Considering how long it's been around, the Star Trek franchise has never really produced a fantastic video game. Star Trek: 25th Anniversary has its moments, sure, and Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force is a decent shooter built on the Quake III engine with Trek wrappings, but no Star Trek game has found the spark that makes a true Star Trek title. At E3, however, I had the opportunity to have a look at the upcoming Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and PC title entitled simply Star Trek which follows on from the 2009 J.J. Abrams film of the same name. Digital Extremes has been hard at work on this new adventure for Captain Kirk and Commander Spock for the past year and a half alongside publisher Paramount Digital Entertainment and God of War writer, Marianne Krawczyk,
in collaboration with the writer/producers of the 2009 Star Trek films, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, as well as Damon Lindelof. Players are cast into a two-player cooperative mission via local splitscreen play or online multiplayer. Although the finished product is still a year away, it looks like we're in for quite the experience.
While I wasn't able to actually play the demo on display in Concourse Hall, I did sit in on a session in which the first pre-alpha demo was played to an audience of media members. We saw Kirk and Spock return in a shuttlecraft to the Enterprise only to find that the ship had been incapacitated by a mysterious enemy force. The two Starfleet officers leaped into space inside reimagined spacesuits from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and propelled towards the trapped ship, dodging space mines all the way. Aiming for a docking port, Kirk and Spock land on the ship in such a way as to emphasize the main gameplay difference between the characters. See, Kirk with his brash nature crashes wildly into the room, while the logical Spock uses the brakes on his thruster pack and comes to a sound, safe stop. This contrast forms one of the game's undercurrents in that each character's signature style impacts how their respective story unfolds in what is being called "asymmetrical co-op gameplay".
As the pair moved through the Enterprise, mysterious enemies appeared and triggered an interactive cut scene in which the camera locks off into a new cinematic angle, but the player behind Kirk continued to control the captain and return fire. Before too long, Kirk was infected by parasites that caused paralysis, leading Spock to lift him up and carry him to the medical bay. The two characters were essentially moving as one with Spock providing movement and Kirk firing his weapon. Speaking of weapons, each character was armed with a signature blaster: Kirk possessed the Captain's Phaser that provides erratic powerful blasts on both Stun and Kill settings, while Spock's weapon produced by the Vulcan Science Academy offered Stasis and Kill modes. Stunning an enemy causes it to awaken in a confused fury, while stasis prevents the enemy from remembering why they were shot in the first place, leading to more calm encounters. Kirk and Spock (who sport the likenesses of actors Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto here) had to work together to dispatch enemies with their own special styles and work as a true team. While other crew members on the Enterprise did not appear in the demo, I'm told that the final game will include familiar faces and facets of the larger Star Trek world.
Star Trek was awarded several E3-related honors including Most Valuable Game from Official Xbox Magazine, Best Of Show from Electric Playground, and one of CNN's top five games of the show. It seems odd to laud such praise on a game that is unplayable by the general press nor one that is near completion, but I think these outlets are feeling the same optimism that I am. I want a fantastic Star Trek game to hit the market. This one certainly seems to have the talent behind it that could lead to great things. We'll just have to keep an eye on it as time goes on.