Star Trek review – Worst Contact
I have to be honest. I’m a little bit ambivalent when it comes to Star Trek. I’ve enjoyed Gene Rodenberry’s past tales of intergalactic diplomacy, and I even quite liked J.J Abrams’ reboot, but I’m hardly what you’d consider a “Trekkie”. I’m not big on licenced games that try cash in on people’s established love either, so I was expecting this new game based on Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek continuity to not be very good. It has exceeded my expectations…by being far worse than I had ever anticipated.
It starts off well enough. The Starship Enterprise and its crew find itself embroiled in a crisis of galactic proportions when the evil, warmongering reptilian race, the Gorn, steal a ridiculously powerful device that the Vulcans had hoped might find them a new home. The Helios device would enable this race of malfeasant, toothy, space-dinosaurs-with-guns to open up rifts to other worlds, allowing them to ravage and plunder the universe.
They pose a dual threat too, by employing a dastardly technology that allows them to infect humans with some sort of affliction that leaves them as soulless husks under Gorn control. Yep, Space zombies. Naturally its up to our heroes, the rash and reckless Kirk and his more logically-minded foil, the pointy-eared Spock to save everything. Both are voiced by their film counterparts, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto respectively, who do their best to add a touch of class to the game. They’re both pretty well rendered too, looking very much like their real-life actors….provided they’re standing still and not moving their mouths. Their interplay and banter stands a highlight in a game that’s 10 hours of insipid, depressing lows.
It could have been good. The Star Trek Universe is ripe for the picking to make a game that’s not unlike Mass Effect; a personable leader, a crew of interesting characters and one of the most famous spaceships in the history of media, it could have been a game that followed the Star Trek ethos of diplomacy with combat as a last resort. Instead, what could have been a poor man’s Mass Effect is instead a bland and tiresome 3rd-person cover-shooter, with bits of Uncharted-styled platforming thrown in to break the tedium.
There’s also a bit of environmental scanning done by using the Tricorder, which functions much like Arkham’s “detective mode”, showing wires leading to terminals that must be hacked through an assortment of terribly dull and repetitive minigames. Joining that is a bare-bones XP and upgrade system, where scanning objects grants XP that can be used on a number of pointless upgrades to combat, weaponry and mindless fiddling.
There’s a further attempt to deviate from the standard run-and-gun gameplay by throwing in other terribly unfun elements, like a level where you’re forced to swim to your objective. Water-based levels are seldom a good idea, but they’re worse when the engine they’re running on just isn’t built for it. More than a few times you’ll find yourself hurtling through space, avoiding debris, and it’ll remind you of those gravity-void section in Dead space – only it’s worse. Basically, everything you’ll do in Star Trek you’ve done before, only in better games.
Honestly, it really shouldn’t have been released at all. I encountered a myriad of bugs playing through Star Trek, the first of which manifested itself within 10 minutes of booting the game up. Here’s a brief list of some of the bugs I encountered.
- My character model completely disappeared, leaving me as little more than a floating,disembodied set of rendered eyeballs and teeth.
- My gun model completely vanished, making it look like my chosen character, Spock, was giving the invisible man a handjob, while shooting bolts of energy from his elbows.
- Kirk and Spock, on numerous occasions, moulded in to one Starfleet chimera; a hybridised, four-legged hero – Spirk, or perhaps Kock – with a left ear, a right ear and the final front ear.
- At one point, after sneaking behind somebody for a stealth kill, the resultant animation pushed me inside a wall, forcing me to restart 0 making me play more of this game than absolutely necessary.
That’s just a small sample, not including more regular glitches like clipping issues, and the headaches caused by the game’s infernally rubbish AI. Enemies will regularly run past you (when they’re not busy falling through floor), or just run in to a wall, stuck in a perpetual moonwalk until you put them out of their reptilian misery with a well-placed phaser shot.
Ally AI is, somehow, even worse. The game tries to force you, on occasion, to employ stealthy tactics instead of running in and shooting everything – but it’s a feat made nearly impossible by the ally AI which will, without fail, run headfirst into an enemy turret or group of enemies, die, and then writhe in agony on the floor expecting you to revive its sorry self. You’d imagine that playing the game in co-op might alleviate the AI woes, but you’d be very wrong. The game is just far too dull and broken to make playing it with a friend any fun – with most of the co-operative gameplay of that sort that has both of you pressing buttons at the same time.
It’s ugly too. Built using Digital Extreme’s ironically named Evolution engine, the interior of the Enterprise looks good enough; but everything else is a little backwards, with awful textures, and jarring sub-par animation. And while Kirk and Spock may look the part, other crew members like Sulu, Bones and Scotty look like they’re sporting extra chromosomes.
There’s just nothing redeeming about Star Trek. It’s a bug-filled mess, but beyond the glitches the game that lies underneath is just awful. It’s an insult not only to gamers, but to Star Trek Fans. Star Trek deserves a better game. And so do you. This is one game you should Chekov your list.
Star Trek was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a Xbox 360