Game: Star Trek: Elite Force 2
Genre: First Person Shooter
Star Trek Voyager Elite Force, made by Raven, was one of the first of a new breed of “better” Star Trek based games, as most games built around this universe tended to be poor in quality, and mostly just cashing in. While not being anything particularly special, it was good enough to spawn a sequel, this time without the Voyager in the name, Star Trek: Elite Force 2.
Taking over from Raven, Ritual has done a fine job generally with Elite Force 2, and although it was made still using the now aging Quake 3 engine, the graphics are pleasantly sharp, and do the job well. The game also runs very well on a wide variety of PCs, as would be expected now for a game from 2003, but even on much older hardware (like my old 32Mb TNT2), it offers a very playable game. Playing on an up to date PC, the game is smooth and level load times are pleasantly quick. The latter being an important aspect as I shall explain later.
At the start of the game, you start out on Voyager, as you were before, battling the Borg, but these first few levels are simply an introduction and serve as a way of bridging the story between the first game and this one. It isn’t long before you end up sent over to the Enterprise, well you will be rejoined by all the other members of the hazard team that was used in the previous game. You will also meet up with Captain Jean Luc Picard, with Patrick Stewart providing the voice acting for that character in the game, and Lieutenant Barclay, who was one of the lesser used characters in the Next Generation series. Tuvok, from the Voyager series, also returns and is voiced by Tim Russ. Now, for those who didn’t play the first game, the Hazard Team is an extra special away team, that is more geared up for combat than standard away teams, and thus this makes up the Elite Force part of the title.
Now, combat and Star Trek are not always associated, mostly because the newer series tended to always focus on diplomatic ways of solving problems, so it may seem a little odd that this game is so intensely based on combat. To be perfectly honest though, a Star Trek game wouldn’t really sell as well based around diplomatic methods, as the developers needed to reach to the wider audience, rather than just the hardcore Trek fans (although it’ll mainly be Trek fans who play this anyway). I’d have preferred it to use a bit more diplomacy and a few more conversation options, but accepting it as what it is, it is just about good enough, as you do occasionally have the option to pick different conversation paths.
Throughout the game, you’ll be based on the Enterprise, and going to missions via a shuttle craft or via the transporters. At the end of each mission you’ll return to the ship, and have the opportunity to explore some parts of the ship, and also engage in a side story, involving Munro (the character that you play as) and two other love interests. At this point I’ll tell you that unlike the first game, where you could choose your gender for Alex Munro, in this game it is fixed as the male character. The game concentrates on two main alien species in the story (not necessarily for combat), the Idryll and the Attrexians, which are not well known Star Trek species, but later on you’ll see some more familiar aliens.
The locations you visit are the usual Star Trek locations such as Star Ships, space-stations, and the odd alien planet or ten. Some locations do look quite nice though, and it is a pleasure to explore through them as the locations do generally vary enough from level to level. Some corridors may give you the feeling you’ve done them before, but there aren’t many times when I’ve stopped and thought about that. The only thing that I thought was starting to get a bit lazy in the design department was the last level(s) which seemed rather Quake-like, rather than being a Star Trek level, and just by changing the main character, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Quake game either, which is not the reason I bought the game for, and neither will you. Fortunately the majority of levels aren’t all like that.
The game occasionally has some nice changes of pace, such as when exploring the ship as mentioned before, and also in one level based outside the ship, which I won’t reveal all the details of here so it doesn’t spoil it for you. One of the better changes of pace is in some of the puzzles you’ll do, as you will come across computers panels that occasionally need to be hacked, via a mini-game (played using the tricorder), which requires you to link up circuits without shorting them. It isn’t overly hard, and may not require much thought, but it’s something to break the tedium of just shooting enemy after enemy in my opinion. My biggest problem lies in some of the other puzzles, like occasionally having to try and get the timing right for crossing a bridge where the floor appears and re-appears in different sections at different times – I found one bridge like this far too difficult to judge right, and although it requires the player to think, I quickly got fed up of reloading about 30 times in a row, which goes back to what I earlier said about level load times being nice and quick on a newer system, because without it, it may cause some players to give up. That aside, other puzzles using the tricorder, such as looking in other vision modes to work out paths through invisible obstacles such as gas and weak flooring, tend to play nicely and add to the enjoyment, and also helping to break up the game-play from constant shooting.
Generally, the enemies you face are either a humanoid alien, an exomorph (the games primary nemesis) and the occasional ship to shoot at. The AI isn’t especially good, consisting of simple sideways dodging, and generally either charging at you (the Exomorphs) or the occasional hiding and ducking behind boxes (the humanoid enemies). Sometimes I have noticed that by standing at the entrance of the odd couple of levels, the enemies in the distance just stand there and don’t get triggered, in which case picking them off with the sniper gun makes it easy as they don’t respond, but mostly that little bug was quite rare. The enemies in general are easy to deal with, and you are given a wide range of weapons, some you may recognise, such as the phaser, and some you may not (weapons used by other aliens). Occasionally you will have to do the odd boss battle, and these can range from being easy, to sometimes being quite hard, indeed some non-boss battles can also seem a bit hard, even on the lowest difficulty, but generally a seasoned gamer would be able to get through on easy setting without too many problems, and should just about handle medium ok for a bit more of a challenge.
There is a decent amount of ammo throughout the levels, and not too much that you’re tripping up over it too, but just enough usually to get the job done before you run out. The health and weapons recharging stations are also usually quite well placed.
A side quest throughout the game is to look for gold star-ships, which can be collected and used to unlock secret levels (that can be played any time). Unfortunately, most are hard to find, and I only managed to unlock one map, but if you want to, you can edit one of the files (a Google search will help) and unlock them all easily enough anyway.
Multiplayer in ST:EF2 has the kind of “tacked on” feel that most games have. Sure, it may well provide some extra enjoyment and reason to continue playing the game, but the game-play isn’t all that fun as the weapons feel weak and cumbersome. The net-code is good, seeing as it’s based on the Quake 3 Arena engine, and you have the option of playing against bots, which is nice to see. The downside is that no-one plays it online, so the chances of you finding a server, and then seeing someone to play on that server, are virtually nil.
Conclusions Generally, I would say this game was quite enjoyable, as I’ve played it through twice now, and for me to play a game twice says a lot about it. It’s not an impressive game, indeed it is quite average, but for general playability it is good, contains a decent enough story, and for Trek fans it’s great to be wandering around as a Starfleet officer. The occasional problems with difficulty being a bit hard in spots doesn’t spoil the game too much, but can be a factor for players who don’t play FPS games quite as much, and so for that reason, it loses a few points from me. Overall though, considering it’s now selling at budget prices, it’s a good enough game that you’ll enjoy playing through it at least once. If you want more of an in-depth story and interaction with characters, this probably isn’t the game for you though.
Save System Review: Saves are standard to virtually all other FPS games, giving you the option of quick saves, or manual named saves. There are no limited slots for saving, and you can save as much as you want. The game also appears to auto-save at the start of each new level.
Graphics: Graphics pleasant to look at for the time, fully fitting the Star Trek theme
Sound: Having the actors from the series voice their parts helps, but general sounds are nothing special
Bugs: Just ones that you shoot at!
Gameplay: Plenty of combat, which is generally enjoyable enough and some puzzles to break up the game (in a good way), although sometimes puzzles and the odd boss can be a bit too difficult. Side quest to unlock extra maps. Unfortunately it has a weak multiplayer that has no surviving community.
Storyline: Decent enough story but nothing that'll make you really think.
Arbitrary Final Score:
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Does this review boldly go, or is the reviewer just going bald? Beam me to the forum!