Star Trek Review James Pungello April 25, 2013 Featured, PC, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360 1 Comment JJ Abrams’ take on the Star Trek franchise was a successful reboot that saw much of the spirit of the original integrated into a brand new interpretation of the source material. The important things that made the original Star Trek TV series and movies such hits were still apparent even though it was a new group of actors and a new story. While the second movie is about to be premiere in a few weeks, a video game that bridges the gap between the two films has been released. Is Star Trek a licensed flop or a genuinely good title? Story Star Trek takes place between the 2009 movie and the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness. The plot involves Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise crew trying to stop the Gorn (an evil race of lizard creatures) from taking over the galaxy with experimental Vulcan technology. The plot remains fairly straightforward throughout, and is not very difficult to follow. While it is nice that you can make sense of the plot, it doesn’t really make it stand out at all. There isn’t a lot of mystery to this story but then again there didn’t really have to be, so take that for what it is. While the story itself is the typical, “stop the bad guys” faire, the characterization and dialogue is a lot of fun. One of the best things about the 2009 Star Trek movie is that it stayed so true to the characters and universe that fans have adored since the 1960s. This game maintains that level of authenticity, and really understands the dynamics between the beloved characters. Obviously the Kirk and Spock relationship is on full display here (you play as one or the other) but the other supporting cast like Scotty, Bones, and Sulu all get decent moments as well. Overall, the game’s story moves along at a decent pace and lends itself to some cool set pieces that are definitely some of the more exciting moments in the game. Using the Gorn as the enemy is a cool little nod to the old TV show (a Gorn appeared in a single episode of the original series entitled “Arena”), but they are a fairly one dimensional threat. Other, more established Star Trek villains like the Klingons or the Romulans have a bit more history and are more intriguing than the Gorn. This doesn’t mean I would want to rehash the Klingons and Romulans as villains but it does make you appreciate the complexity that they do have. Gameplay The game can be tackled in co-op mode or single player, but either way you are controlling Kirk or Spock and working your way through a series of levels with tons of enemies, some hacking mini-games, and a bit of platforming thrown in for good measure. While the gameplay is never really unplayable, it isn’t an absolute standout for the game. The third-person shooter mechanic of the game is pretty decent, and Kirk or Spock will have a variety of weapons at their disposal; from the standard phaser, to sniper rifles, shotgun-esque weapons, and grenades. These weapons are pretty responsive and easy to use. Switching between weapons with either the Y button (Xbox 360 controller) or the d-pad is a standard, but effective way of managing the inventory. Every weapon has a secondary fire option, and in the case of the phaser this is the “stun” setting. This leads to a pretty cool gameplay mechanic of stunning and then taking down (non-lethally) targets that you don’t want to kill. The Gorn infect people and make them attack you so the non-lethal takedown is advisable in many situations. Beyond the third-person shooter aspect of the game, which takes up a good part of the gameplay, there are also tricorder functions such as hacking terminals and overriding security measures. Going into “tricorder mode” gives you a view of the world very similar to “detective mode” in the Batman: Arkham games. This view allows you to see the important things that can be manipulated in the environment and is a general guide for how to proceed in the game. Hacking terminals and overriding security measures means either playing a small mini-game or just tasking the other character (whoever you aren’t playing as) with doing the technical work. The mini-games can take a bit of time to get used to, but luckily there is an upgrade that just automatically does the work for you. Speaking of upgrades, as you gain experience points over the course of the game you can research and install upgrades to your standard weapons and to other abilities like hacking or combat. The upgrades can give you the edge you need, especially at the higher difficulty settings so remembering to check them out is important. While hacking into terminals, fighting (or sneaking around) Gorn, and the like are most of the core gameplay experience, there is some platforming that takes a page out of the playbook of games like Uncharted. Kirk and Spock will need to climb on certain surfaces, jump from one ledge to another, and do all kinds of little platforming tricks. The controls can be a bit wonky at times (difficult to control jumping is an example of this) so it can be hard to do some of the platforming but overall it is a decent, if not entirely necessary, addition to the gameplay. Overall, the gameplay is decent but not revolutionary. The third-person shooter mechanic is refined enough to be playable but not as phenomenal as a game like Gears of War: Judgment. There is a good variety to the gameplay that keeps it from stagnating but it just doesn’t stand out as more than a decent experience. Presentation This is where the game begins to go off the rails. While the voice acting is very good (and kudos to the team for getting all the actors, not just Kirk and Spock) and the facial modeling is solid, the rest of the presentation is at best passable but mostly abysmal. The graphics are consistently bland, the backgrounds are pixellated, the facial animation is awful, the lip synching is off, and the game just doesn’t have the level of polish that most current gen games have today. It is hard to get into a cut scene when all you can think of is “how much more pixellated can the background be?” The problem permeates all portions of the game, and while it doesn’t make it unplayable or entirely unenjoyable, it definitely hinders the experience significantly. To be fair, many of the environments in outer space or on the Enterprise are pretty decent but anything that is actual land (rocks, grass, water, etc) is so far from what it should look like that it is hard to overlook something like this. Frequent clipping errors (some of which can affect the actual gameplay very significantly) don’t help the cause, and can become tiresome. While the presentation is not all bad, it is mostly bad and is definitely the weak link in the overall experience. This is a licensed game, so unbelievable graphics weren’t expected but something better than this must be available. One of the most egregious problems is that the main villain (the Gorn commander) appears incredibly pixellated in many of the cut scenes. How is a character that is so important, so overlooked graphically? Some good facial modeling and voice acting can’t make up for the disappointment that is the presentation in Star Trek. Graphics aren’t everything in a game but they certainly are a part of the equation, and they were just about completely overlooked in this game. Final Thoughts Star Trek is not exactly the licensed game that fans were hoping for, but it is about what is to be expected, unfortunately. The creativity in the game is definitely there with some very cool levels, cool gadgets (like the portable transporter), and the like, but most of the game is persistently nagged with the presentation issues. Star Trek gets the authenticity right, does a decent job with the story and gameplay, and then falls on its face with the presentation. The game is still a fun romp through the universe and fans of Star Trek will find a lot to like about the game but it certainly is not worth buying new right now. If you aren’t a diehard trekkie (or trekker) I’d stay away from this game until it hits the bargain bin and just go see the movie.