E3 2012: Hands-Off Preview: Star Trek
Star Trek is an intellectual property that has not fared well in its latest console incarnations. The most recent of which was Star Trek Legacy, developed by Mad Doc Software and published by Bethesda. The title was a resounding ‘meh’ among gamers and even some of the more hardcore Star Trek fans. The Star Trek franchise has endured some significant peaks and valleys in recent years, with the failures of both the television series, Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) and Next Generation feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). After a period of dormancy, the franchise experienced resurgence in both relevance and popularity with the release of the J.J. Abrams-directed film, Star Trek (2009).
This newest game – also simply titled Star Trek – looks to expand on the popularity of the 2009 film. Marianne Krawczyk (God of War) along with the film’s writers, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, will be delivering a script that takes place after the first film and prior to the sequel due out next year. It was also confirmed that the entire cast from the film will be reprising their roles in the video game as voice-actors.
The game is a huge exercise in cooperative play from the perspective of a third-person shooter, with gamers assuming the roles of Kirk and Spock in order lay down their own version of cowboy diplomacy. That being said, there were two screens for the presentation: one depicting Spock, and the other depicting Kirk.
The demonstration – presented in 3D – opened up with Kirk and his crew on the bridge of the Enterprise responding to a distress call emanating from New Vulcan (the original Vulcan was destroyed in the film). The graphics in the gameplay and cutscenes was pretty decent, and sometimes even surpassed the film – I am looking at you, obnoxious lens flares. The 3D presentation added some depth to the field of battle, but there was not much in the cutscenes/sequences that we saw that appeared to use the technology to its full potential. Kirk and Spock were obviously at the forefront of the demo, with a brief appearance made by Scotty.
Most of the voice-acting did not hit the mark, except for Zachary Quinto’s performance as Spock. His interpretation of the character’s stoicism and cynical attitude was nailed for the most part, while Chris Pine as Kirk seemed generally uninterested and largely unenthusiastic during his performance. It was a complete juxtaposition to all of the tension on screen and action sequences that followed – which were plentiful, if I may say so myself. Scotty’s appearance was brief, and not enough to even begin to form an opinion on what his overall performance could be like.
The antagonists in the demo – and the reason for the distress call – were revealed to be none other than the Gorn. The Gorn are a race of lizard-like aliens who attack the Federation for fun, are menacing, and generally like to blow stuff up and hurt people. In their original appearance on the 1960s television show, the Gorn were humanoid; a warrior race similar to the current depiction of Klingons in the Next Generation continuity.
In the game, the design of the Gorn has been skewed more towards their reptilian roots. Their tails are much longer, they possess no verbal communication, and they wear no attire (but they are smart enough to fire rifles and fly starships). This imagining of the Gorn lent them a bit more ferocity, but it was also distracting as they bore a huge resemblance to the look of The Lizard in the upcoming film, The Amazing Spider-Man.
Much of the gameplay was nothing spectacular, and the cooperative element did not shine as much as I hoped it would. It functioned like any other third-person shooter – a lot of run-and-gun action supplemented by a cover system. Spock’s role as ranking science officer meant that he scanned consoles, panels, and dead Vulcans, while Kirk’s role was too…shoot things. Excluding a magnificently done quick-time event/cooperative fight between Kirk/Spcok and a Gorn, and a cinematic sequence in which the Enterprise fired a volley of torpedoes down on New Vulcan as an act of assistance, everything else seemed quaint.
The developers of Star Trek have a lot of work to do if they want their game to be perceived as more than a simple run-of-the-mill third-person shooter. However, this looks like it could be the game for any Trek fan that has had aspirations to fill the role of either Kirk or Spock along with a friend. The cooperative elements definitely showed potential. Right now, all the game has going for it is the popularity of the Star Trek name and recent film; it needs more than that.
Star Trek is being developed by Digital Extremes and will be published by Namco Bandai along with Paramount. The game will be released early next year for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.