Boldly going where no game should go, ever.
Star Trek has had a strange gaming history because the license keeps changing hands. One year Interplay has it and spits out a bunch of Star Trek games, the next it's Activision's turn, and now TDK Mediactive somehow gets a crack at it. One thing remain constant, however: you never really know if the game will rock or suck until you play it.
Which is exactly what I did with Star Trek: Shattered Universe for the PS2 or Xbox, though I wish I did anything else. This game is not a diamond in the rough - it's a peanut in the toilet.
STSU takes place in the original Star Trek Universe, and you are some nameless ensign on Sulu's ship, the Excelsior. You've just received a distress call from the Enterprise, now under the control of Chekov, and it turns out that the Enterprise is being sucked into a mysterious vortex. You go to help, get sucked in too, and all of a sudden you're in a bizarro world (yes, even more bizarre than Chekov captaining the Enterprise), where Chekov and the Federation are bad! It's like Evil Spock, only worse.
As soon as you're ejected from the temporal sphincter, Chekov says something sassy and attacks you with a bunch of shuttles. You, faceless jerk, er Ensign so and so, must ride out in a shuttle you've never piloted before, single-handedly mop up a squadron of elite fighter pilots and damage the Enterprise to the point that she withdraws. Fortunately for you, the position of shuttle-pilot in this bizarre universe is reserved exclusively for retards and spider-monkeys. You kick butt, Chekov runs away, and your long, linear quest through Space Balls, er, Star Trek: Shattered Universe, begins.
The main problem with the plot is that the two stars are Sulu and Evil Chekov. Sulu might be a cult figure, but he's not exactly the leading-man type. The only time he really showed some spunk was in that episode where he went nuts with the fencing foil and tried to kill everyone. He should have been like that all the time, and they should have kept him in a cage on the bridge. Chekov, on the other hand, had all kinds of things to say'except in this game! "Enemy wessel approachink, keptin!" is a deeply embedded geek mantra, but he never says it! In STFU, er, STSU, he's this brooding, dark Chekov who delivers a dramatic monologue every time you fail a mission. Have you ever seen Moontrap?
Topping it all off is the absence of Captain Kirk, or Captain Picard, or even stupid Captain Janeway. No Star Trek A-listers anywhere in the vicinity of this black hole.
The missions themselves are awful. In one, you go around shooting rocks and every time you blow one up, more fighters appear. You kill them, blow up another rock, kill more fighters'on and on this goes until the mission abruptly ends. Brilliant.
In another, you're faced with four junk-heap ships that are being controlled by an evil computer. You might be thinking of four unique ships in various stages of disrepair with all sorts of interesting details and vulnerabilities. If so, you're thinking of the wrong game, because they're all the same ship: the original Enterprise. After saying something robotic and boring like "BzzZZt.. you have been selected for termination'BzzZZt"" all four ships attack the Excelsior.
You, The Amazing Ensign, are charged once again with destroying all four ships by yourself. In a shuttle! If you don't kill the four Enterprises, enemy fighter ships will never, ever stop spawning in. To top it off, the Excelsior never fights back. You're completely alone.
The mission I just described is the fourth of nineteen levels in STSU, which is about as far as most people will get before finding something else to do. You eventually pilot some cooler ships like a Klingon Bird of Prey, but good luck playing this tragedy long enough to enjoy it.
In whichever ship you're piloting (there are seven), you've got forward and reverse thrust and steer with the left analog stick. But you can't strafe, and your one fancy maneuver is the barrel roll, which causes you to slowly cork-screw. You've got a beam weapon, a blaster weapon, and a torpedo. You have an unlimited supply of each, and they're mapped to the different face buttons.
Let's apply these to fighting the four junk Enterprises. You can't maneuver your way out of a paper bag, so you sit behind the saucer (where the ships can't hit you) and mash all three face buttons for about two minutes. Since there are four ships, you enjoy a rollicking 8 minutes of pure, mindless button-mashing.
Just when you think it's over, another big ship and some fighters show up. So you get another 2 minutes of button-mashing, after which you have to chase down the fighters before they blow up your ship. If you fail at any point, you have to try the whole thing again. Out of the twelve minutes you play this mission, ten are spent mashing buttons. Or better yet, just mash your controller into the carpet and run screaming.
Things get mildly better when dogfighting with smaller enemy ships because at least they move. However, since your reverse function is so effective, nothing can ever get away from you. Any ship you target is highlighted by a red reticule while a second yellow reticule helps you lead your target. If you line up well you can smoke ships from long distance with your blasters, though you generally just wind up pursuing ships and mashing your buttons at them mercilessly. After about 40 kills, you'll want to turn the blasters on yourself.
Or your TV, since the graphics suck regardless of which version you play. Sulu looks like he just finished auditioning for the role of Zombie #443 in a Resident Evil game. Your ships look terrible, though you only really see them from behind and it's not a very interesting view. The framerate isn't bad, although it's easy to see why since the entire background is black space. Space can look really interesting, but the developers are clearly minimalist purists of the most ascetic order and decided not to pollute the blackness with any visual flourishes. And the explosions'ohhh, the explosions. Every time you whack a big ship, the game forces you to watch a cut scene of the worst explosion in a video game ever, consisting of an expanding white ball that you think is going to be the precursor to a really great explosion, and then everything fades away. Limp as a wet noodle.
The sounds aren't any better. Both Walter Koenig and George Takei lend their voices, but as was mentioned, Sulu kind of sucks and Evil Chekov is a travesty. The in-game noises consist of irritating weapon effects and annoying status alerts from Sulu. Hey Sulu, if your hull is getting compromised, maybe you should FIGHT BACK. On the upside, you can attack your own ships, although you never get to listen to your crew scream and beg for mercy as you end their miserable lives.
Star Trek: Shattered Universe is simply a terrible game. Bad graphics, poor sound, lousy play mechanics, dull mission design, occasional crashes and no Captain Kirk combine to make this an adventure best left to the unknown.