In Star Trek: Bridge Commander, you are the captain of a starship. But wait, that's not all. You are in command of a Galaxy Class ship after your captain dies in an unexpected supernova. As the chapters unfold, you find yourself leading the investigation into the supernova. Soon you learn that it is a devastating weapon of mass destruction and you have to stop aliens from using it to kill us all. It's a story we've all heard before. To be honest, this game isn’t very good. However, it does offer something that no other Star Trek game has so far -- you control a starship from the bridge (there is an outside ship view which I use for combat, but for all intents and purposes, you are on the bridge).
Star Trek is a volatile subject for all fans. The fan base is quite splintered. What will please one fan will irk another. For example, though we can all agree that Star Trek is great, we can hardly ever agree on which Star Trek is the best. TOS? TNG? DS9? Voyager? Enterprise? I thought we could all agree that ST:V and ST:E are "fit for the pit," but some would disagree. Personally, I liked it when everyone was pug ugly and breasts didn't matter. Conversely, there are aspects of Star Trek that unify us all. Nelix hating. Wesley hating. Archer's dog hating. The fact that DS9 was a spacestation and drew on ST:TNG too much. However, despite all these difference and similarities, we would all enlist with Starfleet, given their existence. So you can imagine the pressure and expectation for every Star Trek game that gets released. It must really make us feel like we are in Starfleet. In that respect, this game fails.
My personal feeling towards this game is quite bitter. This game is the type of mediocre trite that gives Star Trek a bad name. This would definitely disappoint Mark from "Free Enterprise" ("only the original!"). Actually, we should have seen this coming. Activision has been riding on brand name recognition for its recent games (Spider Man, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Quake 3 Arena, etc.). I guess they like the brand name safety. Sure, they might have sold, but you have to explore why they sold. Personally, I'm still very pissed off about that whole Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 fiasco (why was there no networking over the Internet?). So, if you want to spend your money on something that will put you in a Star Trek state of mind, then I would suggest buying the ST:TNG Season #1 DVD (warning: this is not widescreen. If you want a WS version of ST:TNG, then go out and buy the VHS cassettes). Yes, I know; I'm an ST:TNG freak.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander is quite simple. You command 5 officers: helm, tactical, science, scanner, and Number One. You can tell them what to do and allow them to execute your commands, or you can do it yourself; the choice is yours. I would highly recommend you don't manually control your ship. It is too complex as the controls are keyboard-only (read: binary controls). I would leave it up to the tactical officer; then again, he's a moron (and so is the enemy; we have obtained homeostasis). Unfortunately, this game leans heavily towards battles instead of the Star Trek mannerism found in all the TV shows. In other words, do not expect to use any officer other than the tactical officer. There is hardly any negotiation, rescue missions, crazy-engineering fixes, weird alien customs you must follow, or any of that good stuff. You just meet the same old aliens and fight. Actually, this isn't quite true, they have introduced a new alien race. This is an obvious ploy to draw attention away from the lifeless storyline. Once again, the game is quite simple in terms of goals, mental requirements and plot.
So what can I say about this game that is positive? Umm… not much. Data and Picard make appearances in the game, but their faces are so badly mapped that you will laugh more than be awed by their presence (Did you know that Patrick Stewart was the voice for King Richard in "Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos"? Similarly, Brent Spiner was the voice for Conan O'Brien in "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut"). Some people would rave about the graphics, though if you look closely, you will see many errors. Firstly, the left light for the main viewscreen is not straight. When a ship has a hole in its hull, it looks like TV static. Explosions look quite lame. It looks like you warp into the sun at times. Things clip at times. There's a horrible camera angle flip when your ship blows up. People look terrible on the bridge. The bridge looks horrible (map some high resolution pictures!). The ship doesn't really rock well with a phaser, torpedo or disruptor hit. Bridge damage graphics are laughable. Cloaking doesn't really cloak your ship well if it is even slightly damaged; you can almost always see a cloaked ship and fire before it can do anything. Hull lighting is quite choppy (in terms of faces being binarily lit as opposed to faded face lighting). There's a horrible sense of scale in planets and starbases (why does the starbase seem much, much larger than a planet?). So you can expect the graphics to feel like they were from a few years ago (I'm glad they didn’t' use OpenGL as it would disgrace OpenGL). The only funny thing is the amount of processing power you need to render the dated graphics.
So what is so bad about the game to have me write such a bitter review? Almost everything. Let's start with the user interface. You know the game isn't thinking of the end user when a lot of commands must be done with the mouse. Sure, they have menu keys, but they don't actually work like you would think. There is also a horrible default key layout. F5 is your engineer, and F3 is your Number One (this doesn't make sense because Number One isn't a regular officer so she ought not to be grouped together with the other officers). Following up on this notion of the nonsensical, there are vital commands missing from the game. Here's a list of things you cannot ask your ship to do: 1) align ship with target, 2) match speed of target, 3) target a side of a ship (e.g.: top, bottom, portside, starboard, aft, fore), 4) target ship that target is targeting (i.e.: attack the ship that another is attacking), 5) maintain ship on a certain side of another ship, 6) execute attack patterns, 7) fire more than one phaser at any one time (other ships allow for this, just not yours even though we have all seen it on TV), 8) target more than one ship (could be useful for the aft torpedo launcher or hitting more than one target with your phasers), 9) balance shields (I once played a game that allowed for LAN-networked, ST-ship warfare that allowed for shield balancing. Then again, that was on an Zenith-Intel286 way back in 1991), 10) beam over a boarding party, 11) target ship firing on your ship, 12) command all friendly ships to attack my target (most of the time you can't even ask your allies to attack a certain target), 13) hail more than one ship at one time (this just expands on the idea that it is impossible to coordinate your attacks), and 14) separate saucer section (*snicker*). Though if we are talking about the simplest commands not being there, then the movie skip button has to be the winner. You can't skip a lot of the videos (well they aren't videos; they are more like engine animated sequences). To make a long story short, I had high expectations and this game didn't deliver.
But that was just the user interface, there's more! This game suffers from the entire savegame non grata. Not only is there no quick save and quick load option, but also there is a lack of save game options! You will have an automatic saved game whenever you pass certain chapters of the missions. The weird thing is that the save game files are huge. Each is at least 500kb. Sure, this is not that big, but what does that file contain? These are save-points! What is the point of save-points if the saved game file is just as large as normal? Why not just let people save whenever and wherever they feel like? Some of the mission chapters can last about forty minutes (Oh yeah, I forgot. The game is about a 10-hour experience. There's absolutely no reason to replay it). This is a long time to wait for a save-point, though this wouldn't be too bad if the game didn't crash all the time. It crashed on me every 30 minutes. This really pissed me off. Finishing the game was a point of pride rather than enjoyment. I'll show the game! Stupid game. Stupid me for buying it.
So what do you do if you have already bought this game and can't return it for a cash refund? Simple, you eBay it and don't link to this review, though I would suggest rummaging around the CD-ROM because all the voice files are in MP3 format. It's time to revamp those OS alert sounds!
Note: Bridge Commander does support multiplayer but after the experience I've had, I can't imagine wanting to spend time with it.
Ratings: [14/20] Graphics [10/15] Sound and Music [05/15] Storyline [06/15] Star Trek Worthy [05/15] Annoyances [15/20] Overall