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'Star Trek: The Game' preview: Going where no game has gone before?

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The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

Kirk assumes the iconic Captain's chair..


Star Trek: The Game has been a long time coming, with a lengthy three-year development time seeing first details finally trickle through after a reveal during E3 in June 2011.

Set between the 2009 Star Trek movie reboot and the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, the co-operative shooter sees players work together as Kirk and Spock to defeat an enemy threat from humanoid reptile race the Gorn.

It has some pedigree behind it, too with developer Digital Extremes at the helm, the studio behind the excellent The Darkness 2, Dark Sector and BioShock 2's multiplayer.

The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

Playable character Spock on the bridge.



How does it tie into both films?

This game features a canonical story that's set between the events of the 2009 reboot and the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, with the Vulcan race trying to establish a new home after their planet was destroyed, and the arrival of the Gorn who appear in rifts the race inadvertently open.

But how much does it tie into the events of the second film? Can we expect any clues of the mysterious motion picture?

"I think we wanted to make sure that we had something that direct of a lift-off," senior vice president of Paramount Pictures Brian Miller told Digital Spy.

"We didn't want it to be so obvious, because I think that what hurts a lot of movie-based games, they try to get a little too cheeky.

"We do have some nods, there's some Easter eggs... if you play the game, and then you see the film, you're like, 'Oh, I see what they did, they had a nice throwback'. But we wanted to make sure we didn't do that too much

"We want them to be completely two different experiences, and two different canonical, authentic pieces."

The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

Spock looks over a beautiful view of New Vulcan.



Collaborating with the filmmakers

Star Trek: The Game is the result of a collaboration between the filmmakers of the rebooted franchise Paramount Pictures and Digital Extremes, developer of one of last year's best surprises The Darkness 2.

The 2009's reboot writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are pitching in with BAFTA-award winning writer Marianne Krawczyk to helm the script, while the film's actors - from Chris Pine to Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg - all provide likenesses and voices for the crew.

Set and costume designers also shared their insight to help flesh out the world and make it more authentic.

But is JJ Abrams on board? Senior vice president of Paramount Pictures Brian Miller brushed over direct influence from the director over certain elements, saying that "we've worked with every one of the filmmakers".

"We've worked very closely and collaborated with the entire Bad Robot team all across the board," he said. "We've worked with everybody from day one."

The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

Certain moments will force Kirk and Spock to work together.



Kirk and Spock working as a team

The duo of Kirk and Spock makes a perfect basis for co-operative play. While the pair have their own unique abilities - Spock can use his Vulcan grip in battle - the pair function largely the same.

Co-operative play is forced in a number of ways, with specific set-pieces splitting the pair apart, forcing one to lay down cover while the other finds their way back to regroup.

The most interesting example of this saw Kirk injure his leg, requiring Spock to carry him to a nearby medbay.

As Spock does a quick spot of surgery - the player has to do a quick mini-game while this happens - the other has to lay down covering fire from the operating bed as enemies stream through a door.

While novel, this style of co-operation isn't exactly new, and elsewhere Star Trek: The Game really wears its shooter influences on its sleeve.

One particular set piece saw the pair take a Dead Space-style drive from a ship and past space debris. Movement and shooting, meanwhile, felt similar to Mass Effect, especially with its abrasive, punchy but enjoyably hard-hitting weaponry.

Tricorder augments combat and aids exploration

The most important item in your arsenal is the Tricorder, a handheld device carried by all members of Starfleet. It has multiple uses as part of the campaign, in solving puzzles, opening up pathways and augmenting combat.

In the game's opening mission you use it with the environment in multiple ways, such as halting laser machines so you progress onward, or to complete a simple signal-matching mini-game to open a door.

Combat is where the Tricorder becomes most interesting. The more you use the Tricorder, the more experience you earn to unlock new abilities.

Some of these are self-explanatory - the ability to heal your partner or increase your own damage - but others are a little more unique, such as jamming enemy weapons, malfunctioning their grenades or creating decoy sounds for a distraction. You can also hack enemy drones to work on your side.

The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

The USS Enterprise.



Why is Star Trek: The Game linear?

While there are side-objectives to complete alongside your objective, Star Trek: The Game isn't nearly as open-ended as something like Mass Effect. This linear progression was because of Paramount's desire to tell a certain story.

"We wanted to make sure that we told a story, and in order to do that we wanted to tell something that progressed, and there's a lot of games that do that," Miller explained.

"We didn't want to, in this game, do a standard RPG where you go could to a lot of different areas and explore a lot of planets.

"We had a very specific story we wanted to tell, and we had a story that we felt that was worthy of its own movie , but we wanted to bring that into another space."

The latest images for Star Trek: The Game

© Namco Bandai

Kirk and Spock talk tactics on the battlefield.



What did we think?

Star Trek: The Game's strength should lie in the movie licence, especially with Hollywood talent lending their likenesses and voices to the cast.

From what we've seen, though, it lacks the polished production values of cinematic games such as Uncharted, with many immersion-breaking elements that quickly snap you out of the experience.

Kirk once delivered his lines to Spock in an elevator while facing a wall, while animation transitions between gameplay and cutscene were far from seamless. Character likenesses were also hit and miss.

However, we should disclose that we played pre-release code, so some of this could be smoothed out by release. Even still, we wouldn't expect anything in the blockbuster stakes when it comes to narrative delivery in the final product.


Meanwhile, the chance to explore the Enterprise at the start of a mission felt unfortunately limited. Lesser crew members repeated dialogue, and any discussions with core members on the bridge lacked the face-to-face interaction, a crying shame in a post-Mass Effect world.

This said, certain cinematic pieces - such as running away from an exploding space station at the end of a mission - were certainly impressive, and the script and dialogue delivery itself felt well done, and has some well-delivered doses of humour.

As for combat, we didn't play enough to get a feel for the weapons, nor the enemy types that you'd be using them against. As mentioned earlier, there's a strong Mass Effect vibe to how they handled.

That, combined with the interesting Tricorder abilities available, mean that combat could well be one of the strongest elements of the package.

Star Trek: The Game will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from April 26.

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