As a fan of all things Kirk and Spock, I entered the E3 2012 behind-closed-doors Star Trek gameplay demo feeling cautiously optimistic. I'd previously seen the game played live at the Namco Bandai Global Gamers Day event, and very much liked what I saw. This time around, a new section of the game was on display on two screens (in 3D)--one showing Kirk's perspective and one showing Spock's--and though not a ton of new information was revealed, we did learn a few new tidbits, such as a new location and the game's primary enemy.
Star Trek is one of those long-standing, incredibly rich and beloved intellectual properties that, for whatever reason, has had quite a number of misses when translated into video games. Aside from the shooter Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force, its sequel, and a couple of PC-only titles like Bridge Commander and Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, bringing the franchise to the interactive virtual space has seen its share of flops. Thankfully, developer Digital Extremes looks like it's doing a good job with fan service aspects, while also trying to appeal to those less familiar with Star Trek canon.
Those familiar with the recent film reboot will immediately recognize the characters' likenesses are based on the new movie cast. Though we suspected as much based on the game's previous demo, it was confirmed at the E3 presentation that the film's cast will be lending their vocal talents to the game as well.
The demo began with a sweeping exterior shot of the Enterprise, before the camera located and zoomed in to the ship's bridge. Fans of the IP will likely appreciate getting to visit such iconic locations, which do a great job of capturing the property's well-known aesthetics. We were only on the bridge for a brief time, however, and Kirk and Spock soon found themselves heading to the transporter room. After a brief conversation with Scotty the engineer, the duo were beamed planetside to respond to a distress call emanating from the planet New Vulcan. (To see what happened to the original planet Vulcan, check out the most recent film.)
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New Vulcan appeared to be a dusty and rocky place--not dissimilar to Mars--and Kirk and Spock soon encountered some Vulcans, but they weren't friendly. After subduing them with stunning phaser blasts, a quick scan from Spock revealed that the Vulcans' minds had been corrupted by an unknown force.
Shortly thereafter, the team was ambushed by the game's primary enemy: the Gorn. The hulking, bipedal lizard creatures first appeared in an episode of the original Star Trek television series called "Arena" back in January of 1967. Though perhaps a bit of an obscure choice unless you're a Trekker, the re-imagined Gorn appeared as formidable antagonists. A bit slower than humanoids, but several times as strong, the snarling baddies appeared to pose quite a challenge for the captain and his primary science officer. Another trope of the cooperative gameplay was also shown while battling a particularly nasty Gorn, in which Spock scanned the creature, which highlighted a vulnerable area on the creature's mid-section for Kirk to shoot.
In another particularly cool demo moment--when confronted with an even larger group of Gorn--Kirk radioed Scotty back on the Enterprise. Faced with overwhelming odds, Kirk painted a target in the midst of the enemies, which allowed Scotty to rain down a photon torpedo air-strike in spectacular fashion.
Much of what I've seen of Star Trek looks quite good, and is already enough to get the fan in me excited about stepping into the shoes of two of my favorite sci-fi characters. There are still some rough edges--namely that some of the character animations still look a little wooden, and the rare instances of melee combat looked somewhat awkward. Overall though, it looks like Star Trek is shaping up with the potential to be the best Trek-based game in quite a while, and a solid co-op shooter experience besides.
Star Trek is planned to hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2013.
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