Genre : Action
Developer: Starsphere Int.
Publisher : TDK
Release Date : Januari 13, 2004
I've been watching a somewhat sort-of kind-of halfway decent Star Trek straight-to-DVD movie for a good number of hours now.
This movie's fairly engaging, with some nice CG animation, all of which centers around Captain Sulu and his crew above the USS Excelsior. They've been sent on a mission to rescue the USS Enterprise from some kind of space anomaly/vortex… thing. You've seen them all before, you know what I'm talking about.
They fail, and get sucked in. When they re-emerge, they end up in an alternate universe, where the Federation has been replaced with a tyrannical Terran Empire, and the good guys have nowhere to turn as they are adrift in space, simply attempting to get home. There may or may not be a warp back to their universe on the other side of this one; it's Captain Sulu's job to get there and find out.
This movie has a few unique features, however. For one, it will only play on my Playstation 2; not my DVD player, my Xbox, or anything else. Also, from time to time it will ask me to pick up my PS2 controller, and ask me to aimlessly push buttons on it for anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Usually the "reasons" given in order to motivate me to push these buttons are very contrived and, at some points, don't make much sense at all. When I'm done, I get more of my movie, which only lasts a fraction as long as the time I've been spending pushing buttons.
All things considered, if this is the future of home cinema, I'm seriously considering taking a one-way DeLorean ticket back to the Dreamcast-and-VHS era.
Star Trek: Shattered Universe is a three-dimensional shooter based on the original Star Trek series. The fact that it's a shooter means the game's already got one strike against it out of the gate; the shooter is one of the hardest game genres to make original and/or fun, simply because it's one of the oldest gaming forms ever, is hard to make fresh and new due to the fact that there's fundamentally little to it, and thus, doesn't sell very well unless it turns the world of shooters on its head entirely. Don't get me wrong, there's no shame in making a shooting game. But to make one that works requires much more creativity nowadays than, say, five years ago.
Sadly, this game is no Ikaruga, or even a Crimson Skies; the truth of the matter is that I could be playing my old copy of AstroBlast on my old Atari 2600 (well, if it still worked) and get the same amount of "rush" shooting random rocks as I could at shooting down ships and their shields in this game.
Shattered Universe brings nothing new to the gamer's table, and does nothing to improve on existing shooter concepts. It simply exists. When given enough thought, one could conclude that it likely qualifies as matter, as it has little a mass, takes up space, but it doesn't do much besides that. It's the electronic equivalent of tofu.
Let's get this out of the way now: you're not going to see much of anything but space in Shattered Universe. This is to be expected, of course, since it's a space shooter, but that doesn't help the fact that it gets incredibly boring. Other locales of interest, however, include the bridges of ships, the occasional asteroid field, and the once-in-a-while ominous looking starbase that you can't shoot down, but is really hard to get around without bumping into it if you ever get anywhere near it.
The good news is that the Final Frontier looks quite nice, actually. When I'm flying around shooting down ships, I can actually believe that that's the USS-sorry, ISS--Enterprise that just warped in, and is trying to take me down. The translucencies on the shields look great, and the weapons fire gets the job done. The CG cutscenes that play before and after missions (and also when you die), as I said before, also are done quite well. The game goes out of its way to look like a collection of brand new episodes out of an original-series run; blue and gold Trek fonts, ship direction, opening credits sequence, the whole nine yards. At the very least, this game does a good job of capturing the visual atmosphere of the show.
The sound department, however, does little to help the game experience. Prepare to hear the incessant tones and zings of laser shots, ray guns and torpedoes being fired. Every so often you may hear a ship commander either taunting or congratulating you, and they all have very limited vocabularies. The soundtrack is subtle to the point where you sometimes forget it's even there at all. In fact, after less than a day, I can't remember one bit of it. Speaking for myself, when I'm playing a shooting game, I want to either feel like I'm pumped full of adrenaline and ready to lay waste to everything in my general vicinity, or like a master tactician making careful moves to take out the enemy with the swiftest of efficiency. Music can go along way to conveying either mood; unfortunately, here I got nothing, I felt nothing, I was nothing.
On a disappointing segue, the actual gameplay experience matches the sound in this regard. As previously mentioned, there's very little to it. You play as one of the fighter ships of the USS/ISS Excelsior. Some missions will ask you to shoot ships. Other missions will ask you to shoot rocks. Still others will ask you to navigate asteroid fields. During all of these, you will have to make sure you defend the Excelsior, for if either you or it is destroyed, the game is over. The disappointing part of this is that these missions tend to loop on themselves, or are simply made up of combinations of the aforementioned primary elements. In other words, a "harder" mission will have you navigate an asteroid field while shooting ships and protecting the Excelsior. This is about as much variety as you get.
Played on normal difficulty, the experience amounts to making this a game you would want to give to your younger sibling, if you have one. There's also the question of why one would make a shooter based on the Star Trek series that (reportedly: according to my Trekkie friends, at any rate) features the least variety of weapons. I am unable to answer this question, nor am I sure I wish to know the answer. I suppose this technically makes the game true to the original Star Trek universe; but that doesn't make the choice any more lacking, or the gameplay any less mundane and repetitive.
This is usually the part of the review where I recommend what to do with this game, to buy or rent, who would and wouldn't like it, etc. Unfortunately, only the most die-hard (and I do mean die-hard; I'm talking Spock posters on your walls or something to that effect) Trek fans could possibly get any lasting enjoyment out of this title. My conscience would never let me sleep at night if I didn't tell anyone who didn't fit this description to pass over this game. So there you go.
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