It's a very slick piece of work all told, and a pleasant surprise to find it at E3 with no prior announcement and without the backing of a big games publisher. Paramount Studios, no doubt eyeing Warner Bros. and Disney, has decided to get its hands dirty in games itself.
But it's just starting out, and didn't want to tip anyone off to the game's existence - so we discover one of E3's bigger games in a tiny office cubicle in the shabbiest section of the LACC, far from the ostentatious swagger of the show floor. Oddly, it's more exciting this way.
Back to the action. Kirk and Spock creep through infested corridors scanning doors and dead red-shirts with their tricorders. Soon they're facing enemies who I am forbidden to describe to you. I hope it's not revealing too much to say that you shoot at them, and they shoot back.
These... Enemies ambush the intrepid duo in the shuttle bay, triggering an interactive cut-scene in which the two lunge cinematically for cover while blasting away with their custom weapons. The aiming remains under player control even as Kirk races out of the screen, shooting over his shoulder.
Those custom weaopns - quite a liberty with Trek lore and unique to this game - are designed to reflect their personalities. Kirk's phaser is a sci-fi version of a loud six-shooter and can of course be set to stun; Spock's particle cannon is a sleeker, quieter tool that put enemies in frozen stasis. Rather than physically customise their weapons, the two heroes gain weapon experience that unlocks new tricks and skills.
Spock can also sneak behind enemies to nerve-pinch them or mind-meld, sending them into confusion that draws enemy fire away. He is the "ninja" of the pair, Sinclair says. We're a long way from Leonard Nimoy. This game is so combat-focused that even tricorders are battle-ready, deploying shields and overloading panels to take out nearby enemies.
At one point Kirk is felled by a nerve toxin. Spock must drag him to the Med Bay and then preform a mini-game operation on him with a medical laser, tracing a route to kill parasites. Since the Spock player can't shoot while dragging Kirk and manipulating the laser, Kirk's player provides covering fire throughout this sequence, shooting one-handed.
It's neat idea. While many co-op games use design and tactics to encourage collaboration, Star Trek employs scripted story beats that give you contrasting jobs to do. It might not be emergent gameplay freedom but at least it guarantees you get a dramatic, and dramatically different, sense of helping each other through the game.
And after the Med Bay... Wait, I'm not allowed to tell you about that either. Suffice to say that, while Star Trek is definitely all-action, running around blasting isn't all you do. The opening jump sequence with LSPUs proves that, and Sinclair tells me afterwards the story takes the intrepid space adventurers to a mysterious location which "opens out the gameplay and really lets it breathe".
Just don't expect to be debating ethics with any high councils or plotting any courses. Star Trek is a breathless cinematic action game for two players. It doesn't have particularly lofty goals either for the games medium or for its source material, but it looks well put together and has a vigorous, no-nonsense approach to co-op dynamics.
Is it appropriate for a Trek game? I'm not going to get into that debate. But is this the right way to go about making movie spin-offs? I'm going with yes.