J.J. Abram's Star Trek Reboot in 2009 featured plenty of rousing action, but it was the characters more than anything that pulled us in. We cheered for the cocky, young Captain Kirk and the uptight, sombre Spock. The former full of talent but lacking in guidance, and the latter conflicted between his buried emotions and ultra logical upbringing.
Digital Extremes (The Darkness 2, Dark Sector) seeks to capture these strong personalities through its "asymmetric co-op." You play as Kirk and Spock as the pair explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before.
Both characters have special abilities that correspond to their unique characteristics. Spock can mind meld, perform the Vulcan death grip and use his tricorder to scan for enemy weak points, while Kirk can exploit said weak points and call the Enterprise down for an aerial assault.
A brief demo follows the dynamic duo as they answer a distress call on New Vulcan. After being attacked by a gang of Vulcans infected by a glowing vein disease, Spock tries to mind meld with one of them, but alas, the poor bloke's mind has been corrupted. Our heroes then beam their defeated foes up to the Enterprise so the crew can study them.
Investigating further leads them to discover a hostile new enemy, a lizard-like race call the Gorn. These emanate from the first season of the original Star Trek where they were played by men in unconvincing rubber suits. Thankfully, they look much better this time around.
During the demo we encounter a few scripted scenes where one player is held at gunpoint while the other must take the shot to free them. Moments like these go a long way towards establishing this unlikely friendship. Further fleshing out these famous figures is plenty of banter between the two. Both Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are on board reprising their roles as Kirk and Spock respectively and their repartee is well written, but their delivery is less convincing than the original Gorn. It sounds like everyone's lines were recorded in different studios and the flow is awkward, stiff, and a little lifeless.
Also worrying is that Star Trek actually looks visually worse than it did at last year's E3. Perhaps this has to do with it being shown in 3D this year, but characters' faces look plastic and the brightly lit environments appear soulless and clinical.
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Despite the lacklustre production values, the design sounds unique. While the demo unspooled in a linear progression, Digital Extremes creative director Sheldon Carter claims that's only for purposes of the demo and that the full game will feature far more exploration. Evidently, in the full game Kirk and Spock will have to explore the Vulcan outpost much further and solve multiple puzzles before encountering the Gorn.
"A game I've often used as a touchstone is Metroid Prime. We really kind of latched onto that as how we're going to approach exploration," explained Carter. Star Trek will even have a tricorder-based scanning system similar to Samus' visor that will allow players to scan the environment for extra information and "research points" that can be used to upgrade one's gear. Carter states that their aim is to merge a narrative-driven experience with an exploration-based one. "It's like someone spliced Metroid Prime into my Uncharted."
Addressing concerns that this new Star Trek would be too action-packed for a series that's typically quite talky, senior vice president of Paramount Brian Miller is quick to point out that the game isn't focused on shooting aliens in the face. "You will have elements of a shooter. You'll have elements of exploration, and adventure, and discovery. That is what the new Star Trek is about."
There's clearly a lot of love for the series in here and the detailed design distinguishes itself from so many other licensed cash grabs. The little I've seen of Star Trek smartly integrates captivating scenarios and memorable characters with third-person shooting and light investigation. If Digital Extremes can spruce up the voice-acting to better than Shatner levels and polish up the graphics, this could be something special. The last Trek movie advertised itself as "not your father's Star Trek," and I think it's fair to say that this isn't your father's licensed game either.