Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force
A quality Star Trek game and a first-rate FPS as well.
For the non-Star Trek: Voyager viewer (who certainly outnumber the dedicated fans), here’s a quick catch-up of Elite Force: The starship Voyager is lost light-years away from Federation space, somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. Its mission is to get home, while at the same time charting unexplored space and defending itself from hostile aliens. You play as Ensign Munro, a member of Voyager’s Hazard Team, the vessel’s special ops crew under the command of Lt. Commander Tuvok. Essentially, you’re the best of the best of the best of lowly “red shirt” security personnel.
The action of this stirring first-person shooter starts off with an infiltration of a Borg cube. As you begin to move around the ship picking off clunky cyborg villains, the urge to stop and check out your surroundings is overpowering – the Quake III engine powered graphics are quite impressive. A college degree in Trek lore is not required to play Elite Force, but fans will appreciate the obsessive attention to detail that goes into each and every level. Whether it’s the murky, claustrophobic confines of the Borg cube, the spartan, militaristic look of a Klingon battlecruiser, or the bright, sanitary hallways of Voyager, Elite Force never gives you the feeling that something “just doesn’t look right.” Likewise, the music (a new arrangement of the familiar theme song), special effects, and familiar voice-overs are mostly excellent, with the notable exception of a deadpan Seven of Nine, unfortunately not voiced by actress Jeri Ryan.
As the story progresses, Voyager becomes trapped in a spaceship graveyard called The Forge. Hundreds of other ships are also trapped there, many of them still manned. The Hazard Team is called upon to find a way to free Voyager while defending the ship from groups like the mysterious, cockroach-like Harvesters, and the Scavengers, a motley band of humans, Klingons, and other races who plunder ships trapped in the Forge. Between “away” missions, you interact with other crewmembers, test out new weapons on the Holodeck (in Old West, castle, and Klingon settings), and avert the odd catastrophe or two.
This downtime is a welcome change from “everything and the kitchen sink” shooters throwing wave after wave of enemies at you, which seem to hope that you’ll be so busy you won’t realize just how tedious it all is. Taking the best pacing aspects of Half-Life, Thief, and Wing Commander, Elite Force really makes you feel like you’re part of the story.
In-game events are scripted using Raven’s ICARUS scripting language, and make you an active participant in these set pieces rather than an idle bystander. In other words you can break or modify game triggers without breaking the game. I jumped out of my seat the first time I accidentally disintegrated a crewmember by activating on a shield before he could escape an explosion! If you save him, he gives you a hint, but if not, well, life goes on. Most missions aren’t solo, either. Other members of the Hazard Team accompany you – and they can die, get assimilated, or get badly injured.
Each one is a friend, too-you get to know them between missions, from their chatter during battle and by reading their detailed biographies in the menu system. Unlike the indistinct scientists inhabiting Half-Life, you may actually feel an unfamiliar pang of regret if a fellow crewmember goes to Red Shirt Heaven (and should you replay the game, you may have a chance to save him next time – not all the deaths are scripted). My only complaint is that there aren’t enough of these scripted events, especially in the latter half.
Luckily, you’ve got enough firepower to give the bad guys a one-way ticket to the hereafter. For example, the Borg easily adapt to become immune to most conventional weapons, so the I-Mod, a randomly modulating energy weapon, has to be used to penetrate Borg shields. Each weapon – there are nine in all – has a secondary fire mode, usually emitting a concentrated version of the primary function. Your base weapon, the trusty phaser, has settings for both Stun and Vaporize, while the compound grenade launcher fires both explosive bouncing grenades and proximity mines.
On the receiving end are a cast of classic Trek baddies like the Borg, Klingons, Hirogens, and the Malon, as well as new creations like the Etherians and Harvesters. Let’s just say, you won’t be bored. And to be honest, you’re not really given enough time for boredom to set in; the single-player game can be finished in under eight hours. That may seem brief, but Raven has managed to pack a lot of fun in the solo experience. Add to that multiplayer with decent out-of-the-box bot support and you have a superb shooter, whether you’re a lifelong Trekkie or a complete novice.
System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, Win 95
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