Movie tie-ins are widely considered a bane among gamers. But with interest in a movie being enough to swindle some less-informed individuals into buying one of these apparent cash-ins, they just seem to keep coming. However — occasionally — something rather surprising happens. A tie-in game is given to a development team with some sort of merit to their name, and is given the triple-A treatment with up-to-date graphics and gameplay tight as can be. While many doubted, I silently thought Star Trek would end up like one of these highly successful tie-ins. While developer Digital Extremes may not be as widely renowned as some, The Darkness II was proof that they could put together a entirely enjoyable shooter that even includes a decent narrative. With Star Trek, something must have gone horrible awry.
The game takes place between J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film, and its soon to release sequel “Into Darkness”. The story’s main hook is that the Gorn have made a sort of zombifying liquid that they are injecting into normally friendly creatures. Mainly humans. And on top of that, they have stolen a sort-of doomsday device from the Vulcans who were attempting to find a new planet to call home. Cleverly named “New Vulcan”. The story really doesn’t go anywhere interesting, and does nothing to push players through the game.
From PS2 era-textures to its clunky controls, Star Trek reeks of “stereotypical movie tie-in”. But after playing the game, it’s hard to believe that was the case. Shortcomings aside, the game appeared to have all the makings of a decent — if mediocre — game. With its surprisingly lengthy and thought-out missions, it’s hard to believe that Star Trek was simply meant to be a cash-in… At least not to the development team.
While my conspiracies of course don’t save this game from being the garbage-strewn piece of bronze that it is. It’s still worth noting that a good amount of effort was made, and that in all honesty, Star Trek could have turned out great — if it were given quite the hefty delay and the attention it so clearly required.
Some of the most obviously thrown-in — or at the very least unpolished segments are the ones that don’t have you controlling Kirk/Spock directly. If you aren’t on the ground as Kirk/Spock fighting, then be prepared to be more frustrated with the game than usual. Whether it be the laughably wonky turret segment or the short, abrupt falling/flying/gliding segments, prepare to be frustrated… Or at the very least confused.
Glitches further pick-away at this already crumbling game, with A.I. allies infinitely running into walls (example here) and enemies having the occasional ability to shoot you from across full levels, their laser bolts tirelessly penetrating several or more walls. The game simply isn’t finished. The player’s character model and control stick frequently become out of sync leaving a confused Captain Kirk or Spock running in circles until the player eases up on the control stick allowing the mindless character model to realign itself. Objective markers that are meant to engage cutscenes break regularly and the player’s friendly A.I. often refuses to follow commands by uttering a childlike “No!” to express their disobedience. My robotic partner did little but cause trouble for me and allow me to take part in the heavily-repeated two-person minigames.
One of the game’s only boons is its voice acting. Each actor from the J.J. Abrams film reprise their roles and lend their creepily recreated likenesses. While few moments of dialog are at all meaningful — or even worth listening to — the voice acting is at least tolerable. Interestingly enough, Kirk often comments on the game’s repetition stating things similar to; “Let me guess… we have to activate each of the three [Sci-fi object] individually?”. As Spock reluctantly replies: yes, I’m afraid so.
Though the contrary may seem true, writing a review like this is never fun. While my response to a complete cash-grab would be vastly different, there are signs that this game was meant to be something great. And that the developers worked to make it something great. But something didn’t pan out. Leaving Star Trek as an adventure best left un-trekked — a Stardate best forgotten.
Editor's Note: I personally played the game single-player. While the game was advertised as a co-op-centric game, the argument that my playing through it with a friend or stranger would make the game any better is baseless. A partner may have kept me from having to deal with my awful A.I. partner -- but it wouldn't have saved me from everything else.