I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness twice in less than a week. I loved the non-stop action, the Spock/Kirk bromance, and the overall sci-fi nerdiness of it all. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a Trekker (hardcore Star Trek fans consider “Trekkie” to be derogatory) by any means, getting most of my knowledge of the Star Trek universe second-hand through pop culture references. I know phasers can be set to stun, Scotty needs to beam you up, and you “punch it” when you go into warp. Other than that JJ Abrams’ flashy lens-flare-happy reboot of the series has been my only window into the final frontier. So without a lifetime of conditioning to love all things Star Trek, the thought of a tie-in game held very little draw for me. The movie cast providing the voice acting was the only possibility for me of the game having any chance at being good; however, sadly this was not enough to keep this ship from spiraling into a black hole of bad tie-in movie based games.
Early showings at E3 promised a co-op game featuring Kirk and Spock supporting each other while maintaining separate identities and skills relative to their personalities. When you choose your character it appears as if there are differences between the two, but really there isn’t. Sure, Spock can mind meld and nerve pinch and Kirk can use the a “Captain’s Gun”, but other than that their functions in the game are the same. Regardless of who you play as though it won’t change the fact that this game sucks. Good co-op games are hard to come across and this one sadly did not live up to its potential. This is a game that would have felt more appropriate on the last generation of consoles and is just not acceptable on current home consoles.
I played by myself as Kirk, letting the AI take over as Spock. I actually laughed out loud at how terrible the AI was. He would constantly be out of sight, sometimes choosing to linger in a room I had long vacated or running too far ahead of me to know where he went. He also had a tendency to walk into walls or stand in corners. Maybe it was just a Vulcan thing? Regardless, there wasn’t really much cooperation to the co-op part at all. Your partner is mostly only there to help open doors (as if you couldn’t manage on your own) or “hack” certain codes on locked doors. It was disappointing to say the least, given how well the Kirspock (do you like my new term?) bromance played out on screen.
The most frustrating thing about the game, making it almost unplayable, was the abundance of AI glitches as a whole. On several occasions the other character would get stuck or fail to meet you at points that are needed to advance in the game. The only solution was to restart at the last checkpoint and hope your AI partner keeps up the second time around. Having useless AI partners is one thing but having one that prevents you from playing is not only stupid, it’s extremely frustrating. This almost made me want to quit but I kept thinking it could get better.
Sadly, the game just remained a disappointment. It tried to be too many things and failed at all of them. The shooting was extremely clunky and inaccurate while the degree of difficulty varied from laughably easy to unexplainably hard. There was no technique to it, you could mostly set your phaser to whatever and the enemies would be dispatched after a couple shots to the body. No such thing as headshots in this universe. It was impossible to develop a strategy against enemies since they only detected you some of the time, meaning that most of the time you could walk into a swarm of them and fire your way out of it. On screen hints tell you that instead of charging into the fray you can sneak around enemies in stealth mode, but when the enemies are so easy to get rid of there’s no point in taking the long way around. The environments are poorly laid out offering very few places to strategically cover and shoot, and the crouch function was quite shoddy. I was unable to register the command while standing next to shelter for goodness sake. I also found some weird camera angles when trying to get into cover that made things difficult.
Another thing that I found misplaced about the shooting was the weapons themselves. Star Trek has never been about fancy futuristic weapons, so why are Vulcans handing over plasma pulse shotguns? Normally I would say variety of weapons can never be a bad thing but in this case it just didn’t belong. Starfleet is about diplomacy and exploration, not trigger-happy officers shooting everything that moves as if they were in an L.A. suburb. There were things that could have almost worked but just couldn’t come together. The storyline held some interest and stayed in line to the style of the JJ Abrams universe but the frustrating and glitchy gameplay just got in the way too much.
Visually, Star Trek: The Video Game was just nowhere near what is expected of current generation games. The environments lacked depth and texture and they pretty much did not allow for any interaction outside of the predetermined path. All of the gloss and polish from the movies was lost in this dull recreation. I have to admit, although I thoroughly enjoyed the action and storylines of the movie, the lead actors weren’t hard to look at either; however, as I played the game I avoided studying the characters faces for too long because it started to creep me out. Although Captain Kirk kind of resembled Chris Pine it was more like a Madam Toussade version left out too long in the sun. The mouths didn’t quite match up to the dialogue giving the whole thing a very animatronic-kung-fu-movie feel. The game just didn’t do justice to the mischievous sparkle in Kirk’s eyes or the way his smile can be arrogant but reassuring at the same time, or the healthy glow of his well conditioned hair… but I digress. Maybe the creators of the game got sucked through a rip in the space time continuum and thought they were making a game for the PS2 or original Xbox, because the graphics definitely belonged somewhere back in the early 2000’s.
The one thing I thought could be the game’s redeeming factor was the inclusion of every movie counterpart providing the voice acting. Personally, playing a tie-in game of a movie I am very familiar with that doesn’t have the original voices is too distracting. I keep expecting to hear the voices I know and am annoyed when they pronounce something differently or have the wrong inflection on expressions. In Star Trek The Video Game, the entire main cast is here and it added some nice authenticity. The one thing I wish there was more of in the movies was more banter between Kirk and Spock, so I was hoping to get some of that in the game. There are some nice little exchanges but for the most part it sticks to generic co-op banter and repeated phrases. There was a big opportunity to take advantage of having the original actors and develop their interactions more but it didn’t give much extra than just the lines that drove the story forward.
As for the sound effects, they were a huge let down, but after everything else went wrong with the game it wasn’t the worst thing. I love ‘outerspace’ sound effects, the hum and beeps of the Enterprise with doors whooshing as they open and the “sealed in” feel of being in an environment that’s airlocked. The game really didn’t have much of that. The phasers would pulse and beep and the doors sounded like space doors, but there wasn’t anything that built an environment of sound. Effects filled the space when something was happening but there was no atmosphere to it. In regards to the games the soundtrack, it was straight from the movie but very cut and dry as there wasn’t much tension or build up. It just felt like someone was pressing play on a track when there was action or a dramatic moment. Sound definitely wasn’t the worst part of the game but it just wasn’t spectacular.
I’m not really sure whom this game will appeal to. Even for huge fans of the movies or the original series there just isn’t enough here to get over the terrible game mechanics and poor AI. It could make a decent rental if you’re looking for a game to play with a friend who doesn’t game much and won’t understand how bad it is, but personally I’d rather spend the time and money just watching the movies or reading Kirspock fan-fiction. Star Trek: The Video Game is definitely not worth the price of admission; spend the money and take a friend to see Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D instead.