Over the past week I’ve spent my gaming time with Captain Kirk and Commander Spock, as they battled the evil Gorn while trying to save the galaxy once again in Star Trek: The Video Game. This Namco produced title focuses on the J.J. Abrams helmed Star Trek movie franchise, and its story takes place in between the first film, and the soon to be released Star Trek: Into Darkness. It boasts a majority of the actors from the movies, a stellar score from Michael Giacchino, and an original story (considered canon) by Marianne Krawczyk. Unfortunately, like most licensed games based on movies, Star Trek: The Video Game suffers from technical issues and a low production value, which all the talent mentioned above couldn’t overcome.
On a positive note, even with all of its issues, Star Trek: The Video Game (ST:TVG) still manages to provide 10 hours of mediocre entertainment, and it never felt as bad as Aliens: Colonial Marines, even though it shared many of its failures. Fans of the Star Trek franchise will enjoy it more than casual gamers, but it’s far from perfect, which is a shame because it could have been a fantastic journey that boldly takes gamers where no man has ever gone before. Please continue on to read the full review of Star Trek: The Video Game.
Star Trek: The Video Game
6.5 out of 10 Buddhas
(Xbox 360 version reviewed)
- Movie cast lent their voices to all of the main characters
- Solid Star Trek story
- Stellar soundtrack
- Built for co-op play (to a fault)
The Not so Awesome
- Pathetic graphics for 2013
- Godzilla movie-like dialogue syncing issues
- Penalizes gamers going solo via horrendous Spock AI
- Overall unpolished package for all of the talent involved in its production
Buy or Pass: Star Trek fanboys will be able to look past the technical issues, but casual fans should stay away.
The narrative of Star Trek: The Video Game is hands down its biggest upside. Penned by BAFTA award winner Marianne Krawczyk, the plot features another harrowing tale of the Enterprise and its crew of memorable characters. Kirk once again manages to talk the logical minded Spock into another one of his wild adventures that a lesser ranked officer should handle. From there things don’t go as planned, and the two friends are faced with a new threat to the galaxy from the mysterious race of lizard-like humanoids called the Gorn.
At times the plot gets a little muddy due to the less than awesome looking cutscenes, and focus on action set pieces, but it definitely is one reason to play this game to completion. The fact that ST:TVG’s story is considered canon in the Abrams directed Star Trek reboot is another reason why Trekkies will be able to look past the glitches, and actually enjoy the mediocre gameplay. The game definitely felt like a super long movie, which will be appreciated by gamers who enjoy science fiction properties, and Star Trek fans alike.
Just like most video games based on a license or movie, Star Trek: The Video Game suffers in the gameplay department. It must be impossible to make a great movie game, because this one in particular had all sorts of things going for it. It features the cast of the movies, a big name composer and writer, and a license that has billions of fans. For some reason this strong formula couldn’t produce technically sound and fun gameplay.
The biggest issue with this title is the fact that the AI is completely brain dead. This applies to both sides of the coin. If you don’t play this game with another human partner, you will suffer for it. It’s like Namco expected everyone who bought this game to play it with another live human, so they let their interns do the coding on the hero AI.
When playing as Kirk, Spock will be controlled by AI forces, and vice versa. The problem with this is that the AI is completely unpredictable. At times Spock would be staring at a wall when he should have been healing Kirk, and unless a command gets sent to him, which can be done through a pull up menu, he will continue to be a space cadet no matter how much shit is hitting the fan around him.
What’s even worse is the realization that you have to restart checkpoints if Spock dies doing something foolish, and you happen to go down but not out. Most of the cheap deaths experienced in this game can be directly attributed to the crummy partner AI. This failure becomes a major hindrance to fluid gameplay, and it takes the focus off of the action taking place on screen, which is a real bummer.
The enemy AI isn’t much better. Even on the hardest difficulty setting, the Gorn will never manage to test your third person shooter skills. Most battles play out like other third person cover based games, in that your faced with pockets of enemy battles that need to be defeated before moving to the next checkpoint. Typically, the enemy AI will do everything in their programming to root you out of your cover so they can kill you. Not once did this happen in Star Trek: The Video Game. It became far too easy to just post up behind cover and take pot shots at the Gorn from one section to the next. In fact, most of the deaths you experience in this game will be attributed to glitches, and not enemy forces.
Co-op QTE gameplay and third person shoot outs (few flight based sections as well) make up a bulk of Star Trek: The Video Game, but it also features some platforming. This gameplay tactic could easily have been left out of the final product, because it’s not done well at all. This is due to the sketchy controls, which at times wouldn’t respond to controller inputs. There’s nothing worse than spending 5-10 minutes traversing a section of a level, only to have your character phantom jump to their death. The clunky platforming offers far too many opportunities for cheap deaths, and some of them are bad enough that many gamers may rip the disc out and smash it like the Hulk.
The sick thing is, this mediocre gameplay is compelling enough to warrant a full play through. It makes no sense because Star Trek: The Video Game is on par with Aliens: Colonial Marines when it comes to technical issues, but it’s still semi-fun to play. Fans of the Star Trek franchise may be able to look past some of the more egregious errors in the gameplay, but hardcore gamers will get fed up with the less than perfect gameplay mechanics.
Star Trek: The Video Game boasts some of the best looking visuals for a 2005 title. The level of graphical fidelity is appalling. The character models look like robotic versions of their Hollywood counterparts. Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew all looked like mannequins and not real people. They featured empty eyes that didn’t provide any hint of life being contained within their digital bodies. What’s even worse is the fact that their dialogue doesn’t even remotely come close to syncing with their lip movements. Each conversation felt like an old Godzilla movie with their iconic and hilarious english dubbing jobs.
The Gorn character models are even worse than the Starfleet ones. These lizard-like aliens sport fuzzy textures, and not an ounce of clarity. It seemed like the digital artists used a smudging technique to paint the Gorn, but it’s the same technique that pre-schoolers use during arts and crafts time to create incoherent works of art to hang on their parents’ fridge. Their skin looked like a mix of boogers and alien poo that created a horrible blurry texture effect.
The level environments aren’t much better, but they do feature a higher level of detail than the character models. The space based scenes looked the best, but each level featured unique backgrounds to provide variety to the gameplay. Just don’t expect to see graphics that you’ve been used to seeing in video games over the past 3-4 years.
Star Trek: The Video Game does offer the ability to play the game in 3D, but unfortunately the feature makes the junky visuals even worse. For a full review of this game’s 3D mode you can check out this post. In short, the effect isn’t worth it, and it’s best left off.
The sound design, especially the soundtrack, is definitely one of the high notes of Star Trek: The Video Game. The background music will remind you of how great the score is from the Abrams directed Star Trek movies. Michael Giacchino and a 100 piece orchestra beautifully crafted the theme music for this less than perfect video game. You could load the main menu and just listen to the music playing, which may be more fun than actually playing the buggy game.
The character voices are also perfectly done because the actual cast members from the movie recorded all of the dialogue. This brought familiarity to the game, and it’s one reason that keeps this title from being a complete waste of time.
Ambient sounds featured in Star Trek: The Game also offer similarities to the Star Trek movie franchise. Tricorders, phasers, and the bridge of the Enterprise all sound just like they do in the movies. All of these sounds are very nostalgic, and will instantly remind you of why Star Trek, like Star Wars, is probably one of the most recognizable science fiction properties in the last 100 years.
Star Trek: The Video Game offers a love-hate relationship that will leave you feeling perplexed due to all of the pros this game has going for it. It’s based on a highly successful property, features nearly the entire cast of the rebooted Star Trek movies, and boasts award winning talent in the music and story department. Unfortunately, like most games based on movies, the developers took way too many shortcuts when they built this game. Both the enemy and hero AI are ridiculously bad, and the visual package isn’t any better.
Even with all of its downfalls, this game somehow manages to be mildly entertaining. Trekkies and science fiction fans will get more out of it than gamers who don’t like space dramas, but it’s still not a mind blowing experience like it could’ve been. For its failures and lack of any sort of “Oh Wow” moments, Star Trek: The Video Game only earns 6.5 out of 10 Buddhas. If you eat, sleep, and crap Star Trek, then you should at least rent this game, otherwise, it’s a title you can definitely skip in 2013.
The reviewer paid for a copy of this game for review purposes on the Xbox 360 platform.
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