Boldly Going Where Others Have Been Before
Typically, games created directly from movie licenses are total garbage. You would think that with a strong license it would be easier to create an engaging world within the confines of a video game. But time and time again, developers struggle to make anything of value, even though a lot of the creative legwork has already been done for them. This sad reality plagues licensed games as a whole.
However, Star Trek has attempted to break that mold. It doesn’t succeed completely, nor does it fail entirely. It lands squarely in the middle, which is kind of an achievement for a licensed game.
Star Trek starts out trying to separate itself from other licensed games with an original story. The narrative takes place somewhere between the two films, which is much better than the regurgitated movie plots normally created from a movie license. Although, it does tie into the events of the first film rather well.
If you’ve seen the film, you’ll probably remember that Spock’s home planet was obliterated, leaving what was left of his race celestially homeless. With the Vulcan race on the hunt for a new home world, they create the Helios Machine, designed to speed the process of developing a planet dubbed “New Vulcan” into a place the Vulcan race can call home. Unfortunately, it seems the Helios Machine has an unfortunate side effect; it creates small rips in the fabric of space and time. This, as you can imagine, is quite a problem.
To make things worse, the Gorn – a race of aggressive, lizard-like, space thieves – come through the rift and attack New Vulcan for the sole purpose of stealing the Helios Machine. This prompts Vulcan leaders to shut down the solar energy collection station that powers the device and the crew of the Enterprise begins investigating the faltering power station.
While on the power station, many of Star Trek’s gameplay mechanics are introduced. The game is structured around cooperative gameplay and wastes no time getting this point across. As either Kirk or Spock, you will need the assistance of your companion to open doors, hack consoles, and solve puzzles. There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a co-op partner though, you can easily assign tasks to you’re A.I. controlled counterpart with the push of a button.
The controls are sufficient for the most part, but you can occasionally find yourself struggling to complete the easiest of tasks, especially during platforming and puzzle-solving sequences. These bits of gameplay can be frustrating to say the least, but the game makes up for it in other areas such as combat.
Unfortunately, Star Trek’s combat system isn’t really anything new. And if you’ve played Gears of War or Army of Two, you won’t run into any real surprises. The cover based movement works relatively well and killing the Gorn is satisfying enough, but even though it is one of the game’s best qualities it never really seals the deal. The obligatory weapons all make an appearance – pistols, rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and grenades – in some form or fashion. Even though we don’t see any combat advancements in Star Trek, the game executes existing mechanics well enough to make the combat fun and enjoyable.
However, the shining attribute of Star Trek’s gameplay is the implementation of trademarked gadgets and a collection of mini-games that come along with them. The Tricorder is an invaluable tool and can be used for opening locked doors, scanning for enemies, and hacking enemy terminals and turrets.
Sometimes, while using your trusty Tricorder, you will be prompted to decode a signal or complete a circuit to achieve your desired effect, which spawns a mini-game. These can inspire bouts of nostalgia for the Mass Effect series, so be careful. But even though these are very similar in presentation, they work well and function to vary gameplay effectively.
Even though the gameplay succeeds to some extent, it is counter-balanced by the game’s lackluster graphical performance.
Cutscenes are plentiful, and even though most are decent, many highlight the visual shortcomings with close-ups that flaunt the dated graphics and pixelated textures. With the many cutscenes necessary to tell a movie-like story, this should have been a huge focus in the visual department. Although, the faces of main character models were clearly given careful attention, and the digital versions of the actors were instantly recognizable and accurate.
However, character animations are another story entirely. Even though there are many odd animations throughout the game, they function fine for the most part. The only time you really run into serious issues is in transition between gameplay types.
For example, something as simple as prying a door open can become a chore. First of all, initiating the sequence can be a nuisance, and button prompts sometimes don’t show up until you have positioned yourself perfectly. Once in place, completing the task is easy enough, but when you emerge on the other side the animation falters. Sometimes you will be looking in an odd direction, you may be standing behind your counterpart (even though you were first to go through the door), and rarely you might even be stuck in a corner. Almost every transition animation suffers similar issues, and though it’s not game-breaking, it is severely annoying.
But for Star Trek, where visuals fail, sound delivers. Voice acting is top-notch (as it should be) and the actors transfer their characters well to the video game medium. The sound of the Tricorder starting up is replicated beautifully, in addition to the familiar sounds of lasers and photon torpedoes. Tense gameplay sequences were accentuated by appropriate music, and the orchestral score was borrowed directly from the films, one of the few perks of making a licensed game. Overall, the sound bordered on excellent with very few hiccups.
While this game probably won’t do anything for the hardcore gamer, Star Trek fans and casual gamers may find it a fun experience with varied gameplay and a strong story. However, more seasoned gamers will probably find this game to be a low-budget replication of their favorite franchises and dismiss it immediately.
Although Digital Extremes set out to make the definitive Star Trek Experience, they fell short of creating the game that Star Trek fans so desperately crave. I enjoyed Star Trek for what it was, but at the end of the day, it delivers an average gameplay experience through a decent story. The game’s mediocre visuals are balanced by the strong soundscape, but neither department does enough to propel the game to warp speed. Mr. Sulu, you have failed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Graphics feel outdated and transition animations can be very jerky. Cutscenes look pretty good until you get up close. 3.0 Control
Standard third-person action can feel unintuitive at times, but does the job overall. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice acting from the movie cast is commendable, as is the music, pulled directly from the films. 3.0 Play Value
You can possibly squeeze two playthroughs out of Star Trek if you want to play as both Kirk and Spock, but that’s about it. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best