Little did anyone know after a miserable three-season stint in the late sixties that the Star Trek phenomenon would be approaching its fifth decade as an entertainment vehicle in multiple formats. There have been quite a few series (ST, STTNG, DS9, Enterprise - if you don’t know what the acronyms mean, don’t worry about it) and many games that have ranged from being very bad to being very good. Fortunately, Star Trek Shattered Universe is presently on course for the better part of that range.
You are on the Excelsior, commanded by Captain Sulu (yes, THAT Sulu) and are accidentally transposed into a Mirror Universe. For fans of the series (the original one), you’ll remember this setting was also featured in an episode named “Mirror Mirror” (Episode #39) which had the alternative Spock sporting a goatee in an alternative universe that closely resembles our own - only it’s different. Everyone is the polar opposite of what they were before, good becomes evil, the Federation becomes the Empire, and everyone has an attitude. You’ll notice that Chekhov is among your adversaries, (which is similar to the original episode wherein the two of them were at each other’s throats) and you are considered to be a renegade in the Empire and must be destroyed. Chekhov and Sulu are using considerable voiceovers from the original actors (Walter Konig and George Takei, respectively) and this adds to the game’s authenticism.
Unfortunately, your capital ships’ Phasers have been tampered with and sabotaged- they no longer function. Good thing, because this is where you come in and have to man one of six fighters, which are progressively unlocked throughout the game, and go toe to toe with the Empire’s best fighters and flagships, not to mention Klingons, Romulans, and other assorted nasty surprises. At least 19 missions await you, most having multiple objectives and three difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, and Hard) as well as a Bonus option for completing everything in a specified amount of time. The ships are obviously varied in their abilities and armament as well as their origin. You’ll have 3 “Imperial” ships to choose from as well as a Klingon Bird of Prey, Romulan Shrike, and the unique Orion Corsair. There are multiple weapons systems for each and some are only available for specific ships, these include but aren’t limited to Phasers (bolt & beam), Plasma Cannon, the venerable Photon Torpedo, Plasma Torpedo, and more. All of these are progressively upgraded as you move along in the game to a maximum of three levels.
Shattered Alliance is mission based and combat intensive. Some of your tasks will seem very daunting, as you only have a small fighter and might be asked to take out multiple capital class ships and numerous fighters, for example. You may have to navigate to particular points while engaging Klingon fighters and avoiding gravity wells that’ll suck you into the planet’s surface and instantaneously destroy you. I can’t really comment on the “realism” of having a small fighter class ship taking on ships of the magnitude of the Enterprise, but it does seem a bit far fetched. But, it’s fun, so who cares? Sulu will issue your commands at each mission briefing. He might add new mission objectives during your sortie and further might even belay his own orders and advise on attacking a new specific target, usually to help the Excelsior survive. Takei seems a bit static in his delivery as Sulu and a sense of urgency is lacking - until you actually start the mission, that is, where you’ll constantly find yourself under pressure to perform. Konig comes across as far more inspired, however.
The controls are fairly intuitive. The acceleration and brakes are on R2 and L2, respectively, which is a bit curious as the default setting. Still, it works. The HUD provides Target Lead (where you SHOULD be shooting), Cross Hair (where your dumb fire is going), Target Lock (you can rotate this between Capital and Fighter class ships), Comm Center (in case you didn’t hear what Sulu said), Specific Targeted Ship (very important as it monitors damage to your target via color codes and gives you an idea of where you’re at in a particular battle), and Radar (mission timer, shield strength, radar compass). There are target arrows in that you can follow on your screen to pursue your target or try to find your mother ship. There’s a lot of information to process on the screen, but once you get used to it, it’s fairly easy to master and monitor, despite the many distractions that will engage you.
Star Trek Shattered Universe features huge space stations, capital ships, multiple fighters (friend and foe in some cases), asteroids, stars, and more on the screen at the same time. There is a lot of stuff going on and I didn’t experience the faintest hit of a hiccup or slowdown of any kind. Ships are nicely detailed, as are your surroundings. You’ll find yourself periodically momentarily blinded when you “see” a star at a certain angle. Explosions and the destruction of ships are nicely done and provide a certain rush of adrenaline when you finally bring a behemoth down. In our PS2 rev., it seems as though the accelerator needed some tweaking but nothing major as it needed to be coerced with a second or third push in some instances.
It should be noted that even on “Easy” mode that this is NOT an easy game. You’ll have to restart missions more often than you’d think and achieving the aforementioned “bonus” items by completing within a specified time is very, very difficult. This should help keep the replay value of the title very strong. Also, some of the missions are very time consuming and will clock in at over 15 minutes of real time to finish. That’s a long time of playing without pause - it might not sound like it, but trust me - it’s taxing considering all of the objectives a mission might require you to pay attention to. Obviously, if you fail 12 minutes into the mission you’ll have to start all over again. Don’t let the number of missions fool you, this will take a long time for most to finish and it’s a rewarding experience as the story progresses with each successful meander. Obviously, your final objective is get back to “your” world which you’ll have to do by crossing the universe one step at a time.
Star Trek Shattered Universe is scheduled for a November release date for both the Playstation 2 and Xbox. As it stands, it looks to be a worth addition to what has become the Star Trek legacy. Beam us up, we’re there.