Namco Bandai have just released STAR TREK The Video Game, and it’s time for our review.
Ever since the 2009 J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek, lots of people have wondered when a new Star Trek game would be released. Over the years there have been quite a few, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Namco Bandai announced they were releasing a game based on the reboot.
Unlike other movie tie-ins, this game is an original story set after the events of Star Trek and before the events of the new movie Into Darkness.
The story is written by BAFTA award winner and God of War writer Marianne Krawczyk in collaboration with Bob Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, who are the writers and producers of the new films.
The story sees Kirk and Spock, along with the rest of the crew of the Enterprise responding to a distress call from a research station surrounding a planet we later find out is called New Vulcan. In order to preserve their race following the devastation in the first movie, the Vulcans have created an object called the Helios which is supposed to save them generations of time and effort to create New Vulcan. Only, surprise, surprise, something went wrong, and a race known as the Gorn have invaded and stolen the device. It’s up to the Enterprise crew to stop the Gorn invasion and retrieve the Helios device.
If you are a Star Trek fan then you will remember the Gorn as being a race that Captain Kirk met back in the original series episode Arena, where he was stranded on a planet. There is a rather iconic scene in the episode around the rocks, and it was even recreated in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey! That was the one and only time the Gorn ever appeared so considering the huge number of potential bad guys they could have chosen it was surprising they were the ones!
The game is designed to be played as a co-op game, with one player taking on the role of Kirk and the other Spock. You can choose to play co-op locally with a friend, or have a complete stranger play with you via the Internet, which can make things interesting. If you don’t want to play with anyone you can play on your own with the other character as an AI.
Unfortunately this is one of the biggest let downs in the game. If you play on your own the AI isn’t very good, well actually the AI at times is a real pain! There are elements in the game, such as jammed doors that need to you to “Press X to pry open” and have the other player do the same. Sometimes you have to stand around and wait for the AI player to actually turn up. Other times he will just stand there in the middle of a gun battle and do nothing, and worse still, he will sometimes stand in the way and just block you completely. On more than one occasion he just started running in place and I had to quit out of the level
During the game there are a lot of mini puzzle games that involving hacking a door or a computer. You don’t really get told what to do, not that it’s that difficult, but you just use your controls to match something on the screen. For the most part these hacking tasks are a little pointless as they are not difficult and just become rather annoying. But don’t worry, instead of doing the tasks yourself you can just have completely bypass them by having your AI partner do them, which frankly kind of defeats the purpose of having them in there.
The game does like to hold you hand rather too much as well – you will come to an obstacle, and Kirk will say something about it, then Spock will tell you the same and then a message will appear on the screen telling you the same. This seemed a little overkill to me.
One of the selling points for the game was that you could explore the Enterprise, and to a degree you can do just that, but don’t expect to be able to explore too much, it’s still very limited on what the developers let you explore, so I was rather disappointed with that.
Also, another selling point for the game was that you get to control the Enterprise. Well yes, you do, sort of. There is a level that is more like a mini game were you control the phasers, photon torpedoes and shields of the Enterprise whilst being attacked by Gorn ships. This isn’t as fun as it sounds because it’s really difficult to see what’s going on, and you don’t get any sort of feeling for how the battle is going. Blink and the Enterprise level is over!
I really wanted to love this game – I had seen a demo back at E3 last year, I even had the opportunity to get hands-on with the game a few months ago and I liked what I saw. Unfortunately when you play for an hour or two it’s quite fun, after that it just becomes repetitive and that fun quickly disappears.
There are far too many cut scenes that just happen in the middle of the action, and then you get dropped straight back in. It’s really frustrating when you are using a certain weapon and are in the middle of a gun battle, only to have a quick cut scene which then throws you back into the battle but puts you back with your phaser instead of whatever weapon you were using.
Unfortunately the biggest problem is that the game itself is still rather glitchy. As well as the problems I have already mentioned, there are also times when you can’t get into cover, or you can’t leave cover, the tricorder just won’t do what it’s supposed to, problems with the graphics in cut scenes and unfortunately a lot more than that.
The best thing about the game is that the developers got all the cast from the new movies in to do the voices, so at least that lends to the authenticity of the game. As you would expect Kirk and Spock get the most dialogue, but Scotty also has quite a bit to say.
The story itself is actually quite engaging in places, it’s just that it takes a lot of effort to get through it and I wouldn’t be surprised if people don’t complete it.
Graphics and visuals wise it’s a bit of a mixed bag – some parts are really well done, and others seem like an afterthought. Some of the facial animations in parts just don’t work and you find yourself thinking “that looks nothing like them” which is always a problem when you base it on recognisable characters or real people.
The music is really good – and you will find yourself humming it for days after you have played. Part of the music is the score from the film, and most of it has been specially written for the game.
For Star Treks there are some nice touches, including the shuttle being called Galileo, which was the name of the shuttle used in the episode Galileo Seven. There is also the usual banter between Kirk and Spock.
So the biggest question is should you buy this game? If you are a Star Trek fan I would say yes, if you can get it cheap as there are some enjoyable parts to the game, you do get to play as either Kirk or Spock, you do get to walk around the parts of the Enterprise you are allowed to, and who doesn’t like firing a phaser? If you are not a fan then I think in all honesty you should either rent it or just skip it all together as there probably isn’t anything there for you. And play it with a friend as playing on your own is far too frustrating an experience.
STAR TREK The Video Game is available now on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC and was reviewed on the Xbox 360.