Star Trek is the first game set in the post-2009 "Star Trek" movie universe. As such, it stars the new versions of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew as opposed to the classic William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy versions. Star Trek is set between the 2009 film and the recently announced sequel. The development team is pretty mum on the plot, but the staff at Digital Extremes is working with J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production company to ensure that the story fits well in the rebooted universe. In addition, writer Marianne Krawczyk, who worked on the God of War franchise, has been tapped to work on the story. At E3 2011, we saw a demo that puts the Enterprise in a familiar situation: It's under attack by some weird aliens in a distant star system, and only Kirk and Spock are able to defend it.
It wouldn't do for Star Trek to have generic third-person shooter weapons. Fortunately, you have some rather interesting variety in your guns. Kirk is armed with a Captain's Phaser, a powerful beam weapon with two modes. Blasting an enemy with the Kill mode is a good way to put them down for the count. The Stun mode stuns an enemy; it can disable a foe without killing him — or it can leave the enemy vulnerable to a Kill shot. Every gun in the game has a skill meter, so when you use a gun, it levels up. Level up enough, and you unlock a new ability for that gun. Kirk's Captain's Phaser has the Vaporize ability. By using his tricorder in combat to scan an enemy, Kirk can perform a brutal vaporization attack with his phaser.
The members of the Enterprise crew are not just limited to their phasers, as there will be other weapons in the game. The only one we saw was the Federation Rifle, which Kirk picked up from the ground during a fight. The rifle is a more traditional third-person shooter rifle, although its rapid fire capability makes it a useful companion to the phaser. The rifle can also project a deflector shield, which can repel enemy fire and be used by his co-op partner to reflect shots at enemies. Each weapon retains any skill you gain when you use it, even if you drop the gun and pick up another of the same make later. The tricorder can project a temporary shield for Kirk and Spock to hide behind, or it can even overload systems from a distance.
Unlike many co-op third-person shooters, your characters are not identical. Kirk and Spock are very different characters, so they have very different abilities. Kirk's more brash and straightforward, and it seems that he can take and deal out a little more damage than Spock. His phaser is more like a revolver in that it's powerful and straightforward, just like him. Spock, on the other hand, is more stealthy and subtle. His Vulcan Phaser seems a little weaker, but he can use it in different ways. He also has the ability to sneak around enemies and use a Vulcan Mind Meld attack to stun or confuse them during combat. His phaser is armed with a Stasis mode instead of a Stun mode, so he can quietly disable enemies, but this is less useful in direct combat.
This distinct difference in characters doesn't only apply to combat, though. The two have a different approach to pretty much everything they do. During an early part of the demo, both Kirk and Spock fly into the Enterprise by diving through space. Spock lands perfectly, as he's controlled his flight to the point that you'd think it was something he does every day. Kirk goes flying into a wall and pops up, ready for a fight. It's a minor (and funny) thing, but it really clarifies the difference between the two. A later sequence has Kirk getting poisoned by an enemy. Spock, ever the helpful one, carries Kirk. The player controlling Spock has to use a fireman's lift to carry Kirk while the player controlling Kirk has to shoot enemies and protect Spock. Once Spock gets Kirk to the medbay, he has to play a minigame where he uses the machines to dissolve the poison. Kirk is almost immobilized; he can still shoot, so he has to keep enemies off Spock's back while his friend saves his life. This medbay sequence also hinted at the existence of optional objectives. Earlier in the level, the two heroes came across Redshirts who were killed by the same poison that infected Kirk. Scanning them with the tricorder gave Spock some extra information about the poison. The more redshirts you scanned, the easier Spock's minigame would be.
While the game is designed around co-op play, that doesn't mean that you're stuck playing it cooperatively. The game will feature two distinct story lines for Kirk and Spock, and at the outset of the game, you can choose which one you play. If you decide to go through single-player, then you'll just go through the segments involving your character. Consequently, a Spock player would be responsible for curing Kirk but wouldn't have to worry about getting shot in the back while he's doing so.
Star Trek is based heavily on the new Abrams movies, and it really shows in the visuals. A lot of effort was put into making sure that it looks superb. The cast likenesses were added to the game, but that's just the start. Since the development team is working so closely with Bad Robot and Paramount, they have access to all the movie assets, including art assets, ship blueprints and movie props. As such, it is quite faithful to the movie aesthetic (including the trademark Abrams lens flare). The likenesses of Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) were both used, although the voices have not been finalized yet. There are new materials in the game, such as the Captain's Phaser, but work has been done to make sure they fit within the universe and don't seem out of place. There are even some nifty real-world aspects being added. The Playstation 3 version of the game will support the Move controller, complete with a special phaser shell for the Move to appear more realistic.
Star Trek may be a movie tie-in game, but what little we've seen of it makes it look like a big step up from the usual movie tie-ins. By focusing on a period between the two films, the game is free to come up with interesting interactions and levels, and a great amount of effort appears to have been put into pleasing Trek fans. The level we saw really felt like a scene from the movie. It was simultaneously action packed, tense and funny. The visuals looked spot-on, and the interplay between Kirk and Spock really make it feel like a Star Trek game instead of yet another cooperative buddy shooter. Fans of the franchise or people looking for an intriguing cooperative game will want to keep an eye out for Star Trek.
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