This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Star Trek.
The thing about Star Wars is that it's the kind of title that you're probably not supposed to think about too much. I mean it's not the stars that are having the war, it's a bunch of twats, they should have called it "Twat Wars". Maybe there were a load of stars in the background of the Twat Wars but that's hardly justification it'd be like calling Saving Private Ryan "Mud Wars" or any film with Keanu Reeves in it "A Keanu Reeves film".
I bring this up because celebrating Star Wars on and around May the 4th now seems to have wriggled its way into being a thing. So what better way to mark this wonderful time of the year by reviewing the new Star Wars game, Star Trek. And I know of a question that always provokes stimulating debate: which is the worst Star Trek video game? Was it Star Trek: Elite Force II ? Star Trek Online ? Can't go wrong with Star Trek: Klingon usually 'cause FMV games just add a whole new layer of awfulness like a catfood sandwich. Sadly I think this is one debate that will have to be closed by the end of this video, so let's stop faffing about and just start... rek.
This is the tie-in for the new film whose posters have been causing no small bafflement for their lack of stars or trekking. The second film in the new reboot series where Spock is that bloke from Heroes and Kirk is that bloke frommmm nothing! I've never had great nostalgia for the Kirk and Spock thing; I was always more of a Next Generation boy. It's the inevitable sexed-up reboot of that I'm dreading, where they cast Snooki as Counselor Troi, or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Wesley Crusher.
The plot of this game involves the Vulcans having created an all-powerful doom weapon claiming it was intended for peaceful purposes because the Vulcans have long since stopped giving a shit what you think, but then a hostile alien species nicks it and the Enterprise has to sort this out. Which is hauntingly reminiscent of the plot of the last Star Trek film, but I suppose you can't have the tie-in game overshadowing the film unless you're Chronicles of Riddick. The difference is that the hostile aliens all look like growly reptile monsters so although they're obviously sentient, the peace-loving Federation is cool with you slaughtering them en masse. Should have gone for bipeds with autumnal skin tones, evolution; better luck next time!
This is another game where the box blurb blurbs a bit more than intended. "Explore the special relationship between Kirk and Spock," it says and visions of decades of fan art flash before my eyes. "And interact with all your favourite characters among the Enterprise crew," it goes on to say, the trendy young bastardized versions obviously. But the most telling point of all is the one that is not mentioned, that is to say what kind of game this is. There is a brief note that it effectively self-identifies as an "Action Adventure" but that's like saying it belongs to the people moving around doing things genre, that doesn't tell us shit! Identifying as Action Adventure is basically saying 'we didn't know what the fuck we were playing at with this and neither will you.'
You could probably get an idea from the flipside of the box (where Han and Chewie stand around in power armour pointing guns out of shot like the peace-loving space ambassadors that they are) that this is a shooter, and indeed Kirk does seem to be wearing the special cologne that attracts chest-high walls today. But this game trying to actually sell itself as a shooter would be like EA asking to be considered for the Most Lovely Company to Work For Award.
It didn't take more than a few rounds of pew-pew-pew laser fun to really start pining for a gun that fires continuously and appears to have more effect on the enemy than a maiden's fingers gently brushing their cheek. After putting up with it for slightly longer, I would have settled for an average-sized stick. Sci-fi weaponry is all very well but you can't beat the sense of weight one gets from knocking out someone's teeth with a soup ladle and the only defenses your character seems to have when enemies get into melee range is to shoot straight past them and piss themselves.
In the long range shooting situations, there seems to be even odds whether pressing the Circle button will cause you to stick to what may or may not be cover, or enthusiastically roll at it as part of the chest-high wall mating dance. Even the most basic movement controls feel like steering a startled cow around a dance floor. The main problem may be a system that activates pre-baked turning animations whenever you move with the left analog stick so every time you try to spontaneously move in anything other than the four cardinal directions, you can practically hear a fanbelt fly off the engine and wrap around someone's throat.
So it's a good thing Star Trek doesn't call itself a shooter, although just like when I come around to your mum's house for dinner, I'm still left wondering exactly what this mess before me is. There's a stealth element complete with a surprisingly effective set of stealth tools: visibility indicators, distraction ability, the standard video game surprise glomp from behind that causes the subject to swoon into unconsciousness at the scandal of it all. But areas you can stealth through where enemies are unalerted are infrequent and rigidly determined and all goes straight out of the window and turns shooter again the moment a single lizard man catches you, because against all odds you thought tapping Square to take him down when it says "Tap Square to take down" would actually take him down.
Also there are Uncharted-style climbing sections necessitating the ability to jump and climb ledges very very selectively. So what we have here are a set of controls for three entirely different gamestyles simultaneously piled onto these two poor sods. No wonder they handle like overloaded shopping trolleys with the hiccups!
I haven't even mentioned the space combat mode that's like being dangled upside down from a tree and continually slapped in the face, or the predetermined wingsuit sequence in which I experimentally opted not to move at all and found myself passing harmlessly through alleged hazard, or the overlong hacking minigames that fit as smoothly and naturally into gameplay as a sliding puzzle in the middle of a Guitar Hero set, and every other shallow and unpolished mechanic briefly thrown into this unfocused mess.
The only consistent aspect is the two-player co-op, aka "Bro-op", and the fact that such a word exists is I think one of the signs that all human society has collectively become suicidal! But brotherly love was very far from my mind on the occasion when I'd been incapacitated and Spock was off flicking his ears somewhere so I ordered him to come stand nearby so he could see my plight but he just stood there blowing bubbles with his spit, or the time when Kirk was left frozen for eternity at the level exit waiting for a Spock who would never come because he had just been creamed by a moving elevator but the game somehow never noticed.
Rather heart-rending really, almost as much as knowing I'd just wasted eight hours I could have spent prising my toenails off with a coat hook.
Set phasers to fuck: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Also I was thinking maybe Jason Statham could play the new Captain Picard
Chest high wall now available for nude photoshoots