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Star Trek PS3 Review

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Star Trek: The Video Game

Star Trek: The Video Game

Image © Namco Bandai
It dawned on me while playing the truly awful "Star Trek" video game, released just a few weeks before the highly-anticipated 2013 Summer blockbuster, J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek Into Darkness," that there's another reason to hate licensed video games other than their standard shoddy levels of creativity -- they damage the overall product. I pictured my son playing "Star Trek" on the PS3 as one of his first experiences with the franchise as a whole and being forever poisoned against the brilliance of Gene Roddenberry's influential creation. I grew up watching "Star Trek: The Original Series" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation," admired parts of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: Voyager," and "Star Trek: Enterprise," and I consider J.J. Abrams' reboot of the franchise to be one of the best action blockbusters of the last decade. It's a fantastic film. Even with all of that in mind, the video game version of "Star Trek" makes me less excited for "Into Darkness." It's THAT bad. I can't imagine how I would feel without all the goodwill for most things Trek built up over the last three decades. Bad licensed properties can poison the well from which they came. "Star Trek" certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Namco Bandai
  • Developer: Digital Extremes
  • ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • Pros: A Rich Universe to Explore
  • Cons: That Gets Turned Into a Generic Shooter

To be fair, "Star Trek" clearly came from a more ambitious place than the average licensed game (like the horrendous "Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse," "Rise of the Guardians," "The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct" or "Aliens: Colonial Marines" -- the last two still the top two contenders for worst game of 2013 to date). More than a mere sci-fi shooter (which wouldn't have worked given that "Star Trek" was always a world of diplomacy over violence), "Star Trek: The Video Game" encourages teamwork through co-op play and puzzle solving. The problem is that the puzzles are so generic, dull, and horrendously designed that you'll want to shoot Spock with your phaser. And not on Stun. You take Kirk, your buddy takes Spock, or vice versa, and you work together to pry open doors, go up elevators, carry power cells, and some of the most numbingly dull gameplay you'll encounter all year. Who knew the final frontier was so boring?

Gameplay

Star Trek

Star Trek

Image © Namco Bandai

You'll spend most of the 10 or so hours of "Star Trek" fighting the Gorn, an alien race of enemies that look like dinosaurs with phasers. I can't express enough how awful the character and enemy design is here. It's virtually incomplete on a visual level in that shots don't really look like they connect (it's that old-fashioned gaming thing where there's a circle of light around an enemy that indicates a hit) and enemies have no AI of which to speak. They'll run the wrong way, shoot in the wrong direction, and generally look unbelievably stupid. In terms of enemy AI and design, you won't play a worse game this year.

It makes you dread enemy encounters. So what does that leave? Some puzzle solving that actually makes use of some nifty technology at times. The game picks up notably when it goes vertical as Kirk and Spock take turns teleporting each other to platforms to get from point A to point B. It hints at what the game could have been -- non-violent, creative gameplay. There are numerous times when you'll hack equipment or doors and these mini-games, while blunt and unrefined, are at least nice diversions from the hideous graphics and awful shooter mechanics.

Awful AI, dull storytelling, repetitive puzzle-solving, at least you can do it all with a friend. You BETTER do it all with a friend because the AI of Spock were you to play Kirk on your own will drive you crazy. There were literally times where I had to go get Spock like a dog who can't find the door. At other moments, I just flashes into the elevator in which I'm waiting for him or wherever he may be needed. And the clunkiness of interaction with the AI-controlled partner is unbelievable.

Clunky is the word overall for "Star Trek". Why does it take Kirk a full minute to put down a power cell while in mid-combat? Why are the cover mechanics just silly? Why did that enemy appear out of nowhere and another one disappear? There are enough of these kind of glitches in "Star Trek" to make one call it incomplete. I wish it was. Then we could be more forgiving.

Graphics & Sound

"Star Trek" is hideous. Sure, the likenesses of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are pretty cool. If they're not moving. The minute that they start moving, their faces twist and turn like the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The cut scenes are truly ugly but they didn't annoy me as much as the boring, lackluster environments -- generic ship backgrounds that look like a PS2 game. The voice work is flat, which matches the overall technical presentation of the game.

Overall

Star Trek

Star Trek

Image © Namco Bandai
A few neat puzzles, teleportation, and the overall thrill of boarding the bridge of the Enterprise, and that's IT. "Star Trek" isn't just a bad game, it's one that is worse because of the opportunity it wastes and the legacy from which it comes. The minute an image of "Star Trek" hit the net, I was psyched for what could be the tie-in game of the season. There's SO much a developer could do within this world. These developers did nothing but affirm the belief that licensed tie-ins are damaging to not just the world of gaming but pop culture as a whole.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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