Review: Star Trek: The Video Game
Ah, space, that final frontier. Many a Bank Holiday have I spent sat happily in front of the TV with a Star trek movie on. From the incredibly camp overacting of Shatner’s Kirk to the thespian, almost Shakespeare inspired Picard of The Next Generation. There’s a great deal of fun to be had with a sci-fi action romp. Warp across the galaxies with me then, as I take you on an unforgettable journey, where no-one has gone before.
I was quite looking forward to this. While not being an out-and-out Trekkie, I do like the franchise. There’s something of a sci-fi nut in me, I won’t deny it. I threw the disc in the trusty Xbox and waited with bated breath at the cinematic wonder that was bound to follow a cinematic triumph of a J.J.Abrams blockbuster. My excitement slowly built as the massive list of contributing studios is reeled off, surely now a lush, epic space-based cinematic opening to the game is about to land on my scree… Menu?! Where’s the Federation battles, where’s the jump from warp, where’s the gratuitous lens-flare? Nowhere, that’s where. The menu appears as if by magic, with a youthful-looking Kirk in his customary captain’s chair, flanked by Spock and the ever-pacing Bones McCoy. I guess I’ll have a flick through these then.
I’ll go for ‘options’, what can I change in here? Well, the usual sound, look-axis, difficulty and an odd setting that lets you set whether the game is online and public, online and private or completely offline. Without wanting to embarrass myself, I took the offline option. The menus all have a Trek-inspired look to them, futuristic and full of the pings and ploinks that the Enterprise is all about. The opening menu is placed, somewhat as an afterthought, on the left side of the screen, which looks out onto the bridge of the famous starship, with the main characters all slightly animated in the background.
So, starting the game, you get to choose, strangely, the same options that you had the opportunity to set in the options menu. That’s right, all the same options. Difficulty and especially the online game type. What was the point in being given the option in the first place, and why didn’t it take any notice of these choices not 30 seconds ago? This appears to be the beginning.
If you’re expecting this to be a movie tie-in with the impending blockbuster, with Cumberbatch’s slick, sinister bad-guy, you’re going to be extremely disappointed. This does not follow any of the new movie’s plot-lines in the slightest. This might be to stop you getting spoilers before you’ve seen the film, or it might be because this story is actually well written and solidly constructed in its own right. You’re called to a stricken space-station of unknown configuration as it draws energy from a binary star. Your first mission is to get the captain and crew off the station, to safety. Sounds easy, right? Well, it would be. I shall explain.
The graphics are fairly accurate. The ship environs all look clinical, futuristic, a little too sharp as you wander around, trying to get used to the controls. You get yourself into the shuttle launch bay and notice that Scotty, who’s played by Simon Pegg, is a little on the cross-eyed side of yokel. This is unusual, as visually, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock respectively look fairly accurate. You initially get to choose your character by the way, Spock or Kirk, not that I expect it matters, for reasons I promise I’ll get round to. The most disappointing thing about the graphics are the glitches. The irritating, shading-and-texture-mapping-from-the ‘90s glitches that litter this game are one of the most disappointing aspects, along with the frankly awful AI and gratingly repetitive audio. The fact that they’ve persuaded the main movie characters to voice this game is a bonus, but if I were Chris Pine, I’d be frankly appalled at the fact that I’d be associated with it. The weapon sounds and squeaky door opening are all adequate and the background music seems to have had some thought put into it, but it doesn’t make up for the other issues the game suffers from. The missions have a definite Halo quality about them. You start off trying to escape the ship, albeit in a shuttle, then you’re on escort duty, then you’re outside. These missions, while woven into this well written story, all had a note of familiarity about them, all done before, all done better.
Just as in other action shooter franchises of this nature, you start off with a basic weapon. You get a phaser and your trusty Tri-Corder. Along the way you can pick up other weapons, like the StarFleet standard issue Pulse Rifle, or your enemy’s arsenal. Your enemies are, for the most part, stupid. I mean that in a gaming sense, as some of them are Vulcan. I won’t give too much away, but there are a type of zombie to despatch. The problem happens if you don’t despatch them a specific way, or at all. They seem to then be intent on following you everywhere until you die, as they become invincible, by some glitch in the game, and no matter how you try to kill them, they simply won’t die. I ended up dying and when I respawned, the same enemies simply ran past me and let me pass. This would have been made much simpler if there was anything in the way of melee combat. There simply isn’t any at all. This would eliminate the annoying scenario where the other enemy, the Gorn, rush you, miss, then mill around aimlessly, trying to get their bearings while you shoot wildly around hoping for that lucky shot that never happens. The problem is, is that there is no close range shot you can hit with. If an enemy is within touching distance, you simply shoot past them and with no melee; you’re as good as dead, as they can move just as fast as you.
There are other glitches that unnerve you too, like the infected zombies, floating around backwards after you instead of shambling or running. Your partner Vulcan, Spock, or Kirk if you chose to play as Spock, is of little hope in this scenario. On more occasions than I care to mention, he simply stands there, refusing to react to your commands to move or attack. The friendly AI is quite stupid. So stupid in fact, it’s a shame your own fire cannot kill them, as I would have done so many, many times. This would unfortunately, end your session too. If your ‘partner’ dies, it’s game over. You can revive and give health to your partner though, your Tri-Corder issues these commands, as well as providing shield boost and allowing you to hack doors and perform other tasks, such as hacking enemy turrets and land-mines. It also provides you with a way to detect your enemy’s positions and class. You can also scan various items and bodies for XP, this is then used to upgrade your weapon or Tri-Corder. Initially, when I accessed this upgrade menu, I couldn’t get out of it until I upgraded something, another glitch for the devs to sort!
Just to give you some scope of the level of glitches in the game, there was one section, where I was out, dodging zombies in space, attached to the side of a StarBase with some Magboots, when I popped over the side of a curve and fell off. After I fell off, I continued to fall, in space. With no gravity, just how? I could run, shoot, use my Tri-Corder, everything, but I continued to ‘fall’. I had to restart from the last checkpoint in order to finish this section. It makes me wonder if the game has been play-tested at all in the rush to release in time for the movie hype.
Despite the amount of times you die, or have to restart the section through sheer unbelievable craziness, there are plenty of health regeneration and ammo stations dotted throughout the missions. You’ll need them too. The enemies are plenty, and port in at will, while scurrying around in a general lizard-like manner yet in another Halo-esque twist, there are also some flying drones that look almost identical to the Sentinels used in the Halo universe, right down to the incoming fire.
Overall, should you buy star Trek? Frankly, no. Unless that huge list of contributors weighs in with an equally huge title update to fix the irritating misuse of sound bites, add melee combat and irons out the seemingly endless list of graphical glitches, I wouldn’t be willing to part with my hard-earned cash. It seems that the game has been rushed a little at the end, more than a little it would seem. With the AI acting like a crazed banshee and the complete lack of melee combat, this will have you on your knees, firing you phaser in the air shouting “Khaaaaaaan” at the top of your lungs. I’m disappointed, more than disappointed, I’m frustrated and angry. This could have been so much more than it is now. When it works, it works well enough to be challenging but not impossible, it’s the glitches that kill it deader than a Tribble in a blender. What should have been warp 9-ing its way up the charts, will be firmly locked in space-dock, waiting to be moth-balled. If you’re a die-hard Trekkie, it might be worth a go, but expect to be using this as trade-in fodder as you find yourself frustrated at the amount of times the scenery pens you in and your pillock of an AI partner stand in your way. There are some good ideas floating around in the spaces in this, but they suffer from lacking that finishing touch. It’s a shame, but this is definitely one to miss.
Review: Star Trek: The Video Game Results
What we liked:
Movie voice casting
Excellent, well written story
The chance to fire a phaser
What we disliked:
AI intelligence issues
Graphical glitches ahoy
Complete lack of gameplay testing in evidence