Spock is broken. A stretch of steel railing stands between the Vulcan commander and his primary objective. Yet, he still runs – doggedly, eternally and without a glimmer of awareness of his futile situation – towards his mission beyond a barrier he will never traverse. Meanwhile, Kirk is down, bleeding out and screaming helplessly for aid, while flames lick the walls of the engine room and the Gorn militia storm the Enterprise captain. Things weren’t always this bad.
When we’re introduced to the pair a few hours earlier aboard the USS Enterprise, the two are indulging in their usual waggish behaviour in classic tête-à-tête fashion. Clearly both the game’s writers and cast are keen on replicating the dynamism between the movie’s two leads, and the opening act of Star Trek is made more favourable due to the emphasis on the central pairing that lends it tremendous credibility.
Early comparisons to Gears Of War are unfounded, this is an action-adventure game in much the same vein as Uncharted – extended shootouts are interspersed with undemanding puzzle solving, straightforward environmental traversal and a volley of quips. Yet, as the game shifts from its early crew introductions, it’s obvious that the layers of game mechanics underlying the experience are either incompetent or awkwardly implemented. For instance, stealth is required in a handful of missions, but the act of navigating between cover is frustratingly cumbersome, occasionally exacerbated by your partner claiming the next vital protection point.
And it continues down a steady decline in quality after a promising beginning – which is a shame, as it continues to generate ideas significantly above its station. A mission where you’re handed the controls of the Enterprise fails to gestate into meaningful gameplay, the reliance on cooperative play is slight and inconsequential and environments lack the scale to adequately communicate the ambitions of its design.
Star Trek coasts along on the quality of its authenticity, and for that at least it should be applauded. Environments crackle with the luminous energy of JJ Abram’s adaptation (lens flare!), the original soundtrack is utilised efficiently to give the drama some punch and the dialogue crucially avoids coming off like a ropey cut-and-paste imitation. Digital Extremes’ ruthless pursuit for faithfulness ignores the agency to engage effectively, and it soon becomes apparent that the enjoyment isn’t derived from a game per se, but rather a movie – albeit an interactive one where the entire cast look like they’ve been carved from potato.
It’s all reminiscent of that odd bug we spotted late through the game: there’s Spock, still trying to get the job done – his Vulcan grip on his task refusing to loosen, his green-blood boiling in determination. Like Digital Extremes, his myopic viewpoint has prevented him from acting on the wider issues, which ultimately leads to his failure. It’s Star Trek, but not quite as we know it.