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Due June 2003 for PC.

Check out our 2002 preview. CLICK HERE.

Coming out of E3, it’s easy to get all depressed and down. The glamour of whatever system you had at home, no matter how cool it was when you left, is somehow absent when you return. Your girlfriend, perfectly understanding before, now complains about how often you caress the booth babe photos you carry in your pocket, and somehow doesn’t compare as favorably to the DOA girls as she once did. You get caught up in all the games you want to play, but can’t play until their release a gazillion years down the road. Everything becomes "I can’t". I can’t play Halo 2, I can’t play Brotherhood of Steel, I can’t do the dishes, I can’t do laundry, until finally your friends stop coming over, both your sink and your laundry basket reek, and you begin the slow progression that is responsible for the unnaturally high mortality rate enjoyed by video game reviewers.

The cure for this perpetually downcast state of mind is a good romantic dinner – patch things up, because, really, she’s much better than the DOA girls (she’s real). Then, that taken care of, there’s the summer games. "What summer games?" you might cry in despair, to which I, wise like Yoda, would produce a copy of Star Trek: Elite Force, and say, "Ponder this, my child." Because Elite Force was, and still is, the best Star Trek based game ever made, and knowing that its sequel is set to appear at the end of June should help to stave off that dark, ominously approaching madness.

When it comes to games based on movies and TV series, designers sometimes mistakenly think that it’s the name that’s important. Take a spaceship game, name it Star Trek, and BANG, it’ll sell to the purists amongst us. Yet it’s not the name, it’s the universe that’s important. Star Trek fans don’t just like the way it’s spelled and the look of the title (preeeeetty), they like the characters, the plots, the different technologies that offer such a bright future at the far end of the tunnel. And if a Star Trek game misses these elements, it’s the purists, the very ones who pick it from the shelves because it’s based on Star Trek, who are going to notice the most. The world is full of bad Star Trek games, and precious few good ones. The original Elite Force was one of the good ones, and that’s reason enough to pick up a phaser and dive straight into the next one.

Elite Force was a first person shooter based on the Voyager series, and you were a member of a Special Forces team created to help see the Voyager through hard times. At the end of last year’s E3, I was elated to discover that Elite Force was making a move to the Enterprise, a far superior ship and crew. This year they were being tighter lipped.

"We’re trying not to give out any specifics on the plot," said Patrick from Activision when I noticed that the demoed away team was taking orders from Tuvok. "But the gameplay is everywhere."

Not only is the gameplay intense, it’s also much longer than the original. Elite Force II has over 70 maps, making it nearly double the length of the original. As a player, you’ll have access to both classic and original Star Trek weapons, 15 in all, that you’ll use throughout the game. They range from the traditional phasers and phaser rifles to the more interesting items, like the air strike, in which you request the orbiting Enterprise to launch an attack from space.

"We wanted to make a game that appealed to everyone," said Marc Struhl, the Executive Producer, when I asked him about Elite Force’s design goals. "It’s finally a game that will attract more than Trek fans."

And just like in the original, not all the appeal comes entirely from either the action or the story. First person shooter fans will enjoy the slickly made combat sequences, and classic Star Trek fans will be able to experience an engrossing story with new and old aliens alike. Between missions, you’ll be able to wander the Enterprise, explore different areas, and converse with the crew. We know that Patrick Stewart has taken up the call to voice Captain Picard, and from what I could tell, Tuvok’s voice sounds authentic. In the past, Activision has managed well with the voiceovers in its Star Trek based games, and Elite Force II, as one of their most popular, surely won’t skimp on the stars.

With the final release of season 7 on DVD, it’s finally starting to dawn on me that Star Trek: TNG is gone from my TV for good. With the exception of the movies (which is always in danger of being subverted by one of the less accomplished wannabe Star Treks), and the occasional re-run, TNG is beginning to reluctantly follow the path of the Dodo. If you’re a loyal fan as I am (loyal fans are the ones who have Star Trek flashbacks during the opening dialog of X-Men 2), it’s good to know that there are still people in the entertainment industry who understand that they had a good thing. Elite Force II hasn’t hit the shelves yet, and I’m already hoping for an Elite Force III. And then maybe an Elite Force IV.

Ideally, someday we’ll be able to compete in number with The Land Before Time. That’d make me happy.

Aaron Stanton (06/19/2003)