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E3 2016: Star Trek Bridge Crew Impressions with NVIDIA and Oculus VR
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E3 2016: Star Trek Bridge Crew Impressions with NVIDIA and Oculus VR

Ubisoft pushes a reason to go VR with Star Trek, made possible by NVIDIA and Oculus.

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Reviewing a GeForce GTX 1080 has been a high priority for me, largely because PC gaming is again being lauded as the people’s choice to believable effect. That’s why I had to make an appointment for NVIDIA and get a taste of their premier GPU, or at least an indicator of what to expect from future models.

However, I wasn’t expecting to get an experience like Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which amounts to a Trekkies’ wet dream as you take part in flying a starship, virtually. Yep, Ubisoft has brought us the essence of manning a vessel into the final frontier, and does it through (you guessed it) VR.

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The demo involved four players in co-op, four VR headsets (in my case an Oculus Rift with Touch controllers), and four of PCs either by local (LAN) or online play. Prep yourself and you’ll find yourself sitting on the bridge with your fellow crewmembers, overlooking the panoramic splendor of space. As you get comfortable basking in brightly lit interior with neon blue accents, the attention to detail is fantastic in a clean 1970’s TV aura; faithfully recreating that distinct cheesiness that’s probably second to actually stepping on a replica set.

My demo had me and three others taking on the respective roles of Command, Helm, Tactical, and Engineering. Each is responsible for a specific function as you conduct a recuse mission, I was in charge of the helm and navigated the ship out of warp and into the remains of a devastated space station, while the tactical officer mans the photon torpedoes and active shields, the engineer beams people aboard. But whoever sits in the captain chair must be swift and thorough in command — issuing orders verbally — while observing the overall condition of the ship in the thick of it.

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As soon as we proceeded with our mission among the debris, we were immediately ambushed by Klingon forces and had to juggle the task of recusing survivors while engaging in combat. Needless to say, Bridge Crew requires deliberate teamwork and communication where actions are best done in an organized manner.

The overall experience began as I learned the controls, mostly involving sliding a cursor or pulling a (virtual) lever to move the ship. It soon became easy right until the ambush occurred and we had to work in hurried unison. If you’re not familiar with virtual reality and the accompanying headsets, then frantic emotions may overcome your grounded senses, this is the purest nature of Bridge Crew as you’ll try and stay under superficial pressure. Losing oneself in moment is a bit stressful as we recovered all escape pods, and somehow managed to hightail it out of danger — it was actually a blast — despite the controlled efficiency of being a part of a team.

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Trekkies will clearly love the sensory immersion of Star Trek: Bridge Crew, but the gameplay depth is potentially elevated here. The ability to command a starship is nothing new on the multiplayer front, but I can appreciate the genre going where no game has gone before. The addition of VR certainly helps the cause, but like the powerful GPU behind it, it won’t come cheap. Now would be a good time to pinch those pennies for a pending fall release on all available platforms (Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive).


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About the Author: Herman Exum