Star Trek: The Video Game Review
It's easy to see how Star Trek was a good idea on paper. Cooperative action games are very popular, so why not take sci-fi's most iconic buddy duo and put them in one? We can get all the awesome CGI assets from the very successful movie reboot and use them to make a big AAA action game, and then focus on the crew and people factor that made Star Trek so interesting in the first place. We'll release it before the big summer sequel coming up and make it kind of like an extended TV episode with an entirely new adventure.
It sounds good, but frankly, it just doesn't seem like developer Digital Extremes were able (or allowed) to put forth the time, money, or ingenuity to make anything but a Starfleet-themed cooperative shooter, complete with extreme use of cover-based gunfights, silly mini-games, or bad AI - all of which are generally considered hallmarks of a mediocre action game. I don't know whose fault it is - publisher Namco, Star Trek owners Viacom, or the developers themselves, but a lot of important work was done to update the original Kirk, Spock, Enterprise and more to make the reboot, but that same level of creativity and dedication didn't happen here. JJ Abrams' vision has been aped and simply applied to Cover Shootin' Buddy Mans 2K13.
Alright, that might not be entirely fair, because Star Trek's production values are generally pretty high and it's nice that they got what seems like a good chunk of the movie's voice cast to play along. Hell, even the combat is pretty decent, but here in 2013, as one console generation winds down and another is about to begin, we've seen this exact thing so many times, and often done far better than this. (I'm not suggesting we won't ever see another dull cover shooter come November, but I believe developers will largely at least try to go for a fresh take on this generation's action game tropes.) To keep asking fifty or sixty bucks for similar experiences with new skins, especially when Star Trek offers a mostly-linear romp with little replay value, is becoming a tougher sell every time.
Oh, the developers tried to tell us that the game would be good for at least one full replay, since you can choose to play as either Kirk or Spock the first time and switch out on the second. But so often, you're just shooting enemies in corridors behind cover, and a few experience point-based talent trees aren't going to be enough to make everything suddenly fresh and new. Kirk will charge forwards and get wrecked, Spock heals him with the Tricorder, rinse and repeat. The plot doesn't fare much better either, as the reimagined lizard-like Gorn creatures (yes, these guys with a fresh coat of paint) make for a pretty uninteresting enemy that really doesn't mesh well with the plot of the Vulcans trying to secure themselves a new high-tech homeworld.
The Tricorder was supposed to be a big deal, too, but it just forces completionist players to screw with the game's own pacing. You'll use the Tricorder device as your tech-based Swiss Army Knife: it scans corpses and items, it heals your buddy, and it hacks doors, turrets, and the like. It's got a cool visual effect whenever you hold down the key to turn it on; it's reminiscent of Metroid Prime or a couple of the recent James Bond games. But in the end, it's just another tool you'll be forced to pull out to complete a linear objective. And while the game tries to implement stealth, it's done in a way that seems to come from the pre-Thief era, so you get very little feedback on how stealthy you are and the AI can be tricked in the silliest of ways that will make you wonder why you spent any amount of money on this game.
On PC, Star Trek offers solid controls and pretty nice texture quality that goes well beyond what you get on the console versions, but the game and level design are still the same, so you'll see lengthy hallways with expositional dialogue to mask the console versions' loading times and small firefights with a few enemies at a time. The cooperative multiplayer system has spotty functionality at best, and what's silly is that the developers didn't make it drop-in/drop-out, so every time you allow a friend or pubbie to join or leave your game as your cooperative partner, the game restarts the chapter. (Yes, even if you lose connection, which is quite annoying.) Sure, the game gets your blood pumping once in a while with its mad scrambles to get to safety and big escapes - at this point, I think it's becoming a vital hallmark of Abrams' Star Trek vision - but even then, they somehow start to feel dull here in video game form.
As licensed games go, Star Trek could have been worse, but it still gets no leeway from me just because my standards are lower for licensed games. The fifty bucks the developers are asking for the PC version of the game could easily be spent on something more well-suited for the platform or for its players, and while I didn't find Star Trek terrible overall, the game doesn't excel in nearly any way either. Trekkies and detail-oriented people will likely scoff at the game's cut corners - including rather egregious voice actor re-use for multiple secondary characters - but the real problem is that the developers couldn't seem to figure out how to break free of the AAA-itis that has infected so many big-budget games. As someone who grew up with the original Star Trek series from my teenage years and hung on through ups and downs (including that fantastic 25th Anniversary adventure game a couple decades back), all I can say is that serious Star Trek fans deserve better than this.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy provided over Steam by the publisher.