Star Trek: Bridge Crew
PSVR, Rift, Vive
Astarship captain, we suppose, should be unflappable and decisive, but at this rate, we’re headed for a court martial. In our defence, the ‘answer hail’ and ‘red alert’ buttons are in troublingly close proximity. Later, as the flames lick around our console, a poor NPC lies dead and our hull integrity drops to single figures, we realise delegating isn’t quite as easy as Kirk and Picard made it seem. But assuming you’re prepared to ignore that one dogfight where we forgot to raise the shields, a finer Tactical officer you’ll struggle to find. As long as you don’t look too hard.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a new entry in that nascent genre of multiplayer games (populated by the likes of Spaceteam and Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes) where each participant has an incomplete picture, and communication is necessary to fill in the gaps for one another. The Captain of the USS Aegis has an array of information at their fingertips and must decide how best to approach each objective and guide his crew accordingly. A Helmsperson gets the glamorous job of steering the ship and warping to new vectors; there’s something particularly satisfying about grasping that lever in your left hand and thrusting it forward to punch the engines to full throttle. In the Tactical chair, you scan anomalies and signals, arm torpedoes, manage shields and shoot down enemy craft. And the Engineer is the ship’s secret heartbeat, rerouting power to engines for quick getaways or to phasers when more firepower is required – though if everyone else is doing their job properly, it can also be one of the more relaxing roles.
At times it feels more Thunderbirds than Star Trek, as you find yourself conducting an act of slightly clumsy puppetry, your body rigid but your avatar’s head and arms moving along with your own. And yes, while there’s a beautiful external view you can switch to, ultimately each job boils down to looking at displays and pushing virtual buttons. Yet the experience is consistently absorbing. One mission sees us nervily sneaking through Klingon patrols, our captain’s quick thinking and helmsman’s capability keeping us safe until a daring advance to transport survivors from a stricken ship alerts a cloaked craft. One thrilling firefight (and a hasty warp) later, the Aegis is ablaze, but our mission is a success. The collective relief is palpable.
Procedurally generated missions add extra meat to an otherwise thin campaign, but the human element means quests never play out the same way twice. Bridge Crew transforms an ordinarily isolating technology into something irresistibly social: it’s an anecdote generator par excellence, and a VR experience that handily overcomes its limitations as a game.
Cross-platform compatibility means PSVR, Rift and Vive owners can all join one another, the only real difference being that console players can’t point their avatar’s finger so accusingly at a teammate not pulling their weight