Set Phasers To Meh
I am a lifelong Star Trek fan. Not a bandwagon since 2009 when J.J. Abrams made it cool to like the adventures of the Starship Enterprise. Now do not get me wrong, I absolutely loved the 2009 reboot and applaud everyone involved for making Trek accessible to a whole new generation. Now, this summer we will be getting the much anticipated follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness, and with that comes the dreaded words….movie tie-in game.
I first saw footage of Star Trek at E3 two years ago and was generally excited about what I saw. A buddy co-op space adventure starring Kirk and Spock with influences coming from the Mass Effect series and Gears of War, two of my favorite franchises ever. The game was set for release in 2012, but was given a whole extra year of development time to coincide with the release of the movie sequel. I made the mistake of thinking that this would help the game become more than the run-of-the-mill movie game and yet here we are, in 2013, with exactly that.
Star Trek is set after the first film (obviously), but it does not bridge the two movies. For that you will need to pick up IDW’s four issue mini-series, Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness. The game plays out as more of an extended episode of the series with the new crew. One long, long episode. All the good will that is built up in the first hour or two of play is wasted when the story stretches out way farther than it needs to. By the end, you are wondering exactly how much longer you will have to pry open one more door, hack one more door lock or fall off a ledge from the game not reading your jump command.
Gears of Kirk? Spock of War?
Star Trek has you choosing to play as Kirk or Spock at the beginning of the campaign, but I never really saw much of a difference in the two. The makers have said that Spock was to be played as more of a logical, stealth option while Kirk a headstrong, shoot-first type. In theory, this sounds good, yet it is not actually implemented in the game. You have the option of stealth during multiple missions and it doesn’t matter which character you are playing as to do it because once the shooting starts both you and your A.I. partner have a license to kill.
The main plot involves a Vulcan scientist who has created a source of energy called the Helios device which will aid the Vulcans in the creation of New Vulcan. Due to sabotage, the device opens a rift in space which allows creatures known as the Gorn to pass through. These creatures appeared only once in the original series in the famously cheesy fight with Capt. Kirk.
But now they have been given a modern makeover and appear much more dangerous. You will find many different variety of Gorn to fight like the green Gorn, red Gorn, blue Gorn and multicolored Gorn. Sensing a theme here? One of the main problems with Star Trek is the complete lack of enemy variety. Now you will have some levels that have you fighting infected Vulcan or Federation officers where you stun them and choke them out, but the majority of your time is spent obliterating one lizard or another. Now I know this is the essence of every shooter, but at least with games like Gears of War there is enemy variety. The Gorn are literally different colors with different weapons.
Cover mechanics are not bad or good, they are mostly serviceable. There is no melee attack to speak of unless you stun your enemy first making for some weird situations when you have someone running up on you and you can not quick fire to hit them. Don’t expect to melee them back, just run away, turn around and fire again. There is an attempt to have an upgrade system for health, tricorders and weapons, but it is rudimentary at best. You use your tricorder to scan your environments for alien plant life, audio logs and new enemy types to add to the data log which gain you XP. Spend as you wish on phaser upgrades or tricorder abilities like healing your partner. The useless part of this is that you can easily beat the game without upgrading one single item.
The Voice of Reason
The two aspects of Star Trek that truly do excel are the music and the voice work. The music takes pieces of Michael Giacchino’s 2009 soundtrack and mixes them well with new samples that work very well in the Abrams reboot universe. The voice acting is also on the good side. Chris Pine seem to be having fun voicing a video game character and his Kirk is just as cocky and headstrong as his cinematic counterpart. Zachary Quinto’s Spock is equally up to task and there were multiple moments where his interaction with Kirk was very enjoyable and worthy of the movies. The rest of the cast is here as well including Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana. Sadly it sounds like Saldana read her lines at gunpoint with someone telling her to sound as disinterested as possible, kind of like her role in Avatar.
Star Trek has a lot of good ideas and ambition that never comes to the surface. You can tell the influences that drove the game throughout, but it never gets past mediocrity. The sections on board the Enterprise are a bit of fun and the voice acting is a treat (except for you Zoe) while the music is too good for the product it is attached to. If they could have tightened up the controls and cut a couple of hours of the blah plot, Star Trek could have been better than average. It overstays its welcome and the final few hours are spent on bland looking alien ships that test your patience. If you find this in a bargain bin for $20 and are a Trek fan, by all means pick it up, but for a full priced $60 title, there is a lot left to be desired. As melty as I get over Chris Pine’s voice, it is not worth the price of admission.
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