I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I love Star Trek. I’m going to let you all in on another little secret: Kirk is better than Picard. Picard has his merits, I won’t argue that. He’s #2 in the Captain rankings, after all. He’s just not Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk and Spock represent one of the best dichotomous relationships in science fiction, and any media that gives me a closer look at that relationship and the world in which it exists is something to get excited about. With the announcement of the upcoming Star Trek game from Digital Extremes and Paramount Digital, I’m excited.
I enjoyed the way J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot re-launched the Star Trek universe with 2009’s film entry, Star Trek. I thought it was a great way of telling new stories without trying to recast within the previous canon or breaking the past canon (I’m looking at you, Enterprise), and I’m looking forward to the second entry in the new series in 2012. As an added bonus, I get a co-op Star Trek game, playing as Kirk or Spock, that takes place between the two film entries. Currently in pre-alpha after 1.5 years of development, Star Trek is planned to release alongside the second film entry in summer of 2012, so I’ve got an unbearably long wait. Hopefully it’s worth it.
From the gameplay I was lucky enough to sit in on and watch during E3, some of which makes up the E3 teaser trailer, the game is absolutely going to be worth it. The entire game is designed with co-op in mind, to the very last detail. There is always something for each person to be doing, and there are multiple occasions where true teamwork is necessary to complete objectives. It’s in pre-alpha, and the demonstrated level was absolutely beautiful. Obviously, the entire game won’t be as polished, and the demo level was probably gussied up a bit for E3, but if the entire game manages to match or surpass the graphics, gameplay, and implementation of what I saw at E3, this will be an absolute treat.
The game design is brilliantly done. All character designs were done using Industrial Light & Magic models used for the CG sequences in the 2009 film, and official set blueprints were used to design game environments. The cargo bay in the game is based on the blueprints built for the cargo bay in the movie, even though the entire thing never made it into the movie. Exploration of these areas is part of what really makes this game exciting, because you’ll be able to take Kirk and Spock into parts of the Enterprise that you haven’t seen on film before. The game also incorporates copious amounts of lens flare to thematically match the films.
As I mentioned earlier, Kirk and Spock have one of the most dichotomous relationships in science fiction. They approach almost every situation with a different perspective and a different attitude. The dialogue, written by BAFTA winner and God of War writer Marianne Krawczyk, reflects not only their different personalities and perspectives, but the underlying humor and wit that is so central to their relationship and to Star Trek in general. The differences are also apparent in the gameplay and abilities for each character. Kirk is more reckless in cutscenes and in his motion. His phaser, with stun and kill modes, has a brutal kick to it that matches his brash, impulsive personality. Spock moves with more methodical caution. His Vulcan cannon, with statis and kill modes, is a more efficient weapon that matches his clean, calculating personality.
Character development throughout the game is handled through Weapon XP. Using weapons builds weapon XP, which upgrades each weapon’s abilities. Other equipment in the game is well implemented. Tricorders can be used to scan various environments and individuals for various pieces of information. They can also be used to remotely activate and control Federation technology (shields, electrical panels, etc.), which comes in handy when you find yourself in a firefight. Hypo sprays can be used for replenishing health.
MindJack tried to implement mind control mechanics, and failed so incredibly that SquareEnix should be forced to apologize to anyone who had the misfortune of even so much as reading about just how bad it was. Star Trek brings Spock’s Mind Meld ability in as a new gameplay mechanic. Using his mind meld, Spock can interface with an enemy and send him off as an offensive distraction. The mechanic looks well implemented, and has a great mind meld animation.
Most of the action sequences will be split-screen, when you’re playing co-op. There will be occasional sequences that will not be split-screen, but there weren’t too many details provided on exactly what kind of sequences those would be. There will be no flight sim gameplay mechanic (other than some rare short sequences), and most of the game will consist of action/adventure gameplay. It is always co-op (drop-in/drop-out), but can be played as a single player game. In the single player game, the other character will be AI controlled, taking cues from your gameplay style. If you’re moving stealthily, the other character will conduct himself in a stealthy manner. If you go in guns blazing, the other character will support you accordingly. The game is expected to run around 12 hours.
PlayStation Move is supported with a special Phaser accessory. When asked, I was told that the Move implementation would be an additive experience, using both Move controllers. I don’t have a PS3, but for that Phaser accessory, I damn well may need to get one.
I’m not the only person looking forward to Star Trek. It won the following E3 awards:
- Playstation: The Official Magazine – Most Valuable Game of E3 2011
- Official Xbox Magazine – Most Valuable Game of E3 2011
- Electric Playground – Best of Show
- Pixelated Geek – Best Awesome
- CNN – One of the top five games of E3
Yeah, these people know what’s up. Star Trek is one of my top three most anticipated titles from this year’s E3, and one of my top two most anticipated 2012 titles so far.