Star Trek has a horrendous history when it comes to video games. Let’s be honest, most titles released under the franchise are poorly produced – in part due to Paramount insisting on hiring smaller studios to take care of business. Don’t get me wrong, I support smaller studies 100% – but when dealing with IP’s like Star Trek, you need some experience. There have been some good ST games – but unless you are a PC Gamer or hardcore Trekkie these probably didn’t appeal to you.
If we are honest with ourselves, Mass Effect has set the standard for any Action/RPG set in space that combines combat, exploration, RPG and cool new techy stuff to get geeked up about. So any Star Trek game that is released now and into the future will permanently be compared to ME. Some may say this is unfair but unless ST developers can find the right mix of combat, exploration, Sci-Fi and a balanced dialogue that does justice to the TV shows as well as the movies, then I just don’t see a Star Trek game doing well.
2009 saw Abrams refresh the movie franchise with a Blockbuster hit. 2013 has seen Into Darkness not just repeat that success, but leave it behind in the dust. But this isn’t a movie review… we are here to talk about a Star Trek game born in the Abrams era that sees Kirk and Spock taking on the Gorn to retrieve a powerful piece of technology that can create wormholes – something they would rather not be left in enemy hands. Digital Extremes have managed to put together a co-op Trek action adventure that does OK. The problem is that there’s nowhere near enough polish in the gameplay for this to be a breakout hit.
So before we get to what isn’t good about the game, let’s quickly focus in on the few bits that are well finished. Voice acting is good and works well with the banter between Kirk and Spook keeping the game moving along nicely. The story is in line with what we now expect from an Abrams Trek Universe, and very familiar if you read the comics too. The sound track isn’t bad, it fits and doesn’t become boring and repetitive too quickly. Finally I am happy to report that it is not just “shoot everything in sight” like many fans feared it would be. You are likely to spend more time whipping out the tricorder and looking for things to scan than you do shooting.
Technically this game is a disappointment on so many levels. Graphically the game is extremely outdated, more so than is acceptable. With a plethora of titles being released at the moment making the most of current generation hardware, and trailers and screenshots now being released of Next-Gen, this title feels 5 years behind the times. There is a moment (or 2) that look quite fanciful but those past quickly and you are left feeling cheated.
The shooter part of the game, which everyone will inevitably focus on due to the horrible marketing of this game, is average. There are the usual assortment of guns – rifles, pistols, shotguns, and sniper rifles – with a few novel twists here and there in the alternate fire modes. However the combat feels dull and lifeless. Guns don’t feel powerful when you need to dump a third of a magazine into enemies and the horrible reticule (a simple dot) when you don’t zoom in makes aiming a pain. There’s a decent variety of Gorn to fight, but their simple AI makes running and gunning a viable strategy on most difficulties.
What annoyed me more than anything about this game are the random spikes in difficulty that can make this came so incredibly frustrating when playing alone in single player mode. I found myself on more than one occasion having to switch difficulties between medium (my default) and easy. This wasn’t helped by the fact Spock would sometimes decide not to fire his weapon and join the fight in progress, or decide he would rather spend the entire struggle running into walls. The companion AI need some serious attention in terms of polish and bug fixing… serious attention.
Another difficulty spike is the Enterprise space battle, where you face several Gorn ships and legions of fighters (thankfully, you don’t have to control the whole ship, just the weapons and shields). There is no real tutorial on how to use the weapons or what is actually expect of you. YouTube quickly become my friend for guidance and advice.
The co-op experience (which can be partly had in the single-player) is what you would expect from this kind of game. Both players need to work together to open doors, climb into vents, and solve an odd waveform matching puzzle. Occasionally, Kirk and Spock will get to use unique special abilities like an Enterprise air strike or the mind meld, but these opportunities don’t pop up as frequently as you’d like. Sadly, co-op doesn’t seem to be drop-in, drop-out; players can only join at the start of a chapter and dropping out forces the remaining player to the previous checkpoint.
One redeeming element is the Tricorder’s upgrade system, which allows you to craft your character to a more specific play-style. With enough XP (obtained by scanning things), you can buy upgrades that allow for stealth play-through’s (sound dampener and sound decoy), boost your offensive or defensive abilities, or increase your hacking abilities, among other things. There is a four upgrade limit per character, but it does give co-op partners a way to carve out definitive roles for their characters and spice up combat.
Overall, Star Trek: The Video Game is poor. For Trek fans, there’s plenty to like in spite of its weaknesses, but for the average gamer, it’s a rental, at best, and probably something you’d only pick up if you want or need a co-op game. It’s sad to see such a lacklustre start to the Abrams Trek era of gaming. With the movies now bringing in new fans to the franchise, we need someone to step in and create a Star Trek game worthy of our time and money – this isn’t it.
What more can be said? Nothing to be fair. 6/10 is the best I can give it.