Ever since J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the franchise in 2009 with a younger Captain Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew, Star Trek has been enjoying resurgence as of late. But its biggest year to date is coming in 2013, with the release of the long-awaited Abrams-directed sequel Star Trek Into Darkness (check around for trailers if you haven't seen them yet), as well as a new game coming from Namco Bandai and the developers at Digital Extremes (The Darkness II, etc.). But don't call this just another spin-off, as Star Trek: The Game will have its own little adventure to offer.
We took an early look at Star Trek a while back, complete in a Holodeck-designed presentation theater with full 3D imagery (the game will support it on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) and two screens, so we could see the co-op action that the developer is putting into the game. Two players will take part – one as Kirk, one as Spock – as they complete missions and work together to eliminate enemies that pose a threat to them throughout each stage. The combat is a little Mass Effect-like, but Digital Extremes is adding a few distinctions so that it's definitely more fitting in the way of Star Trek. Commander Shepard lite, this ain't.
Though the game will not directly follow events from the first or second films, it does tie into events surrounding them, creating a free-flowing story that fans will definitely appreciate. Following the destruction of planet Vulcan in the first film, the race is now looking to inhabit a new planet. They've built a device called the Helios Machine that, they feel, will find the right surface for them to live on. However, after activating the device, a new alien race enters the picture, a vicious lizard-like race known as the Gorn (fans of the original Star Trek TV series should be quite familiar with them), who pose a great threat to the galaxy. As the men sent to do something about the threat, Kirk and Spock, aided by other members of the Starship Enterprise, set out to shut down the Helios and send the Gorn packing.
With Kirk and Spock both packing phasers as well as special abilities that help distinct their attack patterns, players won't mind getting in control of either character, and will work together in a number of situations to keep alive while fending off the Gorn before they overwhelm them. Throughout each stage, you'll not only run into combat situations, but also ones that call upon teamwork, where you work together to activate switches or get further into a room so you can continue on your merry little way. We saw a small example of this during our time with the demo, but obviously the later you get into the game, the more closely you'll need to work together in order to get somewhere.
Though the game is built with fans in mind, Star Trek: The Game is bound to be quite accessible to newcomers as well, as Digital Extremes is crafting it like a well-made action/strategy game, so players can easily adapt to it even if they've never heard the iconic words "live long and prosper". With hours' worth of gameplay packed in, and a story that's relatively easy to pick up on, there's something for everyone here to enjoy.
What's more, Digital Extremes has also gone all out when it comes to Star Trek's presentation. Thus far, from the stage that we've seen in the game, the 3D effects are wonderful, really drawing you in to this fantasy universe around every twist and turn – and this is just based on the small section we saw. The team has also gotten a pair of actors from the film – Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock – to not only lend their likenesses to their character, but also their voicework, so they sound just as they should. (No word yet on what other cast members will be joining the party, but we'll find out soon.)
Featuring multi-tiered stages with plenty to explore (and destroy), as well as various nods to old-school (and newly acquired) Star Trek fans, this game appears to offer something for everyone. And you don't necessarily have to play in co-op, as the developer has implemented some sharp AI, so your computer partner can respond to whatever your request is, and back you up in battle. Obviously, though, having a friend definitely has its advantages – unless, they suck.
We still have a lot to check out before we fully recommend Star Trek: The Game, but thus far, Namco Bandai and their team are really pressing forward to make sure this isn't just another sub-licensed affair. The development team really has the nuance of the space opera nailed down, while adding the kind of gameplay flair that Mass Effect – and other sci-fi fans – can truly embrace. We'll see how well it lives long and prospers when it releases in April 2013.