Star Trek: The Video Game
“Star Trek” as a whole has always been a positive influence in my life. The idea that man will one day be able to rise above poverty, disease, war, and bigotry provides a sense of hope in regards to my son’s future. When I look at television shows today and attempt to count how many actually convey a positive message the way “Star Trek” did, I shake my head and put on my sad panda face. Not only did “Star Trek” succeed in conveying hope to millions of people, it created unique characters that are still iconic in today’s society. I still enjoy watching Spock and McCoy go at it, even if I’ve seen it done a hundred times already.
The sixties did the best it could in regards to space combat sequences and that’s one thing I’m glad to see modernized in the J.J. Abrams reboot. While “Star Trek” is primarily a series about conveying morals and exploring humanity through science fiction, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fun factor in locking torpedoes and firing phasers. “Star Trek: The Video Game” takes place after the events of the movie in 2009 and puts you and a friend in the shoes of Kirk and Spock. Your initial goal will be to figure out why the Gorn have suddenly gone on the offensive, with galaxy saving thrown in for good measure down the line. There are phasers. There are torpedoes. There are explosions. There is witty banter. The question is, does this game provide the full “Star Trek” experience? Before we answer that, I’d like to thank John Singh from J2 Communications and Ramona Layug from fortyseven communications for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu allows the player to start a new game, continue or replay chapters that have been completed, play online, and adjust game options. The options menu covers your basics like screen resolution, audio sliders, keybind remapping, and graphics detail. You’ll also be able to toggle tutorials, objectives, and subtitles on or off, as well as set the difficulty level. Public, private, and offline game mode types are available, depending on whether or not you want others to drop in and out at will. The online menu allows you to quickly join someone else’s public game or create your own.
Starting a new game takes you to a difficulty and character selection screen. You’ll be able to choose between Kirk and Spock, each having their own set of unique abilities. Kirk has the ability to call shuttles and aerial support at certain points in the game, while Spock has the ability to mind-meld with particular characters. They each have different default phasers and finishing moves, so you may want to try both characters at some point to see which one you prefer. If you’re playing alone, the AI will control whatever character you didn’t pick.
The in-game interface is relatively clutter-free, which was nice seeing as how I was being taken in by the visuals. Players will have a health/shield gauge available in the upper right hand corner of the screen and an ammo indicator on the bottom right. Shields recharge after a certain amount of time passes, but you’ll need to find health stations in order to regain lost health. The ammo indicator switches to scanned object information should you have a tricorder equipped instead of a weapon. Like health, you can find ammo stations around the level to replenish your stock. The current objective is displayed in the upper left (when tricorder mode is active) and markers will be available to tell you where you’ll need to go.
The control scheme in relation to ground combat reminded me a bit of the “Mass Effect” series. You’ll be shooting at enemy targets as they present themselves while in an over-the-shoulder third-person view. Players will be able to sprint, make use of a cover system, dive/roll, jump/climb, activate/deactivate stealth mode, access a tech upgrade menu, and manage an inventory system. Weapons include a pistol, rifle, and grenade which you can switch out at will with the number keys (by default). Melee attacks are possible, which can be utilized to pull off finishing moves. You can command the AI as well, making ground battles a bit more tactical. On occasion, you’ll have to make use of a tricorder to hack/scan objects in the environment.
When you’re not shooting at bad guys, you’ll be scanning objects with your tricorder and earning experience points. Switching to tricorder mode switches you to a view similar to that of “Batman: Arkham Asylum/City”, allowing you to perform actions unique to that situation. Sometimes you’ll hold in the action key to activate a console or in other instances, scan dead bodies or blood lying on the floor. You can command your partner to perform some of these actions as well, giving you free rein to do other things (like take in the scenery). You can trade in the XP you earn to upgrade your techs across seven categories. Both Kirk and Spock have their own tech trees, so you can choose to only upgrade your character or spread the love to your partner, if that’s what you wish to do.
The plot is intriguing, taking place after the first Star Trek movie in 2009 and before “Star Trek: Into Darkness” coming out in May, 2013. The Vulcans, still being an endangered species, have begun rebuilding their home on New Vulcan. To expedite their efforts, they invent the Helios device. Unfortunately for them, the device malfunctions and opens a rip in space. Surok and his team of scientists quickly discover that it can allow anyone who possesses it to travel anywhere they wanted within the blink of an eye. Suffice it to say that this could be a deadly weapon in the wrong hands, which in this case, happens to be the Gorn. The Gorn, for those of you not familiar with the “Star Trek” universe, are green lizard-like creatures with a humanoid shape. They were featured in the “Star Trek: The Original Series” episode, “Arena”, where Kirk and the Gorn captain had to fight to the death in hand to hand combat. As players explore the storyline, they’ll meet up with new characters that will become pivotal in helping to save the galaxy.
The artists behind this game had some pretty big hurdles to overcome. The Gorn captain featured in “Arena” was a slow but strong beast, easily defeated by running laps around the thing until it died of frustration. Obviously, that wouldn’t have made for very exciting gameplay. To assist in making the Gorn a bit more friendly to the video game genre, the artists and writers had to develop and invent new looks and behaviors. Female Gorn, something never seen before, were designed via researching various female lizard species of Earth. For the purposes of the video game, Gorn come in various classes…some are slow and strong while others rely on stealth and cunning. They are much meaner looking and at first, I resisted their change in appearance mainly out of nostalgia. After a while I came to appreciate how much detail and work went into developing a foe worthy of an action-arcade “Star Trek” game.
The look and feel of the game as a whole was very satisfying and I particularly enjoyed the parts where I could play as the Enterprise. The sounds and lighting effects from phaser fire and explosions felt really, really good. The visuals were stunning, through and through, even when I wasn’t in combat. While the “Star Trek” reboot modernized / spiced up the starship entirely, I still felt an adrenaline rush when Kirk stepped onto the bridge and sat in the captain’s chair. Kirk and Spock have regular banter moments typical of their personality, which is something I appreciated. I personally wanted to see more of the other characters like Scotty and McCoy, even though they do make minor appearances on occasion. Christopher Pine, Zachary Quinto, and the rest of the major cast from the 2009 movie did an excellent job with the voice acting as none of it felt forced.
Playing as the Enterprise was a tad confusing at first with no tutorial to get you acclimated to the controls. It’s an on-rails shooter, but you’ll be allowed to call upon various abilities to negate certain attacks. You can pan the camera in a full three-hundred and sixty degree firing arc while firing phasers and photon torpedoes with the primary and secondary attack buttons. You’ll be able to focus fire on capital ships, which cuts to a satisfying scene where the Enterprise rips the target ship a new one. Eventually, you’ll have to learn how to time your shields and strengthen them at the right moment to fend off kamikaze attacks. Expect to die once or twice on your first run, even on the easier difficulty levels.
The cooperative element was well done, in my opinion. There were certain points in my playthru that required me to save my partner or support him from varying degrees of danger. There are times where you and your partner will be separated from in each other, forcing you to make use of your character’s abilities. What Kirk and Spock experience as individuals will differ slightly, so replaying a level the second time through with a different character will provide players with a unique look on varying situations. On occasion, you’ll have to work together to pry open doors and hack consoles and in this category, the AI is thankfully responsive and quick.
The game could stand to improve in some areas. I felt that the platforming was a bit clunky, causing instant deaths in some situations that I didn’t feel were warranted. For example, I found myself having to jump from pipe to pipe to avoid a fiery death below me. When I got to the end of the line, I attempted to grip the platform and pull myself up, only to find that the platform wasn’t an object I could grip. I had to pull myself up onto the pipe I was on and then proceed, something I didn’t know I could do. The objectives are nice, but often don’t tell you how to go about completing them. There are a few instances where you’ll be left scratching your head, trying to figure out where you need to go to get to your objective. I did find however that you can order your AI partner to guide the way, giving you a clue as to how to go about crossing difficult platforming parts of the game. Lastly, manual saves aren’t possible, meaning that you’ll have to wait until you get to a checkpoint before quitting the game without losing your progress.
In the grand scheme of things, “Star Trek: The Video Game” is a fantastic action-packed adventure that will take you well beyond the “Final Frontier.” The game certainly caters to “Star Trek” fans when it comes to the visuals and details, but there’s enough here to where non-Trekkers can enjoy themselves too. The characters stay true to the personalities we all know and love, which will please fans of the original series. The game focuses more on telling an engaging story and the bells & whistles as opposed to teaching moral lessons like the shows are want to do, though I expected as much. The price tag of $49.99 (PC) / $59.99 (Console) may put some off, especially since the five to six-hour adventure is scripted and doesn’t offer a lot of replayability. Had there been some extra modes like in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” that feature cooperative missions and last stand modes with leaderboard support, the game would have been easier to recommend at that price. Still, I enjoyed my experience fully and hope to see more “Star Trek” like this in the future.
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Star Trek: The Video Game” by visiting the following websites:
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You can view video play sessions here:
*Credit and thanks go to Paramount Pictures and Namco Bandai Games for allowing me to record these videos.