The Game: As Ensign Alexander (or Alexandria) Munro of the elite Hazard Team of the U.S.S. Voyager, you take the missions that no one else wants. You have a phaser rifle in your hand, your teammates at your side, and Captain Janeway counting on you to get the job done. Now go forth and show that alien scum exactly what Hazard Team’s Prime Directive is! (Activision, 2000)
Memories: Here’s a game that I’m sure all true Star Trek fans have been waiting for with bated breath: a first-person shooter in the grand traditions of Doom and Quake set in the Star Trek universe. Elite Force fulfills that desire quite admirably.
The story for the game borrows several elements from the pilot episode of the series, Caretaker. At the beginning of the game, our favorite starship – okay, the USS Voyager – is engaged in battle with a mysterious alien vessel, which attacked without provocation. The destruction of that ship transports our intrepid crew to a mysterious starship graveyard, complete with derelict Borg, Klingon, and ancient Federation vessels. Janeway and Tuvok send the new Hazard Team on a recon mission to figure out exactly what’s going on, and to scavenge some magic metal to help the ship regain power.
Elite Force‘s gameplay closely follows the standard set by most other first-person shooters that have come before: shoot, dodge, explore, shoot and dodge again. It’s simple, but fun. However, unlike many other games, the missions do have a structure and purpose. Voyager is trying to restore power and get the heck out of Dodge, so naturally the mission objectives lead towards that end. There are missions to retrieve necessary components, infiltrate Scavenger strongholds, appropriate Borg technology, and eliminate alien boarders. Although some of the missions towards the end seem to become a bit redundant, overall the game effectively makes you want to finish. Besides, aren’t you at all curious as to whether or not the ending involves the standard Vulcan insult/hearty laughter sequence found in so many classic episodes?
Control and movement within the game are pretty smooth. The control layout is fully customizable, so if you have a favorite configuration for fragging alien life forms, you can set it up however you desire. Enemy AI is pretty decent, with the bad guys ducking for cover and dodging with enough competency to make hitting them at least somewhat challenging. The AI of your teammates, however, sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. I frequently found myself fighting to get by Telsia or Chell or whoever. Naturally, during a firefight, this lead to quite a few chastising “Watch your fire!” as I planted a phaser blast in their backs. Not to worry though, because they’re tough and it took quite a bit to bring them down (although eventually they will mow you down if they get tired of it).
Speaking of phaser blasts, one important element in any FPS is the weapon selection. Elite Force has the standard hand phaser and now-familiar First Contact style phaser rifle, but the rest are weapons unfamiliar to most Trek fans. They still tend to follow the standard FPS weapon selections, but with a Trek twist. There’s the grenade launcher (called, uh, a grenade launcher), the assault rifle (Scavenger gun), the minigun (a Hirogen tachyon weapon), the rocket launcher (a “Personal Photon Torpedo Launcher,” muwahaha!), and the BIG GUN (in this case, an ultra-powerful arc-welder?). Most of the weapons also have an alternate fire mode, which can make for some cool and even more destructive effects. Overall, the variety is pretty good and adds quite a bit to the game.
As for the graphics, Elite Force is pretty dang gorgeous. Plenty of eye candy abounds, with outstanding use of textures, colored lighting, and the like. A high-end system is recommended to get the full effects. If you have the hardware, you won’t be disappointed. However, the game looks acceptable even on lower resolutions.
Sound effects are extremely cool, with the standard phaser and photon torpedo sounds faithfully reproduced, along with tons of new and unusual sound effects. The entire cast of the TV show even lent their vocal talents for their respective characters to give an extra air of authenticity to the production. Notably absent, however, was Jeri Ryan. Another actress did the voice for Seven of Nine, and did a very good job of imitating the ex-Borg’s vocal mannerisms. Music is pretty much standard Star Trek fare, but is unobtrusive and shoved far enough in the background that I didn’t turn the game music off (a rarity for me).
So is the game fun? At the risk of sounding corny, it’s more fun than settin’ loose a bunch of Tribbles at a Klingon pain ceremony. There is a good balance of carnage and strategy to keep the game from getting too mindless. About the only real complaint is that the game is somewhat short. I played through the whole thing in about three sessions (4 or so hours apiece), but I suppose there’s always expansion packs.
There is also a decent, albeit slightly unbalanced multiplayer mode where you can fight the computer on your own, or other Elite Force owners over the Internet. I actually tried the multiplayer out (something else I rarely do), and had a grand old time as “Cirrocu of Borg” fragging a bunch of anonymous opponents inside a Borg cube.
Overall, Elite Force is without a doubt the definitive first-person shooter for the Star Trek universe (not much competition there, though). If you’re looking for a good round of alien-blasting with some strategy thrown in for good measure, you can’t go wrong.