Space-oriented video games may have taught us that there's no end to exploration, most recently in the "Mass Effect" series, with its sprawling storyline and vast array of memorable characters. (Wrex for the win!) However, long before video games became the popular medium they are now, folks were exploring space with the "Star Trek" crew on television, following William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the rest of the cast through their weekly adventures. Today, the "Star Trek" name continues to thrive as strong as ever, thanks in large part to 2009's successful big screen reboot. And with director J.J. Abrams already working with the cast on a second film for Summer 2013, it only makes sense that a game is being worked on as well. "Trek" fans certainly hope the game will provide a space adventure that will rival -- or surpass -- the likes of "Mass Effect," and that's exactly the goal Namco Bandai is aiming to provide.
First announced last year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the concept driving "Star Trek" does carry a bit of a "Mass Effect" vibe to it. The action sequences are all set through a third-person over-the-shoulder scenario, so you can get an easy view of what enemies lie ahead, while still being given the proper means to explore and find items throughout the world. That formula hasn't changed since Namco picked up the rights to the game, though Digital Extremes has introduced a new tactic that is likely to make the game a hit with fans -- co-op play.
Throughout "Star Trek," you can play as either Captain Kirk or Commander Spock, both based on the versions played by Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, respectively. But beyond teaming with an AI-powered version of your favorite character, the game also provides the chance to team up with a friend, letting one person play as Kirk and the other as Spock. Digital Extremes, the development team that previously worked on the successful "The Darkness II" for 2K Games, is putting a great deal of effort into "Trek's" co-op factor, requiring players to work together to successfully complete each mission, phasers in hand. That's not to say you can't play through the game solo, because you can. They're just trying to emphasize that it's more fun to bring a buddy along.
Not much is known about the game's storyline as of yet, but Namco and Digital Extremes are working closely with Abrams and his Bad Robot production company to make sure that it all dovetails nicely into the film lexicon. In fact, "Star Trek" will bridge events as they unfold between the end of the first movie and the beginning of the second, probably picking up right where Kirk and his crew are taking the USS Enterprise out into the reaches of space for the first time.
Namco released a trailer for the game a few days ago, following a press event in Las Vegas, that showcases a dazzling opening sequence, followed by bits and pieces of in-game action. (We've included the trailer for you to check out below.) It features Kirk dramatically running away during a gunfight, only to dive into a massive chasm, with the scene cutting out before we can see him successfully land. From there, we're able to see small examples of the epic space combat that awaits you in the game. Both Kirk and Spock are able to upgrade their weapons accordingly over the course of the game. Kirk, for instance, can switch from "stun" to "kill" quite easily, allowing him to dispatch larger enemies. Spock, looks as if he's taking his "Live long and prosper" credo quite literally, utilizing the ability to disable enemies with a stasis field.
The game does use the likenesses of both Pine and Quinto as Kirk and Spock, but Namco hasn't yet stated whether or not the actors will reprise their roles for voiceovers. They are rather busy filming the movie right now, but don't be surprised if they join on to add authenticity to the project.
Again, Namco is keeping the game's storyline tightly under wraps, kind of the same way that Abrams is carefully guarding his sequel's secrets. Still, with a vast galaxy to explore, we wouldn't be surprised if a few familiar characters showed up, including Klingons, Vulcans and maybe even Tribbles, if we're lucky. (That's not a confirmation, mind you, just wishful thinking.)
Still, with Digital Extremes proving that it can work well with partners in making a quality licensed game (just rent "The Darkness II" and see for yourself), we've got faith that "Star Trek" will be an epic adventure when it arrives early next year. Between the co-op play support, hours' worth of missions, exciting gameplay and solid presentation, it should definitely be a ride worth taking. We'll find out when the game arrives in spring 2013 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC -- right about the same time as "Star Trek 2" hits theaters.