Make it so-so…
Digital Extremes, the developers of the tie in for the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness film, are a good studio. In fact, their last game was the underrated Darkness II (boasted one of the best endings in recent gaming history), a solid shooter with a strong identity, unique gameplay structures and a stand-out look and style. Star Trek has none of those things. In fact, if it wasn’t for the recent Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, Star Trek would be the worst game of the year by far. It’s certainly one of the worst of this generation.
Star Trek is a broken, repetitive, dull mess. It’s central pillars – co-op with an AI partner and cover shooting – just don’t work. We’ll talk more about the woeful AI shortly, so for now let’s concentrate on the shooting. Each weapon feels largely the same as the next, there is no impact or weight to the gunplay – you might as well be firing pea-shooters at generically identical lizard men. The cover mechanics barely work; Kirk and Spock wildly veer from cover to cover, barely sticking to any surface – sometimes not even the floor! Mid-fight, you may glance across to your partner and find them hovering in mid-air. That’s if you can glance, the camera is horrific and we gave up trying to control it very early on. The shoddy cover mechanics impact the game in other areas – at times the game will suggest you use a stealthy approach to avoid a gun-fight. Eagerly you accept – anything to break up the monotony – but the stealth simply doesn’t work. Not just because sticking to cover and avoiding detection is as a random as the lottery numbers, but because of your trusty partner…
Partner AI in Star Trek may well be the worst we’ve ever come across. As well as standing up during stealth sections and alerting every enemy in the vicinity to you presence, your partner can (and WILL) do the following: walk into walls/scenery, continuously run (and stick in the running animation) into walls/scenery, hover in mid-air, refuse to participate in co-op hacking sections that further the games progress, refuse to fire at enemies (instead they’ll stand there, gazing into space), get lost in the levels, get stuck in the floors, fall off platforms, refuse to heal you when you’re down and need reviving and much more. Our “favourite” moment is – pinned under fire , you order (in our case) Spock to fire upon a specific enemy. “No Captain”, he replies, staring at a wall while you are overwhelmed by a barrage of fire from identical lizard-men. Things improve slightly if you bring in a friend for co-op (what game doesn’t?) but even that can’t help Star Trek‘s other problems.
Set Phasers to Humdrum
While the character models of Kirk and Spock look nice and are well acted by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, and the Enterprise interiors are decent, the rest of the game is utterly bland to look at. Dull ship interiors are followed by dull caverns, which are followed by yet more dull ship interiors. The antagonists, the Gorn (in the Original Star Trek series, Kirk infamously fought one – look it up on YouTube, it’s fantastic) are equally uninspired, looking like they’ve been ripped straight out of the 1998 N64 game Turok 2 – graphical fidelity and everything. They don’t look like they even belong in the game, their design is completely at odds with the rest of the art direction. They shamble across the areas you fight in, not quite moving correctly, soaking up bullets like sponges. There a different varieties of Gorn, each with their own attributes, but essentially they are all the same – just coloured differently.
Occasionally, Digital Extremes attempt to bring a bit of variety into proceedings by introducing quick action sequences. These find Kirk and Spock flying through space to other star-ships, or flying through canyons to a different set of caves. We thought one of these sequences was a cut-scene and didn’t touch the pad – we completed the section first time. In one of these moments we get to control the Enterprise in a space-battle. Whilst this sounds exciting, like most things in Star Trek it’s poorly executed and you’ll spend most of the time wondering what you’re supposed to be doing until the sections ends anyway. Special mention must go to one hilarious interlude where you control one of Spock’s famous “mind-melds”; it has to be seen to be believed.
To Meekly Go Where Every Licensed Game Has Gone Before…
The “star” of the show is the iconic Tricorder. Used for a variety of things – healing your partner, hacking – its most interesting use is for scanning environments, like Samus Aran’s visor in the Metroid Prime series. Unfortunately, the amount of items you can scan is limited to audio-logs and other collectibles. A good idea but underdeveloped.
Star Trek is a missed opportunity and a truly woeful game. It’s hard to recommend, even to the most ardent Star Trek fan. If you’re looking to visit strange new worlds and civilizations, stick with Mass Effect – it’s more of a Star Trek game than this is.
– Dave Green. Go where no-one has gone before and find him on Twitter @davidpgreen83.