As the adage goes, “without darkness, there is no light.” With that in mind, this is Into the Red, a monthly feature where we discuss games with an average score that leaves them in Metacritic‘s red zone. You can checkout last month's edition of Into the Red here and last week's edition of the Hall of Fame here.
Now I’m only a newly recruited fan to Star Trek, but when I go into something, I go hard. I’m a big fan of the two Abrhams films and was hopeful that the movie tie-in game would turn out as well as it showed in its initial reveal. When the game came out it was critically panned and even denounced by Abrhams himself, who admitted that he could have done more to help the game's development. I have been known to like a lot of games that have been considered terrible so I always like to see for myself what the fuss is about. Star Trek being made into a third person shooter complete with digital personas could have been a great idea if executed correctly. Unfortunately the buzz about this game was mostly correct.
The game tied into the film Star Trek Into Darkness but was not based on the plot of the film. It’s a standalone feature, furthering the adventures of the Enterprise crew, but happens to have the movie's likenesses and voices. I have appreciated the attempts a lot of movie based games have made lately to create their own story. Some have been done well, Amazing Spider-Man comes to mind, but Star Trek should have just stuck to the film, which I thought to be fantastic, because the story here is just garbage. The story revolves around the Enterprise crew’s conflict with a reptilian alien species known as the Gorn, who are probably the most uninspired villains I have ever seen and the source of most of the game's problems. The story of the game could have been greatly improved with a more competent villain. You get a lot of the different crew members working together like they would in Star Trek, though you don’t really care about what they are doing in the game. The only enjoyable part is the voice acting and dialogue back and forth between characters. It at least sounds like Star Trek, which I found enjoyable.
This game has one great set piece in the beginning and, if placed in the right hands, could been mind blowing. Instead, its quite poor. The controls are similar to atypical third person shooters and resemble the original Gears of War, but not quite as responsive. I often found myself faltering to simple combat scenarios and platforming obstacles just because of the poor controls. I would motion to switch weapons only to discover that the command didn't take, drawing the previous weapon I used instead. While the shooting works fine, cover can be frustrating. Many times I ducked behind the wrong object because of the clumsy controls. It’s hard to believe a game that plays this poorly was allowed to be shipped. Co-op is easily the worst part of the game. The game prominently features Kirk and Spock and if playing single player then you are 100% guaranteed to have a broken experience at some point. There are multiple times throughout the game where you have to command your partner to activate a switch at the same time or something of the like, and when you command him to do so he will most likely get stuck running into a wall or simply take forever to act. Rarely did the AI act in a way that didn’t feel completely broken.
The main draw of the Abrahms Star Trek films is their outstanding visuals. Sadly, the game hardly looks better than a PlayStation 2 title. The graphics and textures are poor at best, the opening mission of the game I thought looked really well designed, and with more time it could have been one of my favorite sequences of 2013, but with the poor quality made it harder to enjoy the sequence beyond its interesting idea for a Star Trek story. Not to mention the look of the game declined further into the adventure, especially with the generic space environments. Compared to what has been presented in the films, the game pales in comparison of interesting planet and alien designs. None of the film's visual flair has been recreated and even the characters look awkwardly modeled.
There were a few interesting things that I wasn’t expected and did enjoy. I already mentioned the voice acting as being above average and that is one of the better parts of the game. When characters are talking, it really feels like Star Trek. There is also an unexpected sequence where you get to fly the Enterprise and shoot objects down. In all fairness, I appreciate the developers going out of their way to include elements of the Star Trek universe into what amounts to nothing more than a simple third person cover based shooter. The only problem is that the genuinely good and cool moments (of which there are, at most, a handful) are compromised by the poorly constructed package they are bundled with.
Star Trek The Video Game is a perfect example of walking into a game thinking, “It couldn’t be that bad!” only to find it is as bad as expected. This shouldn’t have come to a surprising considering it is a movie tie-in game, however it is important to know that several games have broken that but there have been plenty of stand outs in this genre. The Chronicles of Riddick games and Amazing Spider-Man were totally fine but Star Trek just couldn’t follow suite. This is one of those circumstances where I completely agree with the other reviewers out there and follow their lead when I say, don’t play this game.
That's it for this week's Into the Red. Check back next week for our first edition of IF I Made a Game in almost a year. Until then, tell us what you thought of Star Trek The Video Game.