Star Trek: The Video Game PS3 review – More borked than borg. Movie tie-in references great games but can’t compete
To boldly go… where quite a lot of other games have been actually. Dead Space 2, Uncharted, Mass Effect, Batman – the creative sources here are obvious, creating an experience full of very familiar ideas. This is a well constructed and surprisingly varied experience but if you played anything, basically, in your life ever, then a lot will seem commonplace. It’s a competent shooter (and co-op adds a +1 because friends always make gaming more fun) but it’s rarely an exciting one. Satisfying rather than thrilling. Filling time rather than making it fly by.
Star Trek: The Video Game PS3 review
The influences see you carrying batteries to open doors like in Dead Space; Mass Effect’s design pervades alien planets, climbing uses Uncharted’s clearly delineated, coloured ledges while the scanning and hacking – Christ the endless hacking – takes it’s cues from Batman’s detective mode.
Just to reiterate: you have to hack everything. There’s a range of mechanics as you match signals and shapes but just about anything with a wire needs a mini-game to operate it. That’s fine in single player as I eventually spent the whole game telling Captain AI Kirk to do it, but in co-op one of you has to sit there patiently going through the motions. Often motions you might have done thirty times already. Probably at least five that level.
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It’s an oddly paced game too. The opening hours focus mainly on going places and operating things to expand the plot. That involves Federation experiments opening a rift to a distant galaxy, letting in the Nazi space lizard Gorn and letting them steal something called the Helios device. Then it’s up to Team Enterprise to get it back before they can use it to conquer the known universe. As this is all set up you’re running around exploding space stations, dodging between barriers to avoid solar flares, going through the endless hacking, and stunning zombified Starfleet crew turned mad by Gorn venom. Yes, zombies.
Later sections, once you’ve closed in
on the Gorn, do however develop
into a pleasing enough cover shooter.
The variety keeps things moving but never excels. There’s a fleeting, albeit incoherent, moment flying the Enterprise (I’m not sure anything I did made any difference) or sections hurtling through space using a jetpack (marred by trial and error direction choices) and quite a nice idea where you use laser designators to transport each other between platforms (spoiled by some unclear signposting). Nothing’s ruined outright but you simply never come away at any point thinking ‘wow!’. ‘That happened’, maybe, but rarely ‘wow’.
The later sections, once you’ve closed in on the Gorn, do however develop into a pleasing enough cover shooter. Past around the four or five hour mark Star Trek moves away from trying to win you over with set pieces and settles comfortably into its combat. There are plenty of enemy types and options to play with. The use of zombified allies, for example, can add texture as you try to stun them with non-lethal kills while trading more permanent death with angry lizards. The upgrade system is slim but lets you hack turrets, booby trap grenades or take over drones. You can also throw a few buffs at your partner, upping damage, say.
These later sections are a highlight although one area that downright fails throughout is the stealth. It’s that kind of unclear, hard to predict sneaking that only really works if you have a single enemy to deal with and he’s staring really hard at a wall. Often a level is presented as stealth only for it to descend into carnage at the first attempt because the sight line or patrol rules are never made clear. The tricorder shows an enemies awareness but that’s about it.
Another fail is the voice acting. Sure, they got the stars in, but presumably for all of about three hours. On a bad day. You can almost hear Zachary Quinto’s listless boredom seeping out of the TV as he reads the script, once, with a Starbucks coffee cooling in his hand and one eye on the parking meter. Stay too long in any area or, God forbid press the talk button twice, and you’ll discover each cast member only seemed to record a handful of lines.
It’s touches like this that take away from what’s otherwise, at best, okay. There’s an indifferent level of achievement here, as if the developers tried to avoid the pitfalls of ‘the movie tie in’ but forgot to have fun doing it. Often ideas and sections feel like they’ve simply been used to keep you busy rather than anyone really believing in them. Elsewhere the animation is careless with jarring transitions and, bizarrely, almost everyone’s carefully scanned head rammed atop a default body so that every character is an identical build and height.
You can almost hear Zachary Quinto’s
listless boredom seeping out of the
TV as he reads the script, once
What Star Trek does well is to achieve a serviceable level of entertainment. However it never stands out thanks to derivative design and occasional shoddy corners. If this was a cheaper, downloadable title I’d score it more favorably but this is competing in price and scale with bigger and more impressive games with a well practiced bag of last year’s tricks.