Last week at the E3 show in Los Angeles I had a chance to see a special demo of the upcoming Star Trek game, set in the new movie universe. It has been a long wait for a new Star Trek video game, but this new title was worth the wait. More details and first impressions below.
New "Star Trek" game impresses at E3
The demo shown behind closed doors to members of the media at E3 started with one of the developers from Digital Extremes promising that their new Star Trek is "not just another licensed game." He then quickly acknowledged that this is what people always say. However, in this case, he may be telling the truth.
The new "Star Trek" game is a co-op action-adventure game set in the universe of the JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie. The story for the game is a stand-alone adventure set between the 2009 Star Trek and the 2012 sequel. Players choose to play as either Kirk or Spock. If you don’t have a friend to play with (either with you or over the network) then the AI can takeover as your partner, but a real player can join you any time (and leave anytime).
The E3 demo was shown on two monitors (with two players) to demonstrate the "asymmetrical" play of Kirk and Spock, who require different styles of play. Each has their own view on the story and each has their own equipment and special abilities. For example, Kirk has a special "Captain’s Phaser" and as he gains experience he gets additional attacks, including "a really cool Wrath of Khan vaporize attack." Spock caries a Vulcan particle canon which has kill, stun and stasis setting (helpful for stealth attacks). Spock can also do mind-melds, including using them to confuse enemies in combat.
The game is being developed by Digital Extremes, who have been working on it since early 2010. According to Digital Extremes developers at E3, Star Trek is something "near and dear" to their hearts. They are also working very closely with Bad Robot and Kurtzman/Orci on the game, with apparently "day to day" feedback, including K/O working closely with BAFTA-winning writer Marianne Krawczyk on the game’s original story.
The demo started with Kirk and Spock returning to the Enterprise via a shuttle only to discover the ship had been captured in some "strange energy streams" and is surrounded by depth charges. As they cannot approach in the shuttle, they are forced to do a space jump to the ship and avoid debris and mines using their LSPUs (Life Support Propulsion Units). After landing on the ship and entering airlock, Kirk and Spock begin to explore the ship using tricorders to analyze the damage, override locked doors, and of course scan various red shirt corpses. In fact, scanning the red shirts is a key game point (more on that later).
After getting a distress call, they head to the Shuttle Bay, only to discover it was a trap laid by nasty aliens who are trying to take over the ship. At this point there was a cut scene, which nicely was still playable (and not like games where you can’t do anything for a few seconds). All during this you hear periodic dialog from Kirk and Spock and while the demo had placeholder voice work, we were told that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto will be doing the final voice work for the game.
In addition to the real actors doing voice work the ship looks impressive and is recreated in great detail. But even more exciting, the game takes players into parts of the USS Enterprise that weren’t seen in the film. Digital Extremes has been given all the assets from the Star Trek movie, including blueprints and designs for parts of the USS Enterprise that weren’t seen (or seen in full) for the movie, like the Shuttle Bay.
The demo also showed interesting "buddy movie" dynamic for the co-op, such as a moment when Kirk has to get to med bay but can only make it assisted by Spock. When they get there Spock has to perform procedure on Kirk to get rid of some alien parasites, while Kirk is in bed shooting at creatures trying to attack. And it is in this scene that Spock has an easier time healing Kirk based on how many red shirts you previously scanned, so the game is not all run and gun.
After that Kirk gets up and was shown to do some serious ass-handing with his phaser rifle using interesting attack modes, including one where Spock fires at his shield to build up energy which Kirk then transfers into a massive attack, again showing how the players need to work together. This was followed by a cool scene we aren’t supposed to talk about, so I will just say it had Kirk do one of his classic snatching life from the jaws of death kind of things that shows this team know their lore.
After watching the demo I and others attending were suitably impressed. So far this game is getting excellent marks, and it already picked up a number of "best of show" awards and accolades at E3 from the Official Playstation Magazine, Official XBox Magazine, CNN, Electronic Playground, and more.
It has been so long since a Star Trek game has got me excited that I had forgotten what the experience was like. The game shown at E3 was a very promising co-op adventure with impressive game mechanics and a lot of fun. If the story for the game pans out in an interesting way, this "Star Trek" game could be the best Trek game ever.
E3 Trailer for Star Trek
The "Star Trek" game comes out in 2012 on PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. There will also be a special phaser attachment for the PlayStation Move.