Games of E3: Star Trek
To call myself a Trekkie would be a sheer understatement; the term Trekologist more closely applies. Hell, I once ran a Star Trek Online podcast on this very site. With the exception of Enterprise (which is more of a war crime than anything), if it’s Trek, it is immediately absorbed in massive qualities directly into my bloodstream. When the J.J. Abrams reboot landed, I loved every minute of it and clambered for more. If you’re like me, at least in that regard, you’ll be able to get your fix with the newly-announced Star Trek game being developed by Digital Extremes, the studio behind Unreal Tournament, UT2003, and UT2004.
The new title will feature a new story being written by BAFTA-award-winner Marianne Krawczyk, a writer for the God of War series, and has seen direct collaboration with Roberto Orci and the rest of Bad Robot. It has been revealed behind closed doors at E3 (and we were there to hear it) that this will take place between the 2009 reboot and the upcoming sequel, focusing on a time where Kirk and Spock are just developing their camaraderie and rapport.
This won’t be like your father’s Interplay Star Trek game, though. This will be a full-on-action third-person cover-based shooter, more along the lines of Gears of War or Mass Effect. Sound like a bad thing? Like it’s violating the spirit of the Trek you know and love? Read on, dear Padingite, and prepare to have your concerns assuaged.
Digital Extreme’s presenter unofficially labeled this a “bro-op” game; essentially, a co-op game where you and your partner must rely on each other to survive. The mechanic most closely resembles Gears of War, but diverges from GoW in signature ways. Each player will play as Kirk or Spock, though of course the campaign may be played single-player as one or the other, and each character has signature weapons, traits, and skills which reflect their individual personalities. Kirk will have a “Captain’s Issue” phaser, which will have to ability to vaporize enemies and be used as a melee weapon (more or less a phaser whip, as opposed to a pistol whip). Spock will use a beam weapon of Vulcan make, which has a more advanced Stasis option and the ability to charge Kirk’s phaser. Kirk is a more base aggressor, running into battle and doing damage up-front, while Spock is more ninja-like, sneaking around performing neck pinches and mind-melding with enemies in order to coerce them to do your bidding.
Star Trek will be a co-op game at heart; everything about it is designed to push players, or at the very least, Kirk and Spock, into situations they must work out together. Certain situations will force the two to work closely, completing separate objectives in order to accomplish a single goal. One sequence that was demoed showed an injured Kirk being tended to in the Med Bay by Spock; while Spock healed the injury to get Kirk back on his feet, Kirk used his phaser to deadly effect, keeping enemies at bay. If this sequence, like many others throughout the game, are played by two human players, each of them will see an entirely different viewpoint. They will have different camera angles and mixing of sound, but they will see the same thing, just from their own perspective.
One of the more standout features of gameplay is the iconic Tricorder. Out of combat, it can be used to gather data about your mission and surroundings, and this information is not just for show. Gathering certain bits or amounts of data can make certain other objectives easier later on. In combat, the Tricorder proves just as valuable. When used on Federation technology, it can be used to change the battlefield. For example, a fight was shown in an Enterprise cargo bay full of crates and other Federation gadgets. Kirk could use his Tricorder to move crates to other locations or activate small forcefields that could be deployed for cover.
As you can see, Digital Extremes is going for the gusto, but rest assured, they are not sacrificing the Trek franchise in any way. ILM has supplied full blueprints and schematics for the development team to use, and they have already put them into effect in our pre-alpha demo. Kirk and Spock banter back and forth as they have for generations, and levity moments (our demoer specifically referenced “numm tunn”) will be present. Reportedly, Star Trek writer Robert Orci has praised the development team for keeping the levity of Star Trek intact. There are even dead Red Shirts along the way for you to scan as part of your missions. Despite these heavy Trek leanings, the game should be accessible to all shooter fans, as the team assures us that they have not forgotten their shooter roots, as many of the weapons and effects that will make it into the game have been influenced by DE’s Unreal Tournament pedigree.
Although there is no date set for Star Trek yet, it is expected in 2012 for 360, PS3, and Windows PCs. It will feature online co-op, as well as drop-in drop-out co-op. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for this one to land on my planet. Maybe I’ll slingshot around the sun and travel ahead in time a little bit to shorten my wait…