Ever since we first caught a glimpse of Star Trek: Bridge Crew at E3 in June, we've been extremely excited by the communal VR game. And recently we got to spend a lot more time with it, playing in different crew member roles and trying to complete the demo mission in different ways.
It was certainly one of the games we thought would give PlayStation VR a massive push on the build up to this Christmas. Could even have been the stand-out virtual reality game of the year.
However, Ubisoft has officially announced that it is delayed until 14 March 2017, from its original 29 November street date. As it says in a statement, the publisher believes that by delaying the release, it will make for a better game: "In order to deliver the best game experience possible at launch, we have decided to push the release of Star Trek: Bridge Crew. It is designed exclusively for VR and we want to offer a compelling and engaging experience."
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That means us Trekkies and anyone who wants to experience what it's like to be a crew member of a Federation starship will have to wait. From our experiences though, it'll be well worth it. Here's why...
Star Trek: Bridge Crew preview: To boldly go
Star Trek: Bridge Crew will be available for Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive when it does come out next year, and depending on which platform you run it on will likely make a difference to the graphical fidelity - the PS4 does not have the rendering capability of a high end, Nvidia GTX 1080 powered gaming PC, for example.
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However, all three versions will play essentially the same. Each time we've tried it we used an Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch controllers, but it will work as effectively using a PSVR and Move controllers, or the HTC Vive and its wands.
It is a seated experience, as your Star Trek character will also remain seated throughout, but you use the motion controllers to double as your hands in the game.
Four players are required for each game session and we played it over a LAN with all four in the same room. Indeed, during our first play at E3, we were accompanied by LeVar Burton - yes, the actual Geordie La Forge - as one of the other crew members. He was rubbish at it, by the way.
The final release will also be available to play online, with friends or matched with like-minded players. You choose your crew position from captain, helm, tactical or engineer and after a short tutorial about your position (in the demo at least) away you go.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew preview: Make it so
Each crew member has specific responsibilities and we've played them all save for captain. The captain doesn't really have a lot to do in the alpha build demo version so it's always been played by a member of the development team during our sessions, but the role will be expanded for the final game.
We were told some of the tasks assigned to specific the crew members in the alpha will also be available to others in the final build, but for the purposes of the demo, each of them had defined roles.
At helm, we essentially piloted the USS Aegis, engaged warp drive, that sort of thing. It might not sound like the most interesting position, but considering you spend most of the demo mission chasing or evading Klingon Birds of Prey, it's very involving.
When taking the tactical seat, we were in charge of scanning floating escape pods, locking on targets, raising and lowering shields and firing phasers and photon torpedoes. It's possibly the most fun role at present, which is why Ubisoft is rebalancing the tasks, we suspect.
Finally, the engineer is in charge of assigning power to different ship functions, such as warp drive, shields and weapons. The person in this position must also "Beam them up, Scotty!"
Star Trek: Bridge Crew preview: The final frontier
We played the same mission in all of our Star Trek: Bridge Crew sessions, but it's a great indication of how the final game will turn out. And we became a dab hand at it by the end, managing to zip through it in just four minutes or so as a speed run.
There will be other missions available in the final release, but this one has a basic Star Trek premise - rescue stranded citizens who are floating in escape pods in space before a nearby star explodes. Of course, the aforementioned Klingon vessels get in the way once they decloak and it becomes a firefight (or an exercise in quickly saving the survivors and pegging it in our speed run), then all crew members get to use their assigned tasks to the max.
It's great fun and becomes very communal, as you chat to each other in order to succeed even if you've never met your compatriots before. The graphical effects are excellent too, with male and female avatars not only representing the human controlled crew members, but random others on the deck to make up numbers.
During one of our outings, one of them even died in front of us, lying there for the rest of the mission to remind us of our failure. They weren't even a "red shirt".
Clearly there will be much more to Star Trek: Bridge Crew in its final release version, and the scope to add further missions through DLC is great.
But even from our gameplay sessions so far we can tell that it's going to be one of the triple-A VR games that we'll come back to time and again. As it stands it's one of the best PlayStation VR games we've played so far.
Roll on stardate 14 March 2017, when it's finally out.