The Evil Story
With so many quality Star Trek games coming down the pipeline, it’s enough to make a Trekkie (or Trekker) wish that the same sort of creativity was being applied to the actual TV series and movies. After Interplay’s Star Fleet Command and upcoming Klingon Academy, the Trek license belongs exclusively to Activision until well into Y2K, and their games are looking sharp. First up from Activision is Star Trek: Hidden Evil, due in stores now! (you can order it online through Electronic Boutique or Babbages.
Hidden Evil is set nine months after the conclusion of Star Trek: Insurrection, the most recent movie to star the cast of Next Generation. You take on the identity of Ensign Sovok, a recent graduate from the prestigious Star Fleet academy. Sovok has been assigned to act as both shuttle pilot and glorified gopher for Captain Jean-Luc Picard as the Enterprise returns to Ba’Ku, a planet with a mysterious energy field that seems to prolong human life almost indefinitely. While the concept of fetching for a prestigious Star Fleet captain may not sound very exciting, you just know things aren’t going to go smoothly when the Enterprise is in orbit.
Sure enough, things start going loopy from the moment you touch down. Turns out that the long-lived folks on Ba’Ku have discovered the archaeological remains of an ancient race that inhabited the planet before them. Lots of spooky old ruins have been turned up and the Enterprise is there to help out on the dig (don’t you love how these Star Fleet guys can do everything?). Good thing they’re there, because those blasted Romulans have also turned up at the same time, just spoiling for a little interstellar conflict. Before you can rasp out a whiskey-soaked “He’s dead, Jim,” Sovok is racing to kick some pointy-eared ass, Federation of Planets-style.
Sovok, although human, was born and raised on Vulcan, so embraces many of that race’s beliefs and philosophies. He also has mastered the all-purpose Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Spock’s tool of the trade for knocking out offending humanoids without having to resort to phasers set on stun. For those more comfortable with the “sci” in sci-fi, there’s plenty of high-tech toys to use, from the trusty phaser and the all-in-one tricorder (“It slices! It dices! It can display the atomic density of non-localized phased anti-matter particles in four hundred Federation languages!”), to the nifty camouflage suit that Data wore at the beginning of Insurrection.
While a generic Star Fleet dweeb may not be the most fantastic of roles, at least Activision remembered to include some of the series’ bigwigs (or non-wigs, in the some cases). Patrick Stewart reprises his role as the shiny-domed Captain Picard, while Brent Spiner does his Data thing throughout the game. The two actors are constantly interacting with Sovok, either issuing orders via communicators or joining him for a few rounds of “Zap the Alien.” Presto Studios, Hidden Evil’s developer, has done an excellent job capturing the two actors’ likenesses, from Data’s greenish-white skin and big ole’ nose to the soft glow of ambient lighting reflecting from Picard’s forehead. In fact, even the non-famous cast of Hidden Evil look great, with lots of polys per character and smooth, motion-captured animations.
Presto Studios are the same guys who created The Journeyman Project, the FMV/rendered adventure series published by Broderbund/Mindscape a few years back. Like the Journeyman games, Hidden Evil is a serious adventure game, with lots of puzzles and action. However, the Star Trek title now sports a nifty 2D/3D engine that should look mighty fine on 3dfx hardware. All the backgrounds in the game have been pre-rendered in startling detail, giving an intense visual look to the environment. The characters and lighting effects within the game are all 3D objects rendered in real-time by your Voodoo card, which gives them a more naturalistic appearance. The Resident Evil-style of gameplay not only allows the developers to spend much more time crafting the look of each backdrop, but to setup the most dramatic camera angle for each scene.
Instead of clicking wildly around the screen in order to turn up a barely visible item or forcing the player to combine ridiculous objects in order to complete a task, Presto is designing puzzles that make sense, a rarity in this genre. Gone are the “Put chicken in sock; fire phaser at sock; pour molten soup down the back of Romulan guard’s pants; take key from pants pocket when Romulan strips naked” stumpers that force frustrated Trekkers (or Trekkies) to search the internet for solutions. Puzzles come in two flavors: brain and fingers. Sometimes you’ll be expected to give your cerebral matter a workout as you unlock codes or search for clues, while at other times you may need to run, jump and shoot your way past certain obstacles.
Unlike the disastrous Microprose Next Generation game from five years ago, Presto seems to know their limitations. Instead of attempting to mix third-person exploration with space sim, Hidden Evil is shying away from starship battles and keeping the action limited to a more personal exchange. If you’re hungry for ship-to-ship combat, however, Activision does have something in the works. Later in 2000, they’ll release Star Trek: Armada, a real-time strategy game focusing on deep space skirmishes between Federation, Klingon Romulan and Borg craft. In the meantime, however, be content to explore the world of Star Trek: Hidden Evil.
Check out the Hidden Evil Web site at: www.activision.com/games/hiddenevil.
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By Imran Husain.
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