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Space is the Final Frontier, according to Star Trek. Is this more like the final straw for licensed games?

Posted by Staff on May 14, 2013 13:50 (May 14, 2013 13:50)

Written by: Ian
Boldly going nowhere?
Space is the Final Frontier, according to "Star Trek". Is this more like the final straw for licensed games? Paramount went to great lengths to tell me at a preview showing that Digital Extremes had all the access, time and money they needed to make a great game, and whilst I left somewhat unconvinced, there was certainly some potential for a decent game.
As you’ll probably have seen by now, either from adverts, our previews, or otherwise, this game is licensed, but not a film tie-in. It has all the characters from the re-boot, but doesn’t follow either the 2009 or 2013 Trek films.
Instead you get a bridging story which brings back the Gorn enemy, last seen battling Kirk in a rubber suit in the Original Series. They’re here to steal some Vulcan technology that was going to be used to help out the poor pointy-eared guys populate their new home, the generically named New Vulcan.
Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise are called into investigate a distress call from a space station in the area, and soon get dragged into the whole affair. Whilst the re-imagined Gorn could have been a cool enemy, the fact that they seem incapable of communication rather drags things down as there is no real discernible evil power or bad guy present for any portion of the game- just waves of grunts. Other than the very basic premise of the game, there’s also no ties or references to either film, which I’m sure many fans will find to be pretty disappointing as well.
However, whilst the story is more of a mild disappointment, the way the game turns out playing is a much more major disappointment. Digital Extremes had over three years to makes this game, and seemingly endless help, access and cash from Paramount to pull it off. And yet, you get a 10 chapter game that lasts 8-10 hours where almost a third of the game is unplayable garbage. The turret and rocket sections are never tutorialised, feature inversed controls and are incredibly frustrating sequences which rely on memory reflex and repeated failure in order to master.
Star Trek screenshot #1
These sections almost make the incredibly generic 3rd-person action sequences something to look forwards to. There are some levels that focus on exploration or puzzle solving, which is perhaps befitting of the series as a whole, but these too are marred by fuzzy controls, poor animation, generic mini-games and hacking and none of the sense of wonder, scale or danger that Uncharted or Tomb Raider offer the player. Shooting is equally average, with a host of weapons that all feel very samey, pointless secondary modes, an upgrade path that makes very little gameplay sense or difference, and hilariously awful cover. The Gorn are so large that there’s always some appendage poking out to shoot, which renders cover almost irrelevant to anyone other than the most incapable. It’s like Digital Extremes picked every shooter cliché possible from this generation, deliberately set out to make it worse, then bundled it into the game in the hope that by having the most numerous amount of mechanics, somehow all would be forgiven.
Even if that were the case, the sheer number of bugs are totally unforgivable. Most of the time when exiting a cut-scene you lose control of your character for a few seconds, or they are only capable of walking one direction (which also normally happens to be not the right direction), woeful co-op AI that does nothing to help you or even just sits running on the spot or into walls, and broken objectives that force you to restart whole checkpoints or even levels.
Star Trek screenshot #2
Some levels are neatly designed and have a decent mixture of the gameplay types; when bug-free they can even be a bit of fun. However, they’re too few and far between. Many levels are poorly designed and even using the Tri-corder (think Detective mode from Arkham Asylum, yet another ‘borrowed’ mechanic) pathfinding and navigation can be difficult; when combined with an over-abundance of shooting you’re just left with a broken mess.
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