Star Trek PreviewPublisher:
PS3, Xbox 360, Windows PC
North America 23 April 2013, EU 26 April 2013.
Star Trek, Namco Bandai's new third person shooter, is clearly a game aimed squarely at existing fans rather than enticing in new blood. One of the intensely pitched activities within the demo shown was, while playing as Kirk, you can sit on the captain’s chair in the bridge of the Enterprise. Non-fans might find it a little difficult to get worked up about that. For them it’s a guy sitting in a chair and saying a line of dialogue about how much he likes it and thinks it’s great. Actual trekkers though? Well, you tell us.
That said, with Star Trek being such a cultural juggernaut, even the most casual fans will probably get a bit of a kick out of walking the halls of the ship, visiting floors like engineering and being able to chat with the crew from the new film featuring full dialogue from their live-action counterparts.
You’re not limited to playing as Kirk, as you’ll also have the option to play as the Zachary Quinto-modelled Spock. The game’s got a huge focus on co-op between these two characters, with the other role taken up either by a playing partner or AI. There’s supposedly a great level of asymmetry between the two character’s playstyles with Kirk as a more brash instigator and Spock more interested in retaining surprise – Vulcan nerve pinch in tow – but that wasn’t overly apparent during any of the playable demo.
That co-op nature will come into play in a few key moments, though, like a short scene where Kirk’s leg is badly damaged and Spock will have to carry him to a medical bay where he can get it fixed. This leaves one player controlling the movement of the pair while the other does all the shooting. Once they reach a place where Kirk can be treated, whoever’s playing Spock needs to perform a mini-game while Kirk buys him time by holding off enemies.
Teased, but not shown, was a moment where at a point the two players will be pitted against each other in combat. It’ll likely come as necessary relief from having to play a game for several hours with a friend. Hopefully there are many sections like this that try to make co-op more than both inhabiting the same areas and shooting the same people.
Trek-heavy iconography and setpieces are what this game uses to differentiate itself from other games in the same vein, though of course here it's all based on the new universe of the JJ Abrams film rather than the arguably more evocative classic worlds of the original Star Trek or Next Generation.
On a base level it's about as compelling as any other third-person action game, but so far doesn’t appear to reach the same highs. There’s clear inspiration from a number of other sources like Uncharted
, Gears, and about as much taken from Mass Effect
as Mass Effect had taken from Star Trek to begin with. It didn’t seem to excel enough in any areas but then didn’t fall short in any either. The characters look lifelike enough to not be upsetting, the textures are a little bland but not ugly, animations serve their purpose and the dialogue carries the story forward and conveys who the characters are without being world-class – in fact, at times it can be downright cringe worthy.
One such example is brief moment where the playable pair talk about a female character like a sexualised object while she’s standing right in front of them. Maybe that’s expected as characterisation and fits who Kirk is, but it doesn’t do a lot to suggest that this game will be more than juvenile in relation to gender roles.
Suspiciously, the playable demos were short on any of the game’s shooting, presumably to provide a look at the mechanics that differ from that typical component, but ultimately this made it seem like something was being hidden. It’s been boasted that the game will feature over 20 unique weapons, each of which having an alternate fire mode. So we can expect heavy weapons that are part shotgun, part grenade launcher, or in true Star Trek fashion, a phaser with the choice between stun and kill. It wasn’t clear if this would provide a way to play the game with an entirely non-lethal focus in the vane of Dishonored
, though. That remains to be seen.
The game's developer, Digital Extremes, is known to get the job done, though not necessarily push boundaries. For instance, Bioshock 2
isn’t nearly as good as the first - but that’s okay because it had a high bar to match – meanwhile the The Darkness 2 is a fine game but couldn’t justify prestigious awards.
If you’re to compare Star Trek with the studio's previous work, though, the most apt source would be Dark Sector. That game is the epitome of an inoffensive third person shooter that does little to differentiate itself from the rest of the genre but still manages to provide something interesting for the run-time. Star Trek seems to follow the same track. It will come out, provide you with a fluffy cotton candy meal and leave you satisfied immediately while you wait for a substantial feast.