The brilliant white light of a projector cut through the darkness at the very top of London’s Science Museum as Paramount Pictures and Namco Bandai Games unveiled Star Trek: The Video Game to an international audience earlier this week.
After 3 years of development, Paramount Pictures (working with developers Digital Extremes) are very clear that they want players to feel like they are taking part in an authentic, cinematic Star Trek experience when they go hands on with two of science-fictions most iconic characters – Kirk and Spock. Our first impressions are that is does look and sound great on a big screen and so it should too, as practically every department that worked on the film has collaborated on making the game including wardrobe and special effects plus Academy Award Winning composer Michael Giacchino as well as the original cast including Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto who reprise their roles and lend their voices to the game.
A action heavy shooter that builds on J.J. Abrams hugely popular modern reboot movies, Star Trek chronologically sits between the 2009 film and the forthcoming Star Trek Into Darkness (due in cinemas 17th May) and is a completely original story, as Brian Miller Senior Vice President of Paramount Pictures told us “We really wanted to take Star Trek to a new level; to really expand the universe, but we also knew it had to be self-contained. There will be no big cliff hanger at the end, just a great story from start to finish. Star Trek is all about Kirk and Spock and their co-op is key to the whole story. You don’t have to watch the movies to get this. They have to work together and rely on each other, despite their differences, which does lead to some tension but overall makes for some great teamwork.”
Sitting in the dark, with the memories of a recent sci-fi movie/game franchise that spectacularly failed to deliver, the sceptical, niggling doubts about whether this movie really would translate well from the silver screen into a game were muted during the opening cut-scene exchange on the bridge between Kirk and Spock which was perfect as the Captain artfully dodged around his First Officer’s logical recommendations. Sharp directing, impressive performances and a script packed with both drama and humour elevates this game from being yet another generic movie-tie-in to a well presented, engaging adventure. The two leading men had to genuinely work together to rescue a troop of Vulcan technicians from a nuclear explosion by sharing responsibility. Kirk disabled a laser arm from slicing up Spock like a sausage whilst later on Spock repaid the favour by healing Kirk’s knee as the Captain blasted away oncoming enemies. Suited up, the two then played cat and mouse with blazing hot waves of radiation as they crouched and dashed their way through a steely blue core reactor; one slowing down the giant spinning rings to allow the other to shoot and lock them into place. Different routes throughout the game were sometimes available depending on which role we chose whilst the tasks, many of which take the form of mini-games were equally distributed. Of course, Kirk and Spock never work better together than when united in a common goal to save the entire galaxy. Enter the Gorn.
Though the humanoid reptilians have made brief appearances in other Star Trek games, here they take the centre stage as re-imagined versions of the classic Star Trek villains, infecting their foes with venom that can poison, cause hallucinations and kill. It was perhaps no surprise that the relentlessly destructive Gorn are the main enemy within the game as the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise need a constant supply of targets to blast which would be difficult were the enemy human and open to diplomatic discourse. It’s perhaps indicative that Kirk’s refusal to deliver the final blow in the memorable fight scene from the classic series has less appeal to current gaming audiences. Thankfully, modern Kirk doesn’t need his boy scouting skills to construct a sulphur powered bamboo Gorn Cannon to blast his enemy as he is equipped with his trusty Phaser.
Star Trek the game isn’t boldly going where no game has gone before with its cover and shoot patterns mixed with basic one-button-to-interact mechanics when opening doors, tinkering with tech panels and ducking into cover. As well as adopting the same aesthetics of the films, it has borrowed some Uncharted style clambering and Mass Effect inspired weapons. “Uncharted massively influenced our storytelling too” remarked Miller “and we’re thrilled that BAFTA Award-Winning writer Marianne Krawczyk has created an original story with the writers and producers from the films. Dead Space and Mass Effect also really inspired us. If you think about it, those titles also allowed us to make this game as they’ve created the market for us. Though if there were no Star Trek, there would be no Mass Effect so it's come about full circle!” Here, there’s a strong feeling that this venture isn’t about redesigning what a sci-fi game can be; it’s about creating an experience that delivers the rebooted franchise to the best possible expectations and standards that fans expect and so far, it’s all positive.
With new areas of the U.S.S Enterprise to explore, exotic planets to visit, enemy battleships to infiltrate, subterranean waterways to swim through, new creatures to blast, Vulcan nerve pinches to administer, and Captain’s chairs to sit in (fun!), our first impressions are that the game is more immersive and dramatically engaging than the shooty shoot bang bang we were expecting. The vibrant yellow, blue and red colour pallet is hot against the sewer green skin of the Gorn or the clinical white, beige and grey of the Enterprise as it sweeps across a deep black space vista bringing each grandly cinematic set piece up close to the player. Getting to play as either Kirk or Spock in this new adventure across the universe is greatly satisfying thanks to some well scripted dialogue and beautiful environments plus let’s face it, looking at the back of Chris Pine’s handsome head for a few hours is no bad thing. Though it won’t tax the skills of seasoned gamers, Star Trek the Video Game will surely capture some hearts and minds due to the care being taken with this iconic franchise.
Star Trek the Video Game is due for release on 26th April 2013 and will be available on Xbox360, Playstation 3 and PC.