When you think about it, the rebooted Star Trek was really just a buddy cop film. Except in space, with aliens… time travel and black holes. OK, so there are differences, but the key cornerstones of the buddy cop genre exist.
Two conflicting personalities who are forced to work together in order to overcome a foe who they would not have defeated on their own. Kirk and Spock are two such diametrically opposed personalities, so it makes perfect sense for Star Trek: The Video Game to really focus on these two characters in a title built from the ground up around this core third person co-op play.
Paramount and Digital Extremes certainly talk a good talk with this game. It’s been in development for around three years, which is far longer than most movie licensed games get, and this has allowed them to delve into the nitty gritty of the game and try to deliver a title that steps well above your usual film-based schlock.
Of course, all of the ingredients are there to tie this to the films. They’ve licensed all the faces and voices of the cast of the film, so all of the little interplay between characters will be spot on, and composer Michael Giacchino is along for the ride with a few hour’s worth of original music, and so on.
Beyond that, they’re spreading their wings with an original story from Marianne Krawczyk, who is known best for her writing on the God of War series, which takes you on an adventure across a whole host of new places and environments. They have also worked closely with the production teams behind the look of the films, to ensure that the new content they’re adding to this universe is set to fit in well, and allow them to expand in an authentic fashion.
However, it would all be a little irrelevant if all these elements weren’t blended together as well as they could be when you actually sit down to play the game. Luckily, I was able to hop onto a co-op booth with my very own buddy cop, and pick up the controls for Spock at the start of the game.
It all starts off fairly routine for a Trek story, as the Enterprise answers a distress call from a Vulcan research space station. Naturally, Kirk is rather insistent about heading over to the space station himself, wittily putting down Spock’s objections that he should stay aboard his own ship. Exactly the kind of writing we want to see from this script, and perfectly befitting of their relationship in the re-imagined films.[drop2]
Over on the space station, you start to get a feel for what they mean with the co-op focus. Many a door is broken, requiring both players to pry them open, and there are large scale moments which will send you off in separate directions to interact with the world in different ways, whilst working together to solve puzzles. There are quite a few clever twists on the idea, too, like having Spock carry an injured Kirk, whilst Kirk has to shoot enemies, which should do well to mix up the gameplay.
Even when the game isn’t deliberately pushing you to complete two-man puzzles, the co-op still plays out as you progress. With the space station in tatters, and explosions often blocking your path, you’ll both be breaking out your tricorders to hunt for a new route around.
The tricorder actually plays a big part in this game. You’ll be using it on a very regular basis, and thankfully it’s simply attached to L2 on the PS3, with it giving you a snazzily mapped overlay of your immediate area. It’s a logical addition, which lets you spot that Jeffries Tube you need to head through, but also highlights interactive items which you can trigger.
At one point a robotic arm was spewing lasers in a route I needed to take, whilst separated from my buddy. He spotted what needed to happen quicker than I did and disabled it from afar. Turn on sprinklers to save a crew member trapped by fire, activate some little mini games for various reasons. It’ll quickly become second nature to turn to the tricorder when you’re seeming stuck, or want to help your partner out.
When it comes to gun play, there should be plenty of variety to the cover shooting mechanics, coming from two angles. Each and every weapon has two modes of fire, such as kill & stun on the basic phaser or a shotgun & grenade launcher combo which you might pick up from one of the larger enemies. You’ll get your hands on not just human guns, in a little fact which apparently pleased Chris Pine during development, but also Vulcan and Gorn.
That’s right, the Gorn are the antagonistic species in this game. So, you might be thinking to yourselves that the Gorn only appeared in a single episode of Star Trek, and that it was just some burly bloke with a big lizard costume on. Not to worry, as the teams behind the game and the films have come together to thoroughly re-imagine the Gorn as a formidable new species and foe.
As you progress from the initial rescue mission, it turns out that the Gorn pose quite a threat to the Vulcans in their new forms, as the try to turn technology intended to make New Vulcan more inhabitable to far more destructive purposes. They’re still bipedal lizard forms, but far more lithe and nimble, as you’ll see when you encounter them in their variety of classes. From melee oriented Rushers and standard troops up to larger Enforcers and the Gorn Commander, the game’s main antagonist, each will have a different style of attack, different weaponry and so forth.
From the handful of brief moments of combat I got to experience, I never really felt too drawn to playing it as a cover shooter. This was on medium difficulty, but I could happily run and gun rather than shift from cover to cover. It will no doubt change as you encounter tougher enemies in larger numbers, but it was a nice change of pace to not have to endlessly hide from incoming fire.[drop]
Yes, as I was playing this build, there were a few signs that they might not quite hit the lofty AAA goals they’ve set themselves. Right from the off, the facial animations felt a bit wooden, even as the audio for the dialogue was pretty much spot on. Platforming could also feel a little awkward and clunky at times, with perhaps a shade of imprecision to button presses making jumps a little finicky to pull off. Hopefully that’s being tightened up for release, but it wouldn’t have been so bad with more lenience over respawning, as if either of us fell to our death, we’d have to reload the section.
In spite of these flaws, the co-op time I had was a good laugh. Well, if I’m honest, it’s partly because of these flaws. Jumping on the spot like a plonker is one of my favourite pastimes in co-op games, and the point where my buddy attempted a jump at practically the same time as I did, led to his Kirk stepping on my Spock’s head, on his way to the ledge we needed to get to. That craziness had us laughing so hard.
Oh, and that bit I mentioned above where we had to save the crew member by triggering the fire extinguisher? Yeah, we didn’t think to look up using the tricorder… and he died in a big explosion… twice. We had to play that section again. I guess our Kirk-Spock buddy cop duo were the rogue cops who get kicked off the force for being really bad at their jobs.
Marrying Star Trek’s leading duo to a co-op oriented game is such a logical move, I’m surprised nobody thought to do it until now. If you get the game, find a friend, and head off on a twist filled interstellar romp across the Star Trek universe, whiling away the time until you get to see the real Kirk and Spock face off against Benedict Cumberbatch and lens flare in the upcoming film.
– Star Trek: The Video Game is set for an April 23rd release in the US and 26th in Europe. There’s also a promotion which will nab you free tickets to the upcoming film, if you pre-order.