Product Type: other PS2 games
Newest Review: ... something of a visual highlight, even if the brightly-lit facades are rather basic when paid close attention. The majority of the other... more
To Meekly Follow Where Others Have Been Before
Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force (PS2)
Member Name: tom1clare
Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force (PS2)
Date: 16/11/11, updated on 16/11/11 (42 review reads)
Advantages: Exploring Voyager has it's perks; some nice platforming elements; lengthy; faithfully presented
Disadvantages: Severe frame-rate issues; dated design architecture; unimpressive visuals and music
In theory at least, Elite Force could have been the answer to so many a long-suffering sci-fi fan's prayers. After a seemingly endless run of straight-laced space combat games and colourless real-time strategies, finally a first-person shoot 'em up arrived that put you right in the heart of a Star Trek universe, phasers and all. Sadly, by the time of its PS2 release in 2001 more than a year after first debuting on PC, Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force had already been assimilated by its superior competitors.
Decent games-of-films are few and far between, decent games-of-TV-series' perhaps even more so. What's frustrating is how much of a missed opportunity Elite Force is because, far from hindering gameplay development, the Voyager canon should if anything have fuelled it; replete as it is with cool settings and scenarios, as well as a ready-made cast of colourful foes and allies alike. However, it ends up playing out like a wooden, by-the-numbers episode. As a first-person shoot 'em up, it's a sizable and ambitious port but ultimately unimaginative, whilst its barely-veiled attempts to ape Half-Life are crippled by an inadequate game engine.
You play as Ensign Munro, who is part of a new Hazard Team aboard the Starship Voyager, formed with dangerous missions in mind. Miraculously, such a narrative occurrence almost immediately comes to involve him and his team when Voyager gets beached in what the game's own blurb describes as "a mysterious null-space graveyard." In English, this simply means a good excuse to plonk Voyager in close proximity with a host of their most memorable adversaries including the Borg, Hirogen and Klingon.
Using the Quake III Arena engine, it's perhaps little surprise the game evokes memories of the classic era of corridor shooters, though even next to the ageing Quake II, Elite Force appears frail, with many of its problems stemming from obvious technical deficiencies. Most troublesome is the utterly ruinous effect busy fire-fights have on the frame-rate, at times virtually reducing things to a standstill. The enemy A.I. rarely wastes time on tactics, instead going for the kamikaze, attack in numbers method, which can prove daunting to the player as the slow frame-rate (and consequently unresponsive "shoot" buttons) and getting snagged on ill-placed teammates can leave you vulnerable.
From an aesthetic point of view, Voyager's interior proves something of a visual highlight, even if the brightly-lit facades are rather basic when paid close attention. The majority of the other ships you'll explore have their own little quirks too, though with scenery being aggressively recycled throughout, environments inevitably end up feeling a touch derivative. Characters look excessively chiselled and blocky, not helped by some extremely jerky and wholly unnatural-looking animation. A.I. teammates are of some help in shootouts when they aren't walking across your line of fire, but travelling in group is a pain; especially using elevators, as each person shuffles in very slowly, one-by-one, like Starfleet sheep, before you can eventually get the lift started.
But there are good bits. Whilst Voyager's own decks aren't quite as fleshed-out or interactive as would have been ideal, they are something fans will undoubtedly get a kick out of. There's some enjoyable Holodeck training levels designed to allow you to test new weaponry, whilst you can also visit the mess-hall to catch up on the latest gossip, and even check out Munro's quarters, complete with toilet-less bathroom, paying admirable service to a long-running Star Trek in-joke. Iffy graphics aside, the general presentation is very slick, with futuristic menus and displays distinctly echoing those of the TV series and proving very easy on the eye. Sound effects add a layer of authenticity, from the beeps of the control panels to the "shh!" noise of the doors, it all sounds like it should, even if the music is a tad incidental at times. Many of the show's participants return to voice their respective characters, so you get Kate Mulgrew's distinctive tones as Captain Janeway and Tim Russ as the unceasingly awesome Vulcan Tuvok, among others. They do a fine job, it's just a shame the script didn't have a little more spark, as encounters with familiar faces end up feeling a bit clinical; like they're really only there to relay mission objectives.
To the game's credit, whilst the shooting becomes rather wearisome, it does occasionally try to vary things up with a bit of platforming. Whether it's edging along perilous beams, jumping over an immense precipice or crawling through craftily hidden vents, there are portions of the game where the environment design is intelligent and nicely thought through. It even tries its hand at stealth on a couple of occasions and with some degree of success. You have to be a little careful of the controls however, as particularly when set to "run", Munro can get very leery.
If you like corridor shooters and you like Star Trek, you'll get plenty of bang for your buck, as Elite Force is a lengthy adventure that will take most players at least a couple of weeks to finish. The "Holomatch" mode is the multiplayer suite and allows for deathmatches for between 2 and 4 players, and though the experience isn't a patch on that of TimeSplitters 3: Future Perfect, it's impressive to note that there are over thirty deathmatch arenas on show.
Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is, when all's said and done, okay. Fan-pleasing settings, occasional flashes of smart design and robust longevity all work in its favour, though it's hard to shake the feeling that, even upon its 2001 release, the game was looking over its shoulder for inspiration rather than forward for new ideas, and it comes nowhere close to matching the aptitude of the PC version. Run-of-the-mill gameplay and an ultimate inability to acclimatise itself to the PS2 hardware means you're left with a so-so shooter that doesn't fulfil its potential, and with so many superior alternatives, it's hard to recommend.
Summary: Set phasers to "meh"