Like most I was at first excited about the new Star Trek video game but quickly lost interest once reviews and quick looks started rolling in. Currently the game (360 version) has a 43/100 critic rating on MetaCritic and a 2.5/10 user score. Pretty bad. Despite knowing better, I rented the game from Red Box anyway. $2 a day isn’t that bad, and if it turned out to be terrible I’d cut my losses early.
I’ve invested $6 in the game so far (three days) and I have to say it’s not as bad as I imagined it would be. I started out playing co-op with my girlfriend and the level design and gameplay is ugly right from the start. The game makes it very clunky to get into and out of cover and for someone who isn’t well versed in video game mechanics is guaranteed to have a very difficult time early on. If that weren’t bad enough, oftentimes the game will react in strange ways to your inputs. You can push to jump in one direction and your character will jump off a cliff to his death for no good reason.
There’s a sequence early on where you have to run as a series of explosions chases you. This is a point in the game where I really wanted to put down the controller and take the game back to Red Box. For some reason every time the game starts you off with the camera backward and your character facing in the wrong direction and you have to quickly reorient yourself and get running in the right direction or you’ll die. This was more inconvenient than difficult for me as I quickly realized the game was trying to kill me. For my girlfriend, however, it was incredibly frustrating. When the game isn’t being helpful at all it’s much more difficult for someone who doesn’t play video games often to get oriented and do what you’re supposed to do. What’s worse is doing what you’re supposed to do can get you killed as often as not in this game because of bugs and bad design.
I started playing solo after the first level (with AI controlling Spock) and for awhile this was less frustrating. Until I ran into climbing sequences where it’s almost completely unpredictable where your character is going to jump even if you’re pressing in the right direction. Several times Captain Kirk simply jumped to his death for no good reason. I guess I’d want to end it all too if I were stuck in this horrible game.
Once the action picks up the game plays a little better. Of course I’m playing on easy so I can run and gun, because if I had to rely on the clunky cover system my blood pressure would rise even further than it already does while playing this game. There’s a moderate variety of weapons you can pick up as you go, and it’s satisfying to kill the Gorn enemies. As a Starfeet Captain you’re “supposed” to ‘set phasers to stun’ when facing possessed human enemies, however I find it more enjoyable to simply kill them (not to mention easier). You can only fire off two “stun” shots before your weapon has to recharge and when you’re facing a large number of enemies it’s not practical to stun them all. Furthermore a stunned enemy only remains so for a few seconds and you have to run up to them and melee them to knock them out or they’ll return to shooting at you. Interestingly the achievements reward you for getting X number of kills with each weapon, so again it’s more beneficial to just kill everything.
Like the movies, there’s lots of lens flare here.
One thing I like about playing with an AI partner is that you can have them perform all of the hacking and unlocking in the game. The mini-games are excessively long and get annoying so it’s nice to just have Spock do everything for me. The co-op doors get incredibly annoying and boring, however. Why can’t I just open the damn door?
The game has been a decent experience so far. It would be nice to actually be able to pilot the Enterprise rather than just play a sort of Space Invaders game where you fend off attacking ships with the Enterprise’s weapons. It’s an okay section, but they could’ve done more with the Enterprise. There are several sections of the game that encourage stealth, however it’s more of a pain in the ass to try to pass by stealthily than it is to simply kill the enemies. There’s also an upgrade system where you can spend XP in order to improve certain equipment, but as far as I can tell the upgrades make barely any impact on gameplay and I’ve stopped bothering even opening the menu.
Lastly, and probably least important, the names of the achievements in the game are lazy and this bothers me. “Beat Helios-1″, “Beat New Vulcan”… They could’ve at least had better names for the story completion achievements. This has no impact on the game, it just really stood out to me.
In the end I would say you should not purchase Star Trek at its retail $60 price tag. I wouldn’t even recommend buying it used until it drops below $20. You’re best off renting the game at Red Box and you could probably complete it in a night if you wanted. I’d say I’m about four hours in and more than half way through the game, I only have three missions left. Overall the game has been decent, but at times it can only be described as terrible. There are just enough good sections to make the bad parts bearable. The voice acting is pretty good (the characters are voiced by the actors in the movies) but at times the dialogue is either repetitive or poorly written. The story isn’t as good as an average Star Trek episode, but it’s not the worst in the world. The game is passable, not memorable, but not as horrible as some people would have you believe.