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by Ravensoft

As the summer months begin to warm, and the trees begin to sprout greenery, and the flowers finally open into full bloom, it takes a better and more exciting game to keep me inside glued to the screen of my computer. The temptation to go outside and sit in the big plastic pool that my neighbor bought last season and filled with water earlier this week draws on the soul in a way that one simply didn’t have to deal with in the biting cold of the winter months. In other words, being a computer nerd (pale complexion included) starts to require a little more work. A slight drop in game quality, a little slip in the entertainment value of the project I’m working on, and suddenly my sensitive skin will go from a pretty ambient glow to a painful red that will make sleeping at night uncomfortable.

My editor’s response to this was to pass me the expansion pack for Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force from Raven Software. It was his last, best effort to save me from the harmful effects of exercise and vitamin D, and it may just have done the trick.  As any expansion should, the original game was improved upon. It installed flawlessly and had me killing new bad guys within minutes; the pool was forgotten.

The expansion plays very similar to the original, and if you haven’t played the original, then you should check out its review first, since the expansion requires a copy of it to play. The basic elements of the first person shooter remain; you collect weapons to destroy your enemy, and then do so in gleefully various ways. The game engine and graphics continue to crawl with Star Trek atmosphere. The expansion pack includes several features, many of which are carried over from the original. The features take one of three forms; expansions for single player action, expansions for multiplayer combat, and a new aspect of the game added by the expansion referred to as tour mode, which allows you to wander the halls all over the decks of Voyager.

Single Player Missions: The pack includes with it new single player missions, offering some new objectives, some new spirits, a new creature, and a new weapon. Few would argue with the suggestion that one of the strongest aspects of the original Elite Forces was its single player storyline. Built in true Star Trek fashion, the plot drew the player into the game, with the missions broken apart by downtime that enabled the player to wander limited sections of the decks between combat. The Elite Force expansion offers new and engrossing missions without interrupting the progressive feel of the game. The new missions are integrated into such features as the holodeck, allowing the heart of the game to be expanded without changing the storyline of the original. The verdict on the single player missions? Success! The new missions manage to be unique and entertaining while keeping the player fully immersed in a world that seems to move, breath, and perpetuate itself regardless of the player. In other words, it feels like Star Trek.

Multiplayer: The Elite Force expansion pack includes several new maps and character spirits for multiplayer action, for all of us who want to add a touch of unique personality to our death dispensing (or receiving) characters during multiplay. Now you can step around the corner to find yourself face to face with such characters as Captain Proton, or Janeway as a part of the Borg… that is before one of you dissolves in the blue trails of a phaser rifle blast. The design team of the Expansion Pack turned to some of the best developers in the world to build their additional levels; the gamers. Buried amongst a good number of new levels you’ll find that some of the best maps are the ones the designers included from the masses of the Internet.

The true gems of the multiplayer expansions, though, are the new multiplayer rule sets. These modifications to the way the game is played had me experiencing paintball flash backs, complete with sweaty palms, accelerated breathing, and the sense of dread that reaches deep into your quick; there is something hunting you. There’s Action Hero, which allows you to play a beefed-up action hero struggling to smash all the other, smaller, weaker, but unified players, or Assimilation, where your goal as the Borg Collective is to assimilate all the members of the opposing team (these were my personal favorites). Whatever your preference, these multiplayer expansions add to the game, just as an expansion should.

Tour Mode: The most unique feature of the expansion pack doesn’t have anything to do with combat. The tour mode, which allows you to wander nearly anywhere in the Voyager Starship without being hassled by enemies, rushed by commanding officers, or harried by unfriendly fire, provides an interesting (if you’re a Star Trek fan) new aspect to the game. Not completely aimless, your character will be assigned small tasks to do as you wander throughout the ship. Taking advantage of Elite Force’s graphics engine, the tour mode lets you do what you couldn’t in the original game. It lets you walk through all those closed doors that merely buzzed at you before. This feature will hold a certain element of appeal for Star Trek fans that have always wanted to wander the blueprints of any of the Star Trek series, but I found that I quickly grew bored simply wandering the decks of the ship without something to kill. Now if they had given me a phaser and let me hunt unarmed crewmembers…

When it comes down to it, the expansion pack does do what it promises, it expands the original limits of the game. Since the game was already good, it would have been easy for Raven to simply throw in some new levels and call it done, but they staid true to their dedication to quality. The Elite Force expansion contains a bucket full of unique additions that affect not only the levels you’re playing on, but also the very foundation of how parts of the game plays.

Even so, I feel obligated to point out that many of these additions are little more than highly polished mods--most of what is offered here is the equivalent of several mods already available on the web. Even so, if you’re looking for more of the same action-filled shooting that the original Elite Force gave you, the expansion is well worth your time.

Aaron Stanton   (07/16/2001)


Ups: Atmospheric add-on; cool Tour mode.

Downs: Similar mods on-line; good add-on, not great.

Platform: PC


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