Game Over Online ~ Star Trek: Shattered Universe

GameOver Game Reviews - Star Trek: Shattered Universe (c) TDK Mediactive, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Star Trek: Shattered Universe (c) TDK Mediactive
System Requirements Xbox
Overall Rating 60%
Date Published Friday, January 23rd, 2004 at 08:39 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

I don't really care for this game.

I can see where someone might care for it, or develop a sort of jaded affection for it, the same way that people sometimes like movies because they're bad. I can also see why people who enjoy the original "Star Trek" series might also like Star Trek: Shattered Universe, as it's voiced by Walter Koenig and George Takei, and is set within not only the "mirror universe" of the classic episode, but chronicles an adventure of Sulu's as the captain of the Excelsior.

I can see this, but I have a hard time thinking of it outside of the realm of imagination, if you catch my meaning. The fanboy reflex is a mighty thing, but it can only go so far before you're forced to realize the truth of something. This truth is simple; the game's mediocre at best.

Star Trek: Shattered Universe is a sort of half-sim shooter, along the lines of games such as Sky Gunner or Secret Weapons Over Normandy. As an unnamed crewmember of the U.S.S. Excelsior, captained by Hikaru Sulu, your mission is to protect the Excelsior in a series of nineteen space missions.

While racing to answer a distress call from the Enterprise, the Excelsior enters the mysterious Janus Vortex, and in so doing, is somehow "translated" into an alternate universe. The crewmembers remain essentially the same, but their uniforms, ships, and shuttlecraft are all markedly different. Suddenly, they're aboard one of the more warlike starships designed by the Terran Empire of the mirror universe, and facing down an alternate Enterprise that's commanded by a vicious alternate-universe Pavel Chekov.

Just before the switch, the alternate-universe Sulu and the Excelsior had apparently declared their intent to rebel against the Terran Empire, and Chekov has reacted by sabotaging the Excelsior's main phaser banks. Disarmed and piloting a disarmed ship, the crew of the Excelsior is forced to send out a squadron of the unfamiliar shuttlecraft that now occupy their hangar bay. Even if they manage to drive off the Enterprise, Sulu and the Excelsior are now marooned in an alternate universe, wanted for treason, and flying a crippled vessel. You, as one of those shuttlecraft pilots, suddenly have the fate of the Excelsior in your hands.

The first thing that you may notice is that the graphics in Shattered Universe are pretty good. Compared to an Xbox or GameCube title, a PS2 game will frequently have somewhat blurrier edges and muddier colors, but such is not the case here. As you hurtle over the glittering blue shields of an Empire starship, dodging incoming phaser fire and firing off proton torpedoes, everything is crisp and distinct, unmistakable for anything other than itself. There is an occasional bit of questionable level design, like the strange "space mist" that covers the entirety of the second level, but that's forgiveable.

You begin the game flying an Imperial Wraith ship, with more shuttlecraft becoming available as you achieve bonus objectives and finish missions. (The Spectre, with its twin phaser banks, is a particularly sweet ride.) The Imperial ships come standard with shields, phaser banks, phaser beams, and photon torpedoes, any of which can be fired off with the touch of a button. You can do barrel rolls, switch between targets with the control pad, and dive effortlessly about within the void of space. Between the voice acting by Takei and Koenig, among a host of talented actors, and the sound effects straight out of classic "Star Trek," this is a game that manages to reach an often-sought but infrequently-achieved goal: it looks and feels like an episode of its source material.

That's before you start to play it.

For example, of your shuttlecraft's three standard weapons, only one of them is both powerful and accurate enough to justify its regular use. The phaser beams hit their target about once out of every fifty shots, and photon torpedoes, which lack any kind of guidance mechanism, are completely useless against any target more maneuverable than, say, the impenetrable fabric of space itself. Unless you're firing at an enemy starship such as the Enterprise, or a space station, or something else that just doesn't ever move, you'll probably miss.

Your shuttlecraft comes equipped with a targeting reticule and autolock system, but you will still be doing most of your targeting by eye, using the automated system only to track down your next target. Sure, there's a target that floats just ahead of your current sparring partner, so you have something to aim at, but it simply does not work. Nine-tenths of victory in Shattered Universe relies upon finding someone to shoot, getting him within accurate visual range, and then dragging the beam phaser across his hull until he explodes into pretty yellow light.

While there is grim satisfaction in this, despite it being the peculiar sort of "clean" explosion that I somehow associate with "Star Trek," it's a bit monotonous, especially since many levels feature a constantly respawning near-army of enemy fighters to deal with. No sooner have you vaporized your current set than Sulu will announce the arrival of another wing, and you get to do it all over again.

The weapons array is further lacking in that it's often not as powerful as it needs to be. You are a fighter craft, designed to move quickly and dish out pain in a dogfight sort of way. In several missions, one of your objectives involves figuring out some way to mess up a much larger craft, such as, say, the Enterprise, where its phasers nearly kill you with one shot and even your photon torpedoes rarely knock off more than a fraction of their shield strength.

Meanwhile, you're theoretically defending the Excelsior, which rarely defends itself for some reason, and its shields are made of laughter and kisses. While you're leaning on the X button to try and gain even a momentary advantage, in between dodging massive phaser salvos and letting your shields regenerate, an already irritating and tense situation will be accelerated by Sulu announcing excitedly that the Excelsior's shields just dropped another twenty-five percent. The Excelsior's shields and armor thusly create a sort of arbitrary and ridiculous time limit, which can seem almost impossible to work within. After a few tries at defending the ship on the third level, I was looking frantically for the button that would let me strike out on my own in this exciting new universe, perhaps to become a space pirate. "Star Trek" needs a criminal element, and I feel like I'm the man for the job.

When your wingmen are all busy with the constant flood of new fighters; the Excelsior is out of the fight for some plot-related reason; its shields are dropping like your prom date's dress; and you're pinging another starship's shields with photon torpedoes like a man digging through a concrete wall with a cocktail straw, you will know frustration. And you will name it Shattered Universe.

Oh, sure, the Trekkies are going to eat this up with a spoon. Two spoons. They may actually dual-wield soup ladles and cram the Trek goodness into their mouths by the greedy cupful, unable to get enough.

I'm not a Trekkie, though, and this game is aggressive and unstoppable in its mediocrity. I assume that there are people out there for whom the license holds no special attraction, but who will, nonetheless, be attracted to a paradoxically fast-paced yet slow space battle simulation, but, well... they're freaks.


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