Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Paramount Pictures, Namco Bandai
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: T for Teen
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which was provided by the publisher
2009's Star Trek faux-reboot had quite the polarizing reaction from fans, but the one thing Paramount seemingly understood was that movie tie-in games are generally pretty bad. Thus, the world was spared another potentially rushed, bad licensed game at the time. Or perhaps they just didn't think to capitalize on it in that fashion.
In any case, they apparently had a change of heart because they had since partnered with Namco and tapped Digital Extremes (of Prototype series fame) to create a Star Trek game that would coincide with Star Trek Into Darkness' release in theaters earlier this year. Early on, there were signs that perhaps this would actually be the Trek game to end all Trek games. Screenshots indicated it would have heavy inspiration from games like Mass Effect and be heavily action-oriented, unlike previous games. Would they boldly take licensed games where few have gone before?
Fortunately for Star Trek: The Video Game, it is not based on the story of the 2009 Trek film or its recent sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness; instead, it features a brand new story. Unfortunately, it's not very good... at all. The plot revolves around the Enterprise investigating a distress call on New Vulcan, where an extremely powerful device called "The Helios Device," which can create wormholes, is stolen. Turns out the thieves are none other than the classic TOS villain, The Gorn, who have been re-imagined as a cross between Jurassic Park's raptors and the 1998 remade Godzilla. Naturally, it's up to Kirk and his crew to track down the Gorn and retrieve the Helios device before the space raptors can wreak havoc on the rest of the galaxy. Unfortunately, that's about all there is to it - the plot is just about as shallow as it sounds.
Star Trek plays mostly as a third-person, cover-based shooter that puts you in the role of either Kirk or Spock. Whoever you don't choose becomes your A.I. or human partner, depending on whether you've opted into playing online or not, or with a friend. Throughout the course of the game, your partner will help assist you by helping to pry open stuck doors, giving you a boost in order to reach out of reach areas, helping you hack a console, reviving you when you're critically injured, and engaging the enemy with gunfire (phaser-fire?). In theory, the whole partner system is an intriguing idea; after all, games like Bioshock Infinite have proven that it can work well, but there are more than a few setbacks caused by it in this game. If you're playing with a human friend, things should work as intended, but playing with an A.I. partner will often lead to many frustrating glitches over the course of your playthrough.
Here are a few examples: At certain points throughout levels, the A.I. partner would just stop following; fortunately, there is a command that will call them to your spot if such an occasion arises. This would be a perfect fix... if it actually worked 100% of the time. In many cases, I would have to guide the A.I. partner using the button multiple times to the spot I wanted it to go to instead of simply having it navigate the area to the spot on its own. At this point, I thought I was in the clear, but looked back only to find that Spock was slowly floating upwards in the air and through the ceiling. Fortunately, the game's use of checkpoints is fairly liberal, so I didn't lose too much progress when I had to restart from the last one, but that kind of glitch is unacceptable.
In another extreme, I was progressing through an area outside a space station in a space suit, but I had lost Spock. I tried going back to find him, but somehow he was upside down with his head in the platform, all while still in a running motion. No joke. Shortly after that, I clipped through a floor panel only to slowly fall and drift away from the space station, seeing it become smaller and smaller. Surely the game would register a death for the character and respawn at the last checkpoint... right? Nope. In fact, I purposely let Kirk keeping falling away until the Space Station was no longer visible, and then he just sorta hung there, helpless. Don't ask me how any of this got past Namco Bandai's QA.
Other minor yet annoying glitches I encountered include instances where I couldn't pick up weapons in an area, making it difficult since I could only rely on a phaser (which doesn't use ammo) until I reached an ammo reload point; several points where Gorn soldiers partially clipped through walls; and more than a few instances where either the partner A.I. was not assisting in a gunfight or the Gorn were unresponsive and wouldn't fire, making them easy targets.
Not everything is painfully bad, though. There are some genuinely exciting moments and parts where it feels like Digital Extremes almost got it; such as a jaunt through a collapsing space station, traipsing through a fire-filled section of the Enterprise, and a thrilling chase with the Gorn through a New Vulcan base. These areas attempt to add a touch of Uncharted-style platforming and action to an otherwise fairly mediocre game with by-the-books gameplay. When the game is working, there is at least some enjoyment to be had while playing, but that may depend on how much you actually like Star Trek as a franchise.
Also helping the game a bit is the addition of voice-acting from the cast of Abram's new Trek movies, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto carrying most of the dialogue. Their performance varies in quality, with Pine delievering some lines that would almost have you believe you were playing through the movie itself, to an almost phoning-it-in quality ("Spock, I'm hurt bad!"); Quinto's performance is a bit more consistent, though the quality of the delivery is a bit worse than his film work. In general, the voice-work is mostly solid, even with NPCs. Thankfully, the music is reused from the films, so Michael Giacchino's soundtrack is one of the bright spots in an otherwise soured experience.
When it comes to the game's visuals, it's a mixed bag. At certain points, the bridge and hallways of the Enterprise look fairly good and representative of what was shown in the movies (minus lens flare), and certain character models' textures look fairly decent. Much of the time, though, both Kirk and Spock look underwhelming as character models and often have a muddy type of texturing; this is especially noticeable when their mouths move. It's a shame that Digital Extremes didn't have more time to touch up on this a bit.
By and large, Star Trek is one of the most conflicting games I've ever experienced. On one hand, there are some fun, exciting segments, the story set-up is otherwise fairly good, and there's decent voice work to be had for the most part. Even with mediocre, run-and-gun gameplay that does nothing new, and some of the lamest hacking mini-games ever, if there were no substantial bugs, this would be a relatively above-average game. As is, Star Trek is a complete mess of a game that should have had another few months of QA testing. It shows some signs of promise early on, but this is not the title Trekkers/Trekkies have been waiting for. These are not the voyages of the Starship Enterprise you want to experience. If you're still curious due to being a big Trek fan, it might make for a decent rent provided the bugs don't get to you. Otherwise, Star Trek continues a long line of underperforming and underwhelming video game releases in a series that doesn't quite know what to do with itself.
+ Voice actors from the two new Star Trek movies reprise their roles here
+ Some fairly decent and dare I say, exciting parts. These are brief, however.
+ Music is taken from the films, meaning it's fairly good as well.
- Bugs, glitches, and the like mar the game to a point where it's sometimes unplayable without restarting to the last save point.
- While it starts out somewhat strong, the plot is really, really dumb.
- Underwhelming, bland visuals
- Gameplay is typical third-person cover shooter fare; adds nothing new; dumb, useless minigames
Overall Score: 4.5 (out of 10)
Star Trek could have been a relatively passable experience had it been given a few more months of QA testing to sort out a multitude of bugs. Sadly, it didn't have the luxury, and the end result is a Star Trek game that plays badly and is as unremarkable as the games that have come before it in the series.