I hate Star Trek: The Video Game. I hate it so much. I just finished it and I’m still shaking at how revolting that ten hour experience was. I have no idea why this happened! No idea! Paramount was duplicitous in their role of providing high-quality Star Trek assets – namely, full access to the film’s art and an original story that takes place between the two films – but they also turned a blind eye while developer Digital Extremes sewed this purely offensive experience together. Paramount said they didn’t want this game to be merely ‘movie tie-in merchandise’ and they have failed. They have so fucking failed. I don’t care how much you want Kirk’s new adventures, stay the hell away from this game. I am not kidding.
Ripping Open Space-Time Once More…
The opening moments of Star Trek‘s campaign make absolutely no sense. After electing to play as either Kirk or Spock, you are inserted, without any context, into an arena where you’re decked out in a spacesuit and shooting lizard men. The scene fades and suddenly Kirk and Spock are running at each other in an arena, ready to fist fight. After that clunky attempt at an in medias res open, the scene fades again and Kirk and Spock are now on the Enterprise. You can tell they’re on the Enterprise because every single section of every single level has a title card that spells out exactly where the hell you are. Why? Perhaps because the levels are so repetitive and without merit that you need to be reminded, Descent-style, that you’re in a location of some importance.
Soon, you’re called in to assist a research facility close to one of New Vulcan’s twin stars. (Remember, Vulcan was blown up in the 2009 film? Yep.) The Helios device at its core is causing trouble and ripping open space-time, so a Vulcan scientist yanks it. You rescue his scientist daughter, T’marr, who comes under Kirk’s review, but not in the cheesy “Shatner sleeps with everything” way, but in a “Pine’s Kirk is going to make snarky comments every possible moment carbon dioxide can escape his head” way. As you make your way down to the New Vulcan colony, you discover that a covenant of lizard men called the Gorn (from TOS, breh) have slipped through that tear in space-time and are now causing all kinds of shit and it’s your job to sweep them off the galactic board.
It’s not long before you realize that it’s Paramount’s blessing that makes this game approachable. The whole cast returns to tell you to do this or that and Pine and Quinto are both team players as Kirk and Spock respectively. The story is a decent addition to this new Trek timeline, but unfortunately, it’s padded out by all that game.
…And Then Getting Yours Ripped Open
Oh God, this game. Digital Extremes doesn’t have a hit-or-miss track record, it’s pretty much all miss. I don’t know why I expected more – in fact, I called the game “janky” after seeing it at E3 last year – but when Paramount announced they had given the developer a full extra year to polish the game so it would release in the same time frame as the new film, a faint glimmer of hope filled my heart. The game is designed to be played cooperatively with an incredible mass of two-player actions sewn in to encourage the two of you to be in the same spot at the same time, including a large number of locked doors. You can play it solo with an AI, which has its own set of destructive issues that I’ll get into in a second, but I honestly can’t recommend you ever lay eyes on this game, much less have you and a friend purchase it. If Star Trek were merely a mediocre shooter with assets from the new films, it’d probably be a 7. In fact, that was my score for the first hour. But, something happened.
While you’re on New Vulcan early in the game, you fall off of a massive Gorn sailing barge-type vessel through a glass dome. As Kirk, bruised with a broken leg, a Gorn lands nearby. Kirk struggles to reach his phaser, but upon grabbing it, he and the Gorn freeze for a few seconds. Suddenly, the Gorn is thrown back by an invisible force, an entire action exchange that had gone AWOL. Spock lands and since the game is designed to be cooperative, I controlled Spock’s movements and Kirk’s phaser. In this mode – and it’s not the last time it’ll happen – you cannot back up. Your character literally cannot walk backwards, so you face the real danger of steering yourself into a corner and forcing a restart. T’marr pointed out the medical bay so Spock could fix my wrecked leg, but since I wasn’t playing as Spock, I didn’t have access to the tricorder to figure out where the hell that was. After wandering around the level for about ten minutes, I finally found it tucked away in a corner, but only after I had ascended and descended to the upper level – apparently, a forbidden zone in the game since the camera began to have seizures.
Within the span of a few minutes, the game opened up and all the cockroaches and rot that it had kept decently hidden until that point was revealed. Star Trek is a mess. When you’re not putting up with the game’s mediocrity, it’s a frustrating, buggy shitshow that threatens not to crash and make you tuck away the controller for the night, but to replay sections over and over as different components break.