It’s been a good year for sci-fi at E3 2012 – especially with the recent announcement that LucasArts is developing Star Wars 1313 – a mature bounty hunter story set in “A Galaxy Far Far Away…” However, that wasn’t the only high-profile film franchise set for a cinematic third-person shooter game tie-in – since Digital Extremes, partnered with Paramount Digital Entertainment and Namco Bandai, is set to release a new Star Trek game set in J.J. Abrams’ movie reboot universe.
Story details are still mostly tight under-wraps but the game will act as a prequel to the yet-to-be titled Star Trek sequel - currently slated for a May 17th 2013 release date – and, as a result, players should expect to see the title sometime in Q1 next year. We initially previewed the Star Trek game at E3 2011 – though, at the time, a lot of information was still in-flux (or under-embargo). However, this round we were privy to a full-on co-op demo and a number of intriguing details.
While it was previously hinted that that Star Trek actors Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto would voice their in-game counterparts, Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, Paramount has now officially announced the pair’s involvement in Star Trek: The Game. The Enterprise cast has also been rounded-out with other Star Trek (2009) players in their iconic roles: Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), Karl Urban (Dr. “Bones” McCoy), John Cho (Sulu) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov). The character animations are somewhat stilted at this stage of development but some of the most enjoyable moments in the demo came from fitting and entertaining dialogue exchanges between iconic characters.
In addition, the developers confirmed that, in Star Trek: The Game, the crew’s primary enemy will be the iconic reptilian race the Gorn – first seen in the original Star Trek series episode “Arena.” Many Trekkies will, no doubt, remember the race from a fan-favorite brawl between Captain Kirk and a Gorn warrior (which also reached cult status as one of the worst fight scenes in history). However, despite campy origins, the creatures have been re-imagined for Star Trek: The Game - with multiple variations of the Gorn species included (from dog-like ground forms to larger brutish enemy types). Paramount was tight-lipped about how exactly the race fits-into the movie canon world but the demo started with Kirk and Spock landing on a Vulcan settlement that has been ravaged by the Gorn – who, in this version, move from planet to planet wiping out resources and, in terms of gameplay connections, possess a venom that can weaken, kill, and even brainwash victims.
Borrowing a phrase that has been uttered quite a bit lately, especially in connection with the WiiU, the developers described the two-player Kirk/Spock gameplay as “asymmetric co-op” – meaning that while both players are on-screen and assisting in advancing the story, each character’s gameplay is a bit different (and, at times, presents separate objectives or pathways). Both characters appear on-screen at all times (if a human player isn’t around – the AI takes over) and a number of the game’s more entertaining moments come from the tongue-in-cheek banter between Kirk and Spock. Spock-specific elements were more clearly defined in the E3 demo segment than Kirk elements – as the Vulcan was responsible for scanning objects in the environment to uncover clues or mind-melding to extract expository information from downed enemies. Of course, Kirk is significantly more reckless, which added humor to a few story beats – though it wasn’t clear if the Captain had his own unique abilities (such as heavier weaponry or improved hand-to-hand capability).
Both characters contributed equally to combat encounters – whether armed with phasers (set to stun) or heavy-hitting alien Gorn tech. The shooter elements are akin to a less-extensive version of Gears of War, Uncharted, or Mass Effect series cover-based combat. That said, there are several scripted moments as well as gameplay mechanics that create an intriguing bond between the two player-characters – as they must rescue each other from trouble or work together to complete objectives and/or take-down certain enemies. As an example, one section featured in the demo saw Kirk distracting a Gorn brute so that Spock could safely scan for the creature’s potential weak-spots.
It may not be the most imaginative story set-up, or feature particularly original gameplay (the door-hacking mini-game was straight out of Batman: Arkham City), but Star Trek: The Game could, depending on how the experience plays-out, succeed where similar tie-ins have failed – delivering a good balance between intriguing Trek Universe easter eggs for fans and an enjoyable gameplay experience for non-fans. The demo was encouraging but, in the controlled E3 demo environment, it’s hard to know whether or not Star Trek: The Game will deliver when experienced for hours and hours over multiple gaming sessions.
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Star Trek: The Game is slated to release in early 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.