|As many of our loyal readers have come to know, I am sometimes
given the often gory and sometimes glorious duty of reviewing the shooters that come our
way. The genre is near and dear to my heart, and it is with a great deal of excitement
that I tear into each new game that makes its way to my desk. Lots of things make up a good FPS, and some
developers seem to be more aware of this than otherslike the developers of Elite
While continuing on their long journey home, the Federation Starship Voyager once again finds its way into trouble. An apparent distress call leads the fearless crew into a strange wormhole, leaving them stranded in a ship-graveyard with a hodgepodge of raiders, Borg, and a mysterious race that has imprisoned them there. Its a classic Star Trek story line, and Mr. Roddenbery himself would be proud.
Elite Force is like playing through a mini-series of Voyager episodes. The single player game drops you onto the bridge as Ensign Monroe, a member of Tuvacs new Hazard Team. Basically, its a security team on steroids and with better weapons. Your job is to twofold. First and foremost, you must defend the ship from any invaders and aid in any dangerous activity that would cause normal crewmen (and some officers) to wet themselves. Secondly, the Hazard Team performs as an away team to make precision strikes and recovery missions that benefit Voyager and her crew. In between these missions, there is some time for interaction with the crew, sitting in on briefings, and some training in the Holo-Deck.
The game itself has been put together by the folks at Raven, and is built upon the Quake III engine. The visuals are spectacular. Almost everything onboard is interactive and the ship has been beautifully rendered. The corridors, Jeffries tubes, turbo lifts, bridge, and quarters all look and feel just like they do on the series. Add to all that the fact that theVoyager crew provides their vocal talents to the cut-scene and in-game conversation, and you have a Trek Fans-- and FPS fansdream come true.
Since the game is built on the Quake III engine, it plays a lot like Quake; for the most part, its a run & gun shooter. Sure, there are some easy puzzles to solve and one or two missions that require stealth, but mostly your missions will consist of proceeding from point A to point B while killing everything in between.
Of course, in the Star Trek universe you NEVER go on an away team mission alone. You have to have your trusty science officer and a few others along for the ride, and this is actually one of the problems with the game. For whatever reason, (design or bug) two things seem to occur on almost every mission. First, your companions cant hold their own with a phaser (or any other weapon). Secondly, every monster makes a beeline for you. Even if youre behind everyone else in the part, it seems that every hostile you encounter will make its way through the rest of your party to get to you. Since your fellow crewmen dont have the accuracy that you do (or should) it pretty much falls to you to kill everything. So you might as well stay in front; in Elite Force, too many misplaced shots can cause your crewmates to question your motives--and being in the brig for treason is no fun.
Though fun, the single player missions are very linear and once you beat the game theres not a whole lot of replayability. Thankfully there is always multiplayer mode, and Elite Force multi-player is pretty good--though Quake fans will again experience a strong sense of deja vu. Frankly, EF multiplayer feels like a Quake III mod, which is both understandable and not an entirely bad thing. Elite Forces multiplayer mode is extremely fast and furious; like Q3, its all about grabbing weapons and power-ups and fragging your opponents over and over and over again. And to be honest, it got pretty old pretty fast. Dont get me wrong; I enjoy a good DM game as much as the next guy, but a little more strategy would have been welcome. In my opinion, planning and careful execution make a game more exciting--I guess thats why Im still playing the Counter-Srike MOD for Half-Life.
Game control is excellent. If youre competent with almost any other FPS game then you will be comfortable with the controls, which are thoroughly customizable. The sound effects are intense--phaser fire everywhere, explosions, teammates issuing orders, its all a beautiful symphony of chaos. If you have a decent set of speakers and surround sound, then youre in for a treat when you sit down with this. However, the music is only so-so; too often intrusive them music messes with your concentration, and it often gives away surprises. Just like in a bad horror flick, the suspenseful danger music will break out right before something bad happens.
While I was working on the game Rick threw a copy of the BradyGames Elite Force Strategy Guide on my desk. And before you say anything I can tell you that it was NOT because I was stuck. I read through it and thought about it, flipped back through it, thought about it some more, and came to the conclusion that its pretty good. I do have to say that needing a walk-through on a game like this is a bit over the top. This is not a complicated game, and devilish puzzles do not plague you at every turn. But the guide does include maps of every area, which can be handy if you think youre lost. The one thing that I gleaned from the Strategy Guide that I did not know beforehand was that you can, in fact, save one of your abducted comrades. Since I dont want to give anything away I wont say anymore.
Star Trek: Elite Force is a good game. It is well-done, fun to play, and will be popular
with Trek & FPS fans alike. The games
combination of a tried-and-true gaming platform, excellent control, and stellar visuals
far outweighs its wacky AI and workaday multiplayer. People who liked Soldier of Fortune,
Quake Series, Unreal Tournament will be quick to admit Elite Force into the fold.