Set your phasers to “dumb” in Star Trek The Video Game
With ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ hot off the presses and playing at a theater near you, it should also be noted that there was a video game that snuck under the radar earlier this month that “ties-in” with the summer film. But is the game any good? Just read the article headline one more time …
As a loyal and faithful fan of Star Trek — the original series especially — I was overjoyed when J.J. Abrams infused his visionary magic with the Trek lore and breathed new life into the fading franchise. With all the new excitement and energy surrounding the hip and updated Star Trek, it was only a matter of time before another attempt at making a Star Trek game hit the store shelves. Star Trek: The Video Game was that game.
Star Trek: The Video Game takes place between the 2009 film Star Trek and this year’s release of Star Trek Into Darkness. Captain Kirk, Commander Spock and the rest of the famed crew of the USS Enterprise are challenged with making first contact with the Gorn, an aggressive race of lizard men hell-bent on conquering worlds and civilizations that don’t belong to them. To make a long story short, it’s up to Kirk and his crew to put the kibosh on this scaly invasion. Players take control of Kirk and Spock and battle their way through this game in a fast-paced third-person action adventure.
The premise sounds awesome doesn’t it? Too bad the game wasn’t!
Star Trek: The Video Game is a tough pill to swallow mostly due to its gameplay. “Schizophrenic” comes to mind when I think of adjectives to best describe the approach to immersing yourself into the game. You could tell the developers really had their hearts in the right place when they took this project on because the atmosphere they created definitely felt like it fit with the new universe that Abrams had created back in 2009. But from there everything is pretty downhill when it comes to getting deeper into this game.
The game suffers from a chronic case of “trying to do too much” and ultimately that leads to lackluster game performance across the board. Essentially, this game is a third-person action shooter, but then it’s also a platformer, and a flying, diving and starship simulator as well! There was actually a point midway through the game where I had no idea what to do next because there was a huge running jump I had to make in order to cross a deep chasm. Nowhere prior to that point in the game had running jumps been integral to my advancement in the game. So for the developers to automatically assume I’m supposed to know I have to do that in-game, well … then that’s just bad game design.
There was another instance where I was thrust into full control of the USS Enterprise for the first time and was automatically supposed to know how to fend off a full on Gorn ship assault. After a lot of trial, errors and continues I was able to get past that part of the game and never looked back. Did I mention there is swimming in this third-person action shooter? Really? In a Star Trek game? Honestly, the added gameplay experiences definitely didn’t make the game any better. So why add them? Had the developers sat down and focused on making a small handful of gameplay mechanics 100% solid, this game would’ve been a lot more fun to enjoy instead of a chore.
Graphically this game looks atrocious. The graphics and textures look incredibly outdated by at least four or five years and the animations are pretty terrible. There were many times where I groaned during the sequences where either Spock or Kirk would help pry and hold a door open for the other, only to have the 3D character models clip through and into each other when they squeeze past the narrow opening. And remember how I told you there was a whole section of the game where you had to swim under water? This game was so graphically challenged that whenever you’re in water the underwater shadows rendered by both Kirk and Spock are just black squares! It was embarrassing to look at. Embarrassing enough to not pick up and play the game until at least a week later.
Is there anything good about this game? Okay, probably just one good thing. The sound. The original cast from the movies lent their voicework to the game which did make it a little bit better. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto and their banter as Kirk and Spock was probably the ONLY thing that kept me going through this game. The sound effects and explosions are pretty satisfying as well. So despite the crapfest the game had snowballed into at least it sounded great!
There is little to no replay value to this game, simply because once you play through it once somebody would have to pay you to play through it again. The game features a cooperative mode where you could play with a friend and take the fight to Gorn as both Kirk and Spock. I prefer playing it online with a friend for two reasons. 1) You don’t have to play teamed up with the horrible AI partner that gets lost most of the time and doesn’t help you in a shoot out, and 2) you both could make fun of the game together.
Ultimately, if you couldn’t tell I was supremely let down by this game. Right out of the gates this game could have probably been rated a solid 7.0 at best. But the deeper I got into it, this Star Trek fan couldn’t stomach the ugly truth that this game just wasn’t worth my time and energy. This game isn’t worth the $60 price tag. If you’re a fan and a masochist I think you could at least rent it. Other than that, stay away. Play Gears of War or Mass Effect 3 instead.
Chuck’s note: I played a bit of the game in the 3D mode and found that to be wanting as well. There was occasional depth added to some of the environments, but nothing jumps off the screen at you and there were several occurrences of distortion during some of the faster motion that was unpleasant to the eye and my equilibrium. I love me some 3D, but this was nothing more than a bad conversion.
OVERALL: 4.5 out of 10