Licensed games tend to fall into one of two categories. Most tend to be rubbish, sent through a rushed development schedule to capitalize on a marketing tie-in. But a few manage to become real gems, pushing a genre forward, and expanding its reach beyond its fans.
Namco Bandai's upcoming Star Trek game is neither. It's a competent shooter that's adequate enough for hardcore Trekkies--but not really memorable enough for anyone else.
For the upcoming tie-in to Star Trek Into Darkness, developer Digital Extremes has turned to the most over-used genre of the generation: the third-person cover shooter. There's absolutely nothing memorable about the experience. You'll jump into cover, blind-fire at enemies, and move from cover to cover, all whilst admiring how functional and decent the gameplay is. Nothing is broken--but nothing is inspired, either.
Perhaps the most novel moment of my hands-on demo was a segment where my co-op partner and I had to work together to shut down an engine. Spock would use one of his tools to slow down the spinning motor, while I shot at its vulnerable point when exposed. We would have to repeat this process, as we ran on the exterior circumference of the ship. While the co-op gameplay was rudimentary, this segment showcased an interesting use of gravity not unlike Super Mario Galaxy.
Trekkies will appreciate the detail that went into rebuilding the Enterprise in the game. It looks good. They'll also love that the villains for the game are the Gorn, a point that Namco Bandai's marketing department is keen to hammer on.
But, the rest of the game doesn't really do the license justice. While the character models look a lot like their Hollywood counterparts, the animation is incredibly stiff, breaking any sense of immersion. Even worse, although Paramount got the entire cast to reprise their roles for the game, the voice acting is terribly flat. It's pretty clear that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto phoned in their lines for this one.
With Into Darkness looking like a genuinely thrilling film, it's a bit disappointing that the game tie-in can't generate an equal amount of excitement. Still, Star Trek doesn't seem like a terribly bad game either, which at least makes it better than most of the licensed shovelware that finds its way on the market.
Star Trek will be available on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 later this month.