Star Trek is a clever cash-in with a lot of shooting, some weird puzzles and weirder platforming
Cashing in on a popular movie franchise is an all-too-common practice today. All kinds of merchandise ranging from comic books and video games to cereal, cold beverages, perfume, laptops and underwear flood marketplaces just in time for the next big summer blockbuster. It makes financial sense. After all, cross promotions and product placements often contribute huge chunks to a movie’s production budget. If a backlit Oracle logo needs to appear in a Dutch-angle shot of Tony Stark making clever remarks to a news technician, so be it — it’s probably paying for an elaborate visual effects-intensive action sequence later in the movie. Then there are the cash-ins — aforementioned merchandise included, but video games in particular. In certain cases, this is shameless, while in some, it is handled very tastefully (the recent Transformers and Arkham games fall under this category). And in others, such as Star Trek: The Game, it feels logical.
It’s strange that J.J. Abrams’ first Trek movie wasn’t accompanied by a game, but it would seem that publishers Namco Bandai and developers Digital Extremes weren’t going to hold back the second time around. Star Trek is a completely licensed game that is just waiting to flaunt exactly that: the licensing. The faces of Star Trek: The Game, are the faces of Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. Kirk and Spock are voiced by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively, while the rest of the supporting cast also features the likenesses and voices of those who portray them on screen. Who better to put words in their mouths than the writers of the movie, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci? Or add music to their lives than Michael Giacchino? As a result, Star Trek: The Game, in presentation terms, is capable of hitting some high points — mostly thanks to the talent pulling a double shift.
Ignore the tie-in for a second, and you’ve got a formulaic third-person action adventure that features a lot of shooting, some weird puzzles and weirder platforming. The disparity between the writing / voice acting and actual gameplay is very apparent throughout. Quinto’s performance as Spock, is virtually inseparable from the movies (from a voice-acting perspective) while his on-screen game avatar, while looking the part, makes awkward movements, gets shot a lot and often falls clumsily to his death. There’s a fair bit of emphasis on co-operative play, and admittedly, when you’re actually able to connect to a game, this is good fun (don’t forget the inevitable “I want to play as Spock” metagame). Co-op objectives require players to work in tandem and mash buttons, as well as match signals together (make of this what you will). Reviving Kirk is a full-time occupation of Spock, it would seem, and this has been generously included as a game mechanic. Also, for the first time in an action game, you’ll be able to Vulcan nerve-pinch someone, so nerd points for that alone.
It’s just a shame that there’s so little polish in everything that’s not directly connected to the movie franchise — the visuals can look dated, the gameplay feels loose and unresponsive, the Gorn (the game’s enemies) are poorly designed and lack any kind of AI, while the story does suffer from some pacing issues. However, if you’re a Star Trek nut and you’ve got a friend who is a Star Trek nut, then you’ll probably find the game’s co-operative elements endearing, if nothing else, and are bound to get some kind of mileage out of them. Star Trek is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and digitally on PC.