Trekkie’s Review of Star Trek
This is going to be a review with a twist. In a normal videogame review, the reviewer must detach his/herself from preconceptions and bias, and give as objective a view as possible on the positive and negative aspects of the whole experience, culminating in a single numeric digit that every reader will inevitably skip to. Since Star Trek has been out a good long while now, I thought I’d do something interesting – the complete opposite. Here’s a Trekkie’s review of the game – complete with biased rants and fanboy ramblings. Why? Because why not.
The first thing you have to understand about Star Trek is that it isn’t a sci-fi show – it’s a religion. I don’t care what you’re a fan of, no fan-base on the face of this planet (or galaxy) is as hard-core or devoted as Trekkies are (or Trekker, if that’s what you prefer). Casual Trekkies want to graduate from Starfleet academy, while real Trekkies want to do a post-grad at Daystrom. Real Trekkies know they’ll go to Stovokor when they die – if they die with honour.
Honour is a good theme to open this review on, as the opening scenes of the game depict Kirk as a man with seemingly no honour, as he sneakily beats Spock at trimensional chess by moving the pieces while Spock’s not looking. I’m guessing that this was supposed to be a nod to Kirk’s refusal to bow to ‘no-win’ scenarios that the reboots seem to fixate on. While it’s true that Kirk is a fearless leader who never gives up in the face of danger, he is not a liar or a cheater. Yes, cheating at chess is a relatively small matter, but to me this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the character.
The game proceeds to throw the Enterprise into yet another gargantuan crisis that threatens to destroy life in the entire galaxy, because in JJ Abrahams new universe, these things seem to happen once every couple of months, and always to the same ship. This time it’s the Gorn – albeit a re-imagined, less hilarious version than the man in the rubber lizard-suit you’ll remember from the original series.
The Gorn want to get their claws on a new device that the Vulcans have been working on, as with it they can overthrow and enslave our galaxy. I can’t remember the name of the device or what it does (because it doesn’t matter), so let’s refer to it as the ‘plot device’. This unimaginative excuse to shoot lizards with lasers (thus preserving the game’s child-friendly rating) is a frustratingly lazy foundation upon which to build a game, and is an instant let down for anyone with a mental age over 11.
This theme runs through the centre of the Star Trek game like the frozen interior of a microwavable meal. Every time you take a bite you think it’s going to be nice, because it looks just like the real thing, but by the time you’re chewing your mouth is full of tepid disappointment. For example, the game sends you on an excursion to ‘New Vulcan’. This is a big deal for a Trekkie, as it’s the first time you’ll get to see this planet, to feel its cultural significance to the Star Trek universe. Vulcans are founding members of the Federation, and humanity’s closest and oldest celestial friend. So what happens when you visit the planet in the game?
Nothing. You get a very generic desert world that looks just like Old Vulcan, upon which you shoot generic Gorn baddies and zombie Vulcans in corridor after identical corridor. They may as well have just written “VASQUEZ ROCKS” in giant Comic Sans font and made you stare at it for fifteen minutes until you start babbling “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!” (sorry – massive Trekkie in-joke). Don’t get me wrong – it’s not quality that’s the issue – it’s emotion (ironic for the Vulcans, I know). A visit to new Vulcan should have given me feelings of hope and sorrow for a broken people trying to rebuild. I should have seen the gigantic spartan architecture that the Vulcans are famous for, simultaneously invoking clinical intellect and deep spiritual responsibility. Instead I got any old corridor from any old lab.
It’s not that the settings of the game aren’t varied, mind you. Early on you find yourself aboard a space station orbiting close to a star, and the station’s shields are failing amidst a Gorn attack. Certain portions of the game take place underwater, and some flying through space in a space-suit. As a Trekkie I have to ask – what is the reboot’s fascination with Space-jumping? It happens in the 2009 movie, Into Darkness, and more than once in this tie-in.
The very spirit of this game has the same obnoxious, lurching zeitgeist as the reboot movies do. Yes – that is Kirk on screen but no, this is not Star Trek – at least, not as we know it, Jim. In the TV series, a ’puzzle’ would be a moral quandary that pushes the boundaries of human philosophical understanding. In the game it’s choosing which ledge to jump onto next. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch ‘Measure of a Man’, an episode in season two of The Next Generation. Star Trek’s mission was to explore strange new worlds and expand the horizons of our minds. This game explores little more than a dozen ways to kill a large walking lizard. I can’t give a harsher criticism than that.
Before I move on to positives I want to make it clear to anyone who thinks, “well you can’t really make that sort of moral opera into a game and expect it to sell”, that they are wrong. I’ll prove you wrong in two words: Mass Effect. In the same way that Galaxy Quest is a better Star Trek movie than Nemesis, Mass Effect is a perfect Star Trek game, in another skin.
In a normal review we’d talk about graphics, and gameplay, and other such mechanics that we can cite as positives. But for a “Trekkies review”, the question is – what would a fan like about this game?
Exploring the Enterprise is probably the best thing going for it. Certain sections of the story throw you through the ship’s corridors and Jeffries tubes – and even tubolift shafts. Sounds like a small thing, but it’s a lot of fun if you’re a true fan. For example – the turbolift shafts depict the lift itself as a rolling ball that boulders its way through tubes in the ship – both horizontal and vertical – with a ‘room’ inside held constantly ‘upright’. Seeing it visualised adds a new level of depth to your appreciation of a ubiquitous element of Treknology.
The Tricorder should also be praised for its integration into the game – even if it does get a little repetitive as the hours pile on. You’ll use it to scan the environment, detect life-forms, and interact with other pieces of Treknology – just like the ‘real’ thing. Here’s where my proverbial warp-core of compliments runs out of dilithium – the rest of the game is completely forgettable.
As I said at the outset, normal reviews usually culminate in a numeric score, but that just won’t cut it here. This is a court martial, and the charges against the game are grave indeed. Like most Trekkies, I tend to live by the creed “what would Picard do?” Ask yourself now, what would Jean-Luc think of this game if you showed him a few minutes of gameplay? The answer: “Get off my bridge!”