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Game Over Online ~ Star Trek: Hidden Evil

GameOver Game Reviews - Star Trek: Hidden Evil (c) Activision, Reviewed by - Jove

Game & Publisher Star Trek: Hidden Evil (c) Activision
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 82%
Date Published Tuesday, November 23rd, 1999 at 09:21 PM

Divider Left By: Jove Divider Right

Usually when I encounter evil, I like it to be open and forthcoming, I want to see it before it devours my organs, at least then I know where I stand. Unfortunately, in the latest license whorage of Star Trek, evil comes in the much despised, hidden form, and thus an adventure game is created in order to "unhide" this demonic and/or destructive force. When approaching Star Trek titles I often expect little more than a name, an intro movie and a sack O crap out of date "game" with a Federation interface. Hidden Evil, however, greatly surprised me with its excellent design, story, voice acting and ambiance generally not associated with Star Trek games.

An excellent introductory video starts you off on your mission to search the ruins of an ancient civilization recently discovered on the planet of Ba'ku. The story takes place 9 months after the movie Insurrection, and you take control of an ensign assigned to the Federation outpost protecting Ba'ku. I was quite surprised to hear Brent Spiner's and Patrick Stewart's actual voices in the original game dialogue and as could be expected it was excellent, at least for the most part. I did find some of the dialogue a little lacking in emotion such as Picard announcing he was being attacked in the exact same tone he uses when calmly doing research. As usual in Star Trek games, every sound effect is taken directly from the show/movies, but this time they are very high quality and completely suit the gameplay. Specifically, the transporting, cloaking and weapon fire sounds were extremely authentic. In addition, every little Star Trek touch you could think of is present in sound, from the clicky beeps of the communicator to the crazy defying physical laws Doppler Effect in space. Perhaps even more impressive than the voice acting was the incredible musical score newly composed just for the game. While following Star Trek themes and style, it managed to enhance each location to the point when I actually started to suspend my disbelief, which is very difficult for me to do in a game. This is, without a doubt, one of the best soundtracks composed for any game, and could easily belong to a movie. Stellar sound makes for an immersing gaming environment and that's exactly what Star Trek Hidden Evil has.

Hidden Evil uses two-dimensional pre rendered backdrops with 3D polygonal characters with surprisingly good effect. The backgrounds are superb and can be very dramatic, diversely ranging from a giant xenophore seed to the engineering bay of the Enterprise. Great use of color accompanied by realistic proportions and dramatic angles make for the second cause of Hidden Evil's great environment. The characters, while relatively low poly compared to other games, still look like people and Picard and Data are close enough to their human counterparts to be believable. A nice touch was the mouth movement of the characters when speaking, even though it was not in direct sync with the dialogue. It made for a more believable experience, as I find no movement, such as in Redguard, to be far more annoying than out of sync movement. The bodily movement animations, such as strafing and running were decently done, however the strafing was quite unbelievable in that you could change your strafe direction with incredible speed: extremely unrealistic. Collision detection was pretty much perfect, although there was one time I did get stuck in a corner and had to load a save game. While the movement animation was smooth, the control of it was awkward at times, although not overly so. Sometimes I found myself unable to properly run and shoot or run away from an attacker, which proved to be less annoying than it sounds. Aiming the phaser, and eventually the disruptor, could be both extremely irritating and simplistic depending on your situation. Auto targeting is enabled in the game, but it can get in the way when you want to run and shoot things. However it can also save your ass when flying xenophores are buzzing all around you. Higher poly characters and better aiming would greatly improve the graphical immersion, but as it stands it's still quite excellent.

As I've mentioned many times in previous reviews, although those are becoming quite ancient now, a good story is, for me the only true measure of epic gaming. While Hidden Evil is far too short to be an epic, it marks the beginnings of one, and if only it were longer I'm sure it would have been an even better game. However, I completed Hidden Evil in a very small amount of time, and while most casual gamers will take a little longer to complete it, it is quite short in comparison to other offerings such as Grim Fandango or Omikron. Hidden Evil feels very much like a Star Trek episode when with a little more gameplay it could have easily been equated with a full-blown movie epic, but the story is very tightly woven, with no inconsistencies. Gameplay is seamless within the story, even with the rendered videos breaking up different sections of the game. Even though some of the puzzles can be extremely hard, others are quite simple and often the tricorder item will be of great assistance in figuring out some of the more difficult puzzles. I was very pleased with how each puzzle was directly related to the story and the items, with no nonsensical parings or illogic required. Along with the puzzles there is occasional combat, which is the game's biggest weakness. I think that it was a great idea to include some combat in the game, but the combat system needs much improvement. My primary gripe is the bloody long recharge times for your weapon that allow fast Romulans or xenophores to run up to you and start punching or mauling you to death. If there was some way to perform hand to hand combat I didn't figure it out and so I often found myself running backwards and shooting the creatures that chased me. The combat added to the challenge while not being overbearing, despite the horrible system for dealing with it. If only it weren't so short, I'd be thoroughly pleased.

Star Trek is probably the most abused license in gaming (at least Star Wars has good games associated with it), and as such I rarely expect anything of decent quality with the Star Trek name attached to it. Hidden Evil defies the trend and offers an excellent, but short, adventure game in the classic style. It's nothing new, but also a very solid offering. If Star Trek games in the future can match the quality of production in Hidden Evil, I might have to rescind my above statement. Hidden Evil is a great quick fix, and something most everyone, even non Star Trekkers will probably enjoy.


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