(Please Excuse the mess, we are recovering from a nasty site hack and have put the site in a very basic state while we repair and update so we can keep the interviews, reviews, and more coming while we fix things up).
Director JJ Abrams him breathes life into a stagnating Star Trek franchise with his daring reimagining of the franchise as currently gearing up to release the much anticipated “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, later this summer. With franchise awareness and popularity at a level not seen in over a decade, Digital Extremes has released Star Trek: The Video Game to the delight of Trek fans everywhere. Not only is the game the first one said JJ Abrams universe, but it is also the first game to allow players to play as either Kirk or Spock in both solo or co-op play. The game features Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock and also features other voices from the film. During our preview for the game at the 2012 E3 convention in Los Angeles, it was revealed to me that the filmmakers were consulted during the development of the game as it was designed to be a bridge between the first and the second of the JJ Abrams films.
Answering a distress signal, the Enterprise crew finds himself set the center of a crisis with galactic repercussions. An evil reptilian race known as the Gorn have stolen the device of immense power and also have unleashed attacks on a Federation station as well as the new Vulcan colony. Not only is the attacking race deadly but they also are employing a technology that allows them to infect and control Federation citizens and officers which doubles the threat posed to the Federation. When the Gorn escape with an extremely powerful device and Vulcan scientists in tow, Kirk and Spock are tasked with saving the day.
The gameplay is similar to that of the Mass Effect series in that it is done from a third person perspective. Players have the ability to use a Tricorder to scan enemies and objects, pathways, and electronic devices such as doors and security systems which often have to be hacked or manipulated to allow gameplay to progress. Players are allowed to primary weapons into grenade types and have to recharge at various centers throughout the game or swap a spent weapon for weapons they find laying about. This is at a nice new wrinkle to the game is not only are Federation and Gorn weapons available players, but having things ranging from sniper rifles to arc guns makes a nice mix from the standard Phaser weapons. There are also various grenades it can be used by the players.
One of the more frustrating aspects of a game for me for the numerous puzzle sequences where systems had to be hacked or otherwise manipulated. While some could be done by ordering Spock or Kirk depending on which player you were controlling to handle it themselves, some had to be done in conjunction with another player. While this was a nice touch to the game, during the final parts they were too frequent and for me undercut the drama and the urgency of the story.
There were also numerous jumping puzzles where players had to hang from ledges and you carefully timed jumps from one obstacle to another. This became frustrating on the PC version as the control system often was very temperamental and allowed access only at certain points of the map. During one co-op session, both live-action players were unable to complete a puzzle, and it required one of us dropping out of the game so that they could rejoin once the remaining player completed the obstacle course.
I appreciate the deviation from standard run and gun and how the developers were attempting to incorporate a true sense of co-op play by requiring the other player to be little more than backup firepower. However, it does get a bit frustrating when somebody is unable to complete a jump and you are forced to repeat a segment over and over until it is done correctly thanks to the games checkpoint save system.
I really enjoyed the detail levels of the game especially being able to explore the Enterprise and other environments in great detail. One segment required us to use limited range portable transporters to tag and transport one another to various spots on a damage space station. This this was lots of fun and in my opinion really captured the essence of Star Trek as did the brash and bold gameplay style of Kirk compared to the methodical and efficient gameplay style of Spock.
While there were some frustrating moments the game was very enjoyable and with over 10 hours of gameplay did offer a very rewarding experience for Star Trek fans. I do think that gamers who are more casual fans of the series may not be as forgiving with some of the issues I noted in the game but as franchise games go this was a very enjoyable effort.
Graphically the facial animation and lip-synch of the characters was a bit off and dated but elements of the ship and locales were extremely detailed and very enjoyable to look at and interact with. There are some fantastic lines in the game especially some of the clips by Scotty and Dr. McCoy which really showed the effort the game designers talk to capture the essence of the game and its characters and to do their best to put players inside a true Star Trek adventure.
While it is not a perfect game and does have some flaws from the technical and gameplay side of things, it is one of the better Star Trek games ever released and does offer a very enjoyable experience for Star Trek fans as long as they are willing to temper their expectations going in.
3.5 stars out of 5