Star Trek: The Video Game Review
Some things never change. Unfortunately, the trend of awful games based on movies remains intact, as evidenced by the latest Digital Extremes effort. Many are anticipating the new “Star Trek” movie but nobody should be excited about the interactive adventure. This is destined to annoy the hell out of old-school fans of the legendary series, and it can’t even appeal to those who enjoy great action games. …‘cuz it’s a long way from “great.” And you know, it’s sad, because I get the feeling that had they stayed true to the original “Star Trek” theme, the hardcore fans would’ve tolerated significant issues.
But with J.J. Abrams in charge, that old-school style is long gone and in its place is a flashy, substance-less production riddled with glaring problems and glitches. The graphics don’t compete well on any scale, even if you’re being somewhat lenient. The character modeling is mediocre, the environments are less than mediocre, and the presentation lacks that patented “Star Trek” style. If you’re going to reinvent an iconic series (much to the dismay of long-time followers), you have to at least jump off the screen. You have to titillate the mindless and the casual, those who don’t care about “Star Trek” and just want a blockbuster action flick.
But the developers couldn’t even do that. The entire production looks and sounds amateurish and unrefined. Thankfully, despite a repetitive and uninspired soundtrack and laughable special effects, decent voice performances manage to shine through. Having the actors from the film is a big plus, and Spock, Kirk and especially Scotty (voiced by the always amusing Simon Pegg) keeps us mildly interested in the slipshod, cookie-cutter plot. Sadly, the pathetic effects that accompany this third-person shooter – because in truth, that’s what this is – are hugely disappointing, and that score could’ve been a lot better. I figure this series deserves a majestic track, right? Obviously, development resources were limited.
You just can’t hide that fact. I’ve never understood why publishers think gamers won’t notice instantaneously that a production just didn’t have the requisite resources/talent. That leaps off the screen the minute you start to play Star Trek: The Video Game. This is a soulless, empty, even adolescent and at times asinine quest, and it spits directly in the face of a revered and acclaimed franchise. I’m not even a “Star Trek” fan and I know this is borderline blasphemous. And hey, I could’ve lived with a poorly written storyline had the action been tight and entertaining. The plot would’ve been insulting to the series, but at least the game would’ve been fun.
How hard could it be, really? So you don’t want to stick to the old-fashioned theme from yesteryear. Okay, make a cooperative third-person sci-fi shooter that boasts bombastic set pieces, solid and reliable control, and plenty of over-the-top action sequences. It has been done many times before. Even an average attempt might’ve proved passable. But this just doesn’t cut the mustard. Not long after learning about the Gorn’s attack on the Federation, and the subsequent plan to attack the Gorn on their home planet, the game shifts to a generic, unfulfilling, glitchy shooter. The story wasn’t shaping up to be anything special, so you hoped…
But your hopes were soon dashed. Shoot anything that moves and ask questions later. My naïveté concerning this series notwithstanding, I get the distinct impression that “Star Trek” was never like this, nor was it ever supposed to be like this. Still, as I said above, I could put that aside if this was a well-constructed, slickly produced shooter. It isn’t, though. It’s repetitive and tedious and the AI is a joke. The Gorn will often get stuck behind walls, and they even fail to react when you’re close by. In addition to poor character modeling, we get poor animations (well, that makes sense), and the unimpressive special effects take us right out of the action.
Sometimes, the game just plain doesn’t work. Prompts to open doors may not function immediately, and your partner might have a serious “following” issue. I hate that. I suppose one could glean some entertainment value from the comedy that ensues when your buddy can’t seem to bypass a simple obstacle. That’s kinda reaching, though, isn’t it? The cover mechanic doesn’t work correctly, either, and while you do have the option of stealth, it’s lost in a bevy of mediocre gameplay systems. Nobody wants to attempt stealthy approaches when the control is iffy and you can’t predict the stupidity of your ally (or the enemies).
The control gets worse during platforming sections, as jumping is unreliable and even shimmying along ledges is questionable. Then you go underwater for a while and that presents you with a new host of control issues. All in all, almost every gameplay element stumbles and falls, and further analysis is quite unnecessary. What’s most unfortunate is that lurking beneath the surface are flashes of promise. For instance, there’s a fair amount of variety in the backdrops and objectives; it’s just that none of the good ideas were fleshed out enough. I really liked the part where you earn a teleportation gun and you and your partner have to progress strategically, ala Portal.
On top of which, upgrading your skills is entertaining, as increasing your abilities and strength is satisfying. You can hack turrets and enhance the damaging power of your phaser, which make the game a bit more complex and engaging. Had the designers worked harder to develop each positive aspect; if they had made each inventive segment more inventive, and if they followed through with more depth, we would’ve been much better off. But they fall well shy and with the messy controls, uninteresting and clichéd story, bad animations and effects, and a whole lot of repetitive, brainless action, you soon get bored. In addition to being bored, die-hard Trekkies will also feel a little betrayed.
Star Trek: The Video Game has a few flashes of quality and originality, but it’s ultimately mired beneath a multitude of disappointing flaws. The entire game is just plain dull and the experience suffers from a distinct lack of refinement. The technical aspects are well below par, the plot and characters are of little interest, the controls and camera are wonky, and the AI is poor. Like I said, there are moments of hope when you spot the possibility of something new and fun. Those moments evaporate all too quickly, though, and the result is a colossal disappointment.
No other way to describe it.
The Good: Solid, entertaining voice performances. Several good gameplay ideas.
The Bad: Technically inferior; bad animations, poor visual and audio special effects, and mediocre character modeling. Repetitive and dull. Disappointing ally and enemy AI. Basic controls are clumsy and inaccurate. Story is never compelling.
The Ugly: “Oh, “Star Trek” fans are gonna go apesh** over this.”
5/2/2013 Ben Dutka