Star Trek Preview: Set Phasers to “Bore”
Star Trek certainly doesn’t skimp when it comes to the bells and whistles. Namco Bandai had a large presence at E3 2012, featuring a faux captain’s chair where attendees could sit and pose with two models wearing skimpy Starfleet outfits.
Inside the booth itself, a circular waiting room offered more 23rd century decor, and the masses shuffled nervously until we were ushered next door and handed 3D glasses. There were two large screens at the back of the room, one to show gameplay from Kirk’s perspective, the other from Spock’s.
This co-op dynamic is at the heart of Star Trek’s design. At the beginning of the game, you’ll select one character or the other, gaining access to unique mechanics that make the co-op “asymmetric.” Spock’s arsenal includes Vulcan mind-melds and nerve-pinches; Kirk can do less species-specific things like call in proton torpedo airstrikes.
More “bells and whistles:” both characters feature voice acting from their on-screen equivalents. In addition to Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, supporting players like Simon Pegg as Scotty will also appear with realistic likenesses and voices.
But how is the game itself? Things aren’t looking good. The demo started brightly with a sweeping shot of the Enterprise, panning up to the bridge as triumphant, John Williams-style music blared. Inside the ship, we got a look at the game’s slightly stylized, cel-shaded graphics. Disaster struck when it was time for the characters to start moving around. Both principals suffer from awkward, jerky animations that look out of place in such a well-funded modern title. Hopefully this defect can be blamed on the fact that the game is still pre-alpha.
Thanks to some slickly written exposition, we learned that the Enterprise is orbiting New Vulcan. Old Vulcan was destroyed by the Romulan Nero in the first J.J. Abrams-directed flick, and the game is intended to act as a bridge to its upcoming sequel. New Vulcan looks like sci-fi Arizona –- arid, sun-baked and littered with cactus-like flora.
Soon after beaming down, our heroes encountered their first corpse. Holding a button brings up a scanner and, after a few seconds, a readout. This ritual would be repeated over and over again during the demo, and it didn’t get any more exciting the second, third, or eighth times.
Spock and Kirk set their phasers to stun and proceeded inside the building, with a pause to hack a door that was mercifully brief (a kind of “line up the sine waves” puzzle). The interface, throughout the game, looked uncomfortably similar to Mass Effect -– a dire design choice considering the fact that both titles are third-person shooters with cover mechanics, squad-based gameplay, and a sci-fi setting.
Inside the building, the pair was ambushed by possessed Vulcans. Moving from cover to cover, the characters engaged in some well-wrtten banter before eventually subduing their foes with phaser blasts and melee hits. More scanning revealed “toxins in the adrenal glands and bloodstream,” and a frame-rate crippling Vulcan mind meld similarly suggested foul play.