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Review – Star Trek: Shattered Universe

posted on April 20th, 2006 by tony

Developed by Stasphere Interactive
Published by TDK Mediactive
Released 1.13.04

No … this game was not made in 1990. Why would you say that?

This Trek game was developed by Starsphere Interactive whos last game seems to have been You Don’t Know Jack for the PS1. They should have stopped there. Just take a look at their impressive list of games and I believe you will already know where this review is going.

Being an enormous fan of the Trek universe, I really want the franchise to do well. Movies, books, new shows, video games; I just want them to make enough money to keep the universe alive. That’s why games like Shattered Universe bother me so much. I think this game was made in two months … by monkeys … monkeys who were mildly retarded. A couple of these in a row and you have a seriously dying franchise, which is exactly what’s happening to Star Trek these days. It baffles me how a company can sign off on so many half-assed, boring games when you have a universe that has so many rabid fans needing some semblance of a worthwhile game bad enough that they’d play a turd like this after looking at the package. It seems to me that if you could put a little money into the games division you could make quite a successful game with the only requirement being that it doesn’t completely suck.

Shattered Universe takes place in the original series’ Mirror Universe … the one where everyone who’s good is now evil, and everyone has a scar or goatee to mark them as bad. It seems the only two actors who needed the money bad enough were Walter Koenig (Chekov) and George Takei (Sulu) because that’s all we get. Sulu’s ship gets sucked into the Mirror Universe where he runs into an evil Chekov in command of the Enterprise. In this alternate reality there is no United Federation of Planets, replaced instead by the Terran Empire, of which evil Sulu is a highly respected Captain. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when the Empire figures out that you aren’t the right (or wrong) Sulu and proceeds to attack you … across fifteen levels … over and over and over again. But never all at the same time. It’s like a space Bruce Lee movie. There are hundreds of ships in the Terran Imperial Fleet and you will blow up many of them, one by one.

I never understood the long neck on the Klingon battle cruiser.
I mean, do they walk that whole thing? Is there a tram system?

I was under the assumption that you would be able to pilot Sulu’s starship, the Excelsior, through some of these battles. I was wrong. You pilot a number of small fighter craft each with different attributes that seemed to make no difference at all. So it’s an epic space shooter from the point of view of an unnamed fighter pilot in a two-man craft. Even so, I think I could have accepted and even enjoyed that premise if the game weren’t so horribly designed. Mission objectives seldom make sense, the controls are sluggish and unintuitive and the cut scenes are laughably bad.

I think my biggest problem with the game was its sense of space. Every level is the same, with you defending the Excelsior from attackers (be they other fighter craft or larger starships) and they all take place in the same confined area. The words “confined area” and “space combat”? should really never be used to describe the same game. Starships would warp in and stop about five hundred feet off the Excelsior’s bow. Enemy fighters would come at you in waves of three or four and wait for you to destroy the whole squadron before launching reinforcements. You know, so as not to clutter up the staged fighting area … that area being SPACE! Some levels inserted a planet or two into the mix which caused you to crash if you wandered too close and got sucked into its gravity well … a very nice addition on the part of the programmers when levels can last longer than twenty minutes without any save points. This is the only flight combat game I’ve ever played where I felt penned in.

That’s no moon … it’s a shitty game.

Controlling your chariot of boredom is a challenge in itself. One feature I think is interesting, and I still can’t figure out if it was purposefully part of the game or just an accident on the part of the developers, is the lack of movement when not hitting the accelerators. Most flight combat games move you along at a steady pace, with controls for speeding up and slowing down … and sometimes that default speed is way too fast (cough * Rouge Squadron * cough!). This seemed to be fairly accurate to what a real space battle would be like. If you’re not telling the ship to move there’s no reason it should. Hitting the reverse accelerator while moving forward would immediately switch directions without having to come to a complete stop. However, there’s no vertical thruster controls. This is what makes me think the aforementioned feature was a mistake. If you can make the ship move forward or backward without consideration of inertia then why can’t you dodge attacks by immediately moving up or down? Space has three dimensions last I checked. Instead, you had to fly all the way around objects or ships, with no way to control altitude.

Each fighter is equipped with two phaser-type weapons and one torpedo-type weapon. You can’t really use the torpedo against anything by the massive starships because they’re impossible to aim. An offset reticule is given to help you lead your targets, but it’s off by so much it’s virtually unusable. If not for the sustained phaser beam primary weapon, hitting targets would be impossible. Your squad mates will regularly shoot you from behind and jump right in front of you at the most inopportune times, all the while never managing to destroy a single enemy ship.

Is that Joe Don Baker?!?

Missions start with a briefing from Captain Sulu and includ some choice lazy voice acting. Even when the ship was in absolute peril he delivered lines like he was reading a Denny’s menu. When Chekov out-acts you and never once has to use the words “nuclear wessels” you know you’ve phoned it in. The CGI during the cut scenes is Max Headroom quality, and that’s not a compliment. Neither of the main characters looked like their real life counterparts, mouths weren’t at all synched with the audio, and the in game particle effects looked much weaker than a two year old game should.

Overall, this game symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the Star Trek franchise lately. Poor development, lackluster follow-through, worn out story lines and not enough support from credible entertainment professionals. I really hope someone can get in there and give this franchise the shot of new blood that it desperately needs. I can’t recommend this game (or most of the other Trek games) to even the staunchest Trek supporter and that’s sad. “Shattered Universe” indeed.

4 Comments

  1. Dan said on April 20, 2006:

    Why the hell can’t anyone make a close to decent Trek game? Honestly, has there ever been one that is good? I can’t really think of any off the top of my head. With a universe as large as Treks, I think it is a shame that they can’t come up with SOMETHING, other than the shit box Tony reviewed. If anyone ever made a good RTS game based off trek…just thinking about it gives me the jitters.

  2. Stefan said on April 21, 2006:

    But they pulled from the development teams of such classics as “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing”! How can someone who worked on that possibly make a bad game?

  3. jay said on April 21, 2006:

    Haha, I laughed for a good three minutes when I saw that on the developer’s site. It was hard to fight the urge to use the cover pic in this article, but now it’s time to give in.

  4. Tony said on April 21, 2006:

    Star Trek: Armada and Armada II are actually halfway decent RTS games. They play just like any other space RTS and you also get to control Romulans, Klingons and the Borg (with Picard as Locutus) at one point. They get a bit repetetive at points but that’s nothing new in an RTS. Also, The Elite Force series was well made. FPS games are always easy to pull off but it was actually fun to play which is a plus. When Activision started farming out all of their games to crappy third party developers the games took a horrible down turn.

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