VIDEO GAME REVIEW
Let me make this clear: I love Star Trek. The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, even Enterprise. And the J.J. Abrams reboot? Love it, love it, love it. I tell you this because I want you to understand that Namco Bandai’s Star Trek was reviewed in the best possible light—in the hands of a man with photos of himself sitting in Picard’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise-D, a man with the biggest goddamn crush on Chris Pine this side of the fella’s girlfriend.
I do not love Star Trek: The Video Game. I do not like Star Trek: The Video Game. I don’t even begrudgingly respect Star Trek: The Video Game.
Digital Extremes fails to take their Trek beyond exactly what it is: another half-assed attempt at a licensed game. On paper, I can see the allure—an interactive way to bridge the gap between the 2009 flick and its upcoming sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. Unfortunately, Digital Extremes shoved far too many genre styles that tenuously resonate with Star Trek into this—genres in which the developer clearly has no expertise. Or perhaps they simply weren’t given enough development time. My money’s on a bit of both, since I know Digital Extremes can put together a better product. Dark Sector may not have been a particularly noteworthy videogame, but it was still solid, and The Darkness II was a strong shooter.
But Star Trek? It’s a mess.
I could perhaps forgive this shameless attempt at capitalizing on a brand name if it added something to the overall fiction established in the reboot. Unfortunately, Star Trek doesn’t expand upon the new universe in any way, let alone an interesting way. It is, primarily, lazy fan service that delivers a classic TOS villain—the Gorn—to an audience that, really, couldn’t care less about them.
Is it nice to hear Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin reprise their roles? Certainly. Do they phone it in half the time? Very much so. And when you strip away the fiction, all that’s left is a generic third-person cover-based shooter with zero meaningful RPG elements—the one thing absolutely necessary to make a pseudo-authentic Star Trek experience. In theory, on-rails flying sequences, turret-style spaceship battles, platforming, and hacking minigames read like a robust adventure, but in execution, they fall flat and never rise above their most basic forms. At no point does anything in Star Trek feel even competently crafted. The game is about as functional as someone stuck in an iron lung—alive and breathing, but barely moving.
When Star Trek works, it’s playable. Not enjoyable, but playable. But then the plague of bugs and glitches crop up—objective markers fail to load, the targeting reticule stays onscreen during cinematic scenes like a stain, command prompts never leave or fail to appear (necessitating a checkpoint reload), and broken enemy AI shatters the immersion. Twice during my playthrough, the camera started shaking violently as though its handler had the DTs. These issues pile up until it’s impossible to take Star Trek seriously.
The only aspect of Kirk and Spock’s Big Shooting Adventure that feels remotely reminiscent of something thoughtfully Star Trek in style is the tricorder, which is used to hack computer terminals, doors, and other random tech. For the most part, this is performed solely to gain experience for largely useless upgrades. Occasionally, the tricorder is used in a more explorative way—like finding an alternate route when the main path is blocked off. But more than 75 percent of Star Trek is sloppy, third-person cover-based shooting that’s beyond repetitive.
All of this culminates in an ending that feels appropriately unceremonious—as though Digital Extremes knew exactly how gamers would feel after taking down the game’s tedious Big Bad. “Get us out of here, Sulu,” commands Kirk. Smash cut to credit roll—we’re done here.
Get us out of here indeed, Mr. Sulu.
Originally published on EGMnow April 29, 2013.