[Disclosure: A game key was provided for the contents of this article]
Ubisoft and Red Storm’s VR tech demo in disguise as a real game called Star Trek: Bridge Crew isn’t actually a real game. The PlayStation VR and Vive co-op game is basically an exercise in menu navigation and coordination. You don’t really play the game and despite some intense moments, the whole thing is a repetitive sim that doesn’t really go anywhere.
You can create your own character before you get into main game, choosing to either be male or female. You can randomize the character or choose from some extremely limited facial and hair options. Your character’s race also alters based on their features, so big lips and a wide nose nets you a black person, while slanted eyes and a long forehead will turn you into an Asian. Normal features keeps you white. Also, you can choose to be either human or Vulcan.
The game consists of just four modes, one of which includes the training that walks you through each role on the bridge. There’s also the option to do a Quick Match that pairs you up with some randoms, a Private Match that lets you either host or join a private game or a public game, and Solo Adventure a mode that features a prologue training mission that ends with impossible Kobayashi Maru scenario, or the option to play randomly generated missions.
The missions usually consist of the same cycle of events over and over again, whether you do multiplayer or single-player: warp to a sector, impulse to a location, scan an object, either fight or avoid an enemy ship (or ships), and then rinse and repeat from the “impulse to a location” part. That’s literally the extent of the gameplay loop.
Whether you’re playing with the updated Aegis ship or the original U.S.S. Enterprise from the 1960’s show, your ship will always feel like a glass cannon. Also, the big difference between the two is that the old retro ship is harder to use because the pads and buttons aren’t clearly identified so you’ll spend a lot more time trying to fumble around the controls to do basic things like target an object on the star map or activate other utilities on the ship. If you want the added challenge of fumbling around the control panels, then the old-school ship is designed for you.
The multiplayer co-op aspect comes into play with the whole multi-role positions on the bridge. There’s the captain, who gives orders; the engineer who can repair the ship; the flight officer who mans the helm; and the weapon specialist, who handles scanning and weapons.
In single-player mode players delegate orders and commands to the rest of the bridge crew using either the crew menu or actual voice commands if you have a microphone on hand. If you feel the crew isn’t doing things fast enough to your liking, you can manually hop into their positions and fumble with the panels and controls yourself to get things done.
In multiplayer each player is assigned to a console and must carry out the orders (or not) that the captain gives out.
Conceptually this probably sounds really cool, but in practice this is literally just a glorified tech demo. There’s absolutely nothing to the game beyond what’s mentioned above. Yes, there are some battle encounters where you’ll have to juggle between giving power to your shields or your weapons, but much like the television show (or movies) the battles won’t involve you blasting down baddies and coming out unscathed.
In fact, combat is highly discouraged based on the glass-like integrity of the ship’s hull. Instead you’re encouraged to do more running and hiding than actual fighting.
So what do you do when you aren’t fighting? Scanning.
What are you doing when you aren’t scanning? Impulsing to the next location.
And what are you doing when you aren’t impulsing to the next location? Repairing stuff that got damaged when you had to tuck tail and run.
And what are you doing when you aren’t repairing? Scanning.
That’s literally the gameplay loop; that’s all there is to the game, over and over again.
As I mentioned, Star Trek: Bridge Crew isn’t a real game. It’s a $50 tech demo.
The motion controls work well enough for the menu navigation systems, and once you get good pulling up and closing down menus, it will feel like you’re a true VR secretary.
However, the game’s absolutely horrendous resolution, even on the HTC Vive, dated 2004-quality graphics, awful looking characters, bland looking ship bridge, ugly special effects, and the small spherical space boxes means there’s nothing to look at on-screen to ogle and awe at from a visual standpoint. Then again, most VR games look absolutely awful, and aren’t much more impressive than a Wii U game.
Save your money and get a real game like Superhot VR; what that game lacks in graphical fidelity it makes up for in fun. But the existence of piss poor tech demos like Star Trek: Bridge Crew will only continue to devalue the VR gaming space, especially at $50. Obviously, you should…