-between friend and foes, gleefully soaking up laser-fire. Several times he did it while staring in my direction, as if he was deliberately injuring himself just to spite me. Naturally I rushed out to save him when he hit the deck; naturally I was blown to bits. Earlier in the game, investigating a research station on New Vulcan, I hit a crazed, infected Vulcan with a stun blast. I can't reach him in time for the non-lethal takedown, so he starts advancing again. My phaser overheats and Spock takes a few shots, but instead of stunning the oncoming Vulcan, he somehow makes the sickly chap invulnerable. As Spock crumples into a heap and the crazed creature bears down on me, I'm sure I see the good Commander flash a wry grin.
So yes, Star Trek is a bit broken.
I'd like to tell you that everything works itself out when you add another human player to the proceedings, and it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that the game does get better in co-op. However, just because my friendly chum is no longer trying to find inventive, passive-aggressive ways of getting me killed, that doesn't mean everything else is miraculously fixed.
Star Trek takes the form of a third-person shooter as you might have guessed, and it's relatively inoffensive at the shooting parts of the game. The cover system is rather clunky (holding down a button for several seconds to move position is not what I want), weapons lack much impact, and the enemy AI is not exactly the best we've ever seen, but if you switch your brain off everything seems fine.
I imagine that Star Trek would make more sense when one is drunk. With sluggish player inputs matching the unresponsive platforming, blurry vision excusing the constant presence of the uncanny valley when it comes to character animations (what has happened to everybody's top lip?!), and the simplicity of the threshold for drunken amusement making up for the lack of any gameplay innovation or excellence, it does rather seem to be a game perfect for when you're drunk.
Or you could buy a good game that you can play whatever the weather, or your state of mind.
As a film franchise tie-in, Star Trek is almost exemplary. The productions values that Paramount Pictures have brought to the table are frequently excellent. The cast are all present and correct, and the back and forth between Chris Pine's Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock can almost make you forget the horrible time you're having with the game. As a product that drives attention towards the films themselves, it's great. All of the time I was playing the game I wished I was watching the films, so I switched my Xbox off, stuck Star Trek in my Blu-ray player and had a much better evening.
But as strong as the dialogue can occasionally be, the script itself is rather awful. The story revolves around the Gorn stealing the MacGuffin that the Vulcan people were using to try and create a new homeworld, and Kirk and the Enterprise linking up with a feisty female Vulcan captain to try and pinch it back before the Gorn can take over the universe or something. To do this, you predominantly set phasers to kill and go around blasting lizard men, pausing occasionally to dabble in some really-very-light puzzles, constantly mashing the X button to get through doors, and pressing A to have your tricorder scan pre-designated objects for little reward or illumination.
The buddy cop framework does allow for some divergent gameplay, but that mainly extends to one of you fighting off a wave of enemies while the other solves a quick matching puzzle. Digital Extremes, to their credit, do try to shake things up occasionally with little platforming bits, the aforementioned puzzles, and a truly risible section where you're "piloting" the Enterprise, and engaging in one of the worst turret shooting moments in a video game we've seen in a while. Every single facet of Star Trek has been done better elsewhere, and by games that one could argue are truly mediocre.
Case in point: I had more fun with Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel than I did with this game, and that's largely due to the adrenaline rush I got from the first time I hit the Overkill button. I was not kind to that game.
There's a thematic issue here too. We tend to try to avoid reviewing games from a standpoint of what we'd like them to be, we can only review what's in front of us, but this genre seems an ill-fitting one for the Star Trek name. There's no choice and consequence here, your phaser is set to kill as the default, the tricorder is squandered as an investigation tool, and the upgrade system has little to no effect on the game, with little-to-no difference between Kirk and Spock. You're not going boldly where no-one has gone before, nor do you seek out new life and new civilisations. Well, actually you kind of do, but more as a big game hunter for bipedal, maniacal komodo dragons that you've never met before.
It's a real shame in the end, because the music, the Enterprise's bridge, the voice work, and the occasional snippets of excellent dialogue combine to fool some of your senses into believing Star Trek might be a worthwhile venture. But ultimately, this suffers from the same issues that Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel did: it's just not fun and there are dozens of better, cheaper third-person shooters out there. Star Trek brings more to the table in terms of setting and script than Visceral's spectacular misfire, but it's broken boring, and there's not even true drop-in, drop-out co-op.
- Strong audio work, good cinematic score, excellent voice acting
- It's better with a friend
- Bugs can be funny and videoing them with hilarious commentary might lead to YouTube fame...
- ...Or not
- Poor story
- Bland gunplay and weapons
- Awful AI
- Uninspired puzzles
- No drop-in, drop-out co-op
- Had to restart several times due to bugs
The Short Version: Star Trek is a game that will make you feel less intelligent the more you play of it. There's just nothing to recommend here, whether it's because of the bland, nonsensical story and utterly forgettable gameplay, or the risible AI and poorly explored and implemented co-op. Pine, Quinto and co. do a good job, and somewhere under here, once upon a time, there might have been ideas for a good game. But this is not it.