Releasing only a few short weeks prior to J.J Abrams’ second Star Trek movie, Star Trek The Game wedges itself between both movies in the Star Trek timeline. A distress call sends Kirk and Spock to a solar collecting station harnessing energy for the Vulcan race’s new homeworld – aptly named New Vulcan – but the Gorn show up to steal the device and wreak destruction across the galaxy with their shiny new doomsday device.
If you didn’t see the 2009 film, the original Vulcan gets destroyed after Nero (a pissed off Romulan) creates a black hole at the center of the planet. Fans of the original TV series will remember the Arena episode during Season One where a young looking William Shatner battled against a single Gorn warrior in the middle of a desert. Now with a modern makeover (no more rubber masks), the Gorn resemble space velociraptors with phasers.
Sounds like one of Spielberg’s failed scripts for Jurassic Park IV, doesn’t it?
Playing as either the charismatic Captain James T. Kirk or the intelligent science officer Spock, I set my phaser to stun and began the journey from New Vulcan to the Gorn homeworld to retrieve the device. The majority of encounters in the game play out with you and the Gorn hiding behind cover points, popping shots at each other. Occasionally enemies will run straight into your line of fire ( or run past you or stop right behind you) and other times foes won’t even flinch as they are getting fired upon while behind cover. Even the differences between the two playable characters are minimal at best, having little impact on the gameplay. Digital Extremes tried to break up the mindless action and endless waves of enemies with stealth mechanics, but the awkward animations and laughable AI sours the experience. It’s best to go guns – I mean phasers – blazing and face the Gorn head on.
Before you ask, the only time you get to “control” the USS Enterprise is through a poorly implemented turret sequence. For a game that includes some impressive textures (on the PC at least), the vastness of space is a blurry mess. Whether you choose to play as Spock or Kirk, the AI will take control of their better half with slightly more intelligence than the enemy AI, but not by much. As Kirk, I was able to order Spock to pick up weapons, hack terminals or lock doors, but traversing the environment became too much for his Vulcan mind to comprehend. For the love of the Tribbles, don’t direct the AI to attempt to reach blocked off areas, unless you enjoy being forced to restart from a previous checkpoint. Failing to follow you throughout the game, the AI will leave you alone for large chunks of time, at least until the next cutscene where Spock or Kirk will magically appear. Maybe the AI uses a next generation version of the transporter?
With multiple firing modes, weapons such as the iconic phaser can be set to stun. Besides the triggered takedown maneuvers, hand-to-hand combat is virtually nonexistent in the game, but the tricorder allows for some new gameplay options such as hacking turrets, opening up vents or even take control of flying drones. Using the tricorder to literally scan everything in the game (think detective mode in the Batman: Arkham series) quickly becomes a tiring task however. Gorn corpses, weapons, and objects in the environment will yield experience points to be used for various upgrades. Upgrading the phaser allows you to bounce shots off walls or even boost your companion’s shield utilizing the tricorder. The upgrades have a minimal impact on the gameplay and it’s quite easy to max everything out in the game way before reaching the end of the game.
Focusing heavily on cooperative gameplay, there are moments in the game that require both players to work together – whether you are playing with another player or with the AI. If there are any positives to take away from this game, it would be these cooperative moments. Not all of them are memorable (cooperative doors are never fun), but the remaining moments are inventive and entertaining. At one point in the game Kirk injuries his leg and must be carried to the nearby sickbay by Spock as he tries and hold off the attacking Gorn and later on in the game Spock and Kirk have to keep teleporting each other over short distances in an attempt to escape a derelict space station.
As much as I enjoyed the cooperative system, I despised just as much at the same time. When a player joins a game, an on-screen prompt will appear letting you know a player is waiting to join – the player won’t actually join the game until you reach a checkpoint. Most of time the player ended up quitting before I reached the next checkpoint. No one wants to wait while they could be playing and I don’t blame them. If a player disconnects or quits, the game will boot you back to the previous checkpoint negating any progress you have made. Having great cooperative moments in the game can only go so far if the cooperative system is inherently broken at the same time. Either have a true drop-in, drop-out cooperative system or don’t try to mask it with a poorly implemented pseudo system.
While fans around the globe have been enjoying J.J. Abrams vision for Star Trek (I think the movies are entertaining), Digital Extremes has come up short trying to build off the success of the movies. Funneling mindless enemies directly in your line of fire and poorly implemented AI tarnish the fun cooperative moments that are littered throughout the 10-hour adventure.
Note: The Star Trek The Game review was written based on the PC version of the game provided to us for review.