We packed ourselves off to this years Gadget Show Live and whilst there wasn’t any phasers for sale, there was Namco Bandai with Star Trek: The Video Game. The co-op title is set between the two J.J Abrams films, with the crew modelled after the real life actor counterparts. Supposedly the voice acting also comes from the actors, but how true this is I’m not sure. Either way both the models and the voice acting are ridiculously phoned in. Whilst Kirk and Spock look somewhat well modelled, the face of others like Simon Pegg’s Scotty are so bad and with such dead eyes, they could probably make the Borg turn around without having to fire a single shot. It’s a clash of art direction. Whilst the locations and the enterprise can look quite nice, you’ve then got these tremendously ugly models plonked into them. Imagine a film where there is a stunning space battle going on, then we zoom into the ships cockpit only to see that the crew are made of Play Doh. Thats the sort of juxtaposition the game has with its graphics.
The gameplay I played was essentially Army of Two In Space, with the title being focused around co-op play between Kirk and Spock. In the demo on show, Kirk decides that he and Spock should go and help evacuate a Vulcan ship themselves instead of sending some red shirts to sort it out. When there the ship starts to fall apart, leading to them needing to platform jump, sneak under lasers, joint open doors and hack some electronics. Out of all of them the most unique feature is the hacking. It takes in the form of some sound waves that I think you’re meant to match up the pulses in the blank spaces. As you can probably work out, I literally had no idea what I was meant to do even though I was still in the tutorial, with tips on how to do the other parts still turning up. Luckily though we don’t have to use our noggins, as by using our phaser we can make Spock do all the work and hack it himself. That’s handy for not having to do really badly designed puzzles, but I’m sure the game will probably lead you into a false sense of security by taking Spock away at some point. Also if you fail the hacking you will lose health, so fail it about three times then you see Kirk drop to the floor as if Chris Pine had just been shot in the head. Have you ever played Garry’s Mod? If so, do you know what it looks like when you unpin a model from standing up and they just fall face first to the ground with nothing on their body animating? It’s basically that, all physics gone out the windows.
The phaser seems to basically be the crux of the gameplay. When a swinging lazer arm is attacking Spock you simply aim at it with the phaser and press the stop button. If you want Spock to go do something then you use the phaser to direct him and he’ll walk over and do it. Although doing that in scripted events isn’t exactly smart. After the swinging arm incident we had to go up a wall and through a door. Spock refused to follow suit because I accidentally used the phaser to tell him to go up there. When I got up myself and tried opening the door Spock magically popped up and opened the door with me. Then I looked back and he was actually still on the level below, standing there doing nothing. This meant that I couldn’t activate the cutscene to carry on and had to spend a few minutes issuing commands so he’d get his arse up there. You can play with human players rather than AI which might sort out some balance issues, but at the moment Spock is basically a dogsbody who does everything you tell him to. Also if playing with a friend it means at least one of you would have to do the puzzles, which isn’t very recommended.
It all comes down to the game just not being exciting. It tries to do big cornerstone events, but they fall flat. At one point I was having to run down a big area, taking my chances before the sun burnt my suit off. It should’ve been like “OH NO I’M GOING TO BURN ALL MY FLESH OFF” but the sun didn’t even hurt, it just made me glow orange and then I crouched behind cover and felt better. Any challenge in puzzles is immediately negated when I can just make Spock do it and it just feels wrong. Whilst I was playing the game I saw people come over, play a bit and near immediately leave. This isn’t because there was loads of other games to see, it was because the game just isn’t fun and it was very obvious from peoples faces that I wasn’t alone in thinking this. I’m not a trekkie, so maybe if you were then you’d get something bigger from this. But its not classic Trek, it’s J.J’s Trek, meaning yes – there are lens flares. It was either these lens flares that gave me the migraine that’s stopped me from making this a video preview, due to not being able to look at screens for that long, or it’s because of Nintendo’s Deus Ex Wii U unit having the headphones set to 287% volume. Or maybe it was just CG Simon Pegg’s deformed face. I’m going to go with that one personally and return to a dark room.
Star Trek comes out for the PC, PS3 and 360 on April 26th.