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Star Trek Voyager Elite Force

Developer: Raven Software | Publisher: Activision
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 09/20/00 | Genre: FPS

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force brings a refreshing new approach to a genre of clich?©s and overused concepts. It fuses the concepts of FPS action and story-driven game play together to create unique in many ways.

The phrase "Star Trek" has long been a sign to any wary gamer that evasion might be the best approach to titles bearing these two words. I almost shivered as I took Elite Forces from the shelf of my games store, the owner of which gave me a strange look, one which seemed to question my sanity, as I reluctantly forked over the money for the title. Yet, upon first playing it, I was pleasantly surprised.

Elite Forces is a FPS, which uses gameplay to build the story and the atmosphere through user interaction, whereas most FPS use the story to augment the gameplay. It is the fresh approach to game design, which has given Elite Forces its unique appeal. The player is instantly engaged by the story as it begins to unravel. The underlying storyline give the player a true purpose and it brings the objectives into focus and displays the necessity behind each. This is achieved by not limiting the development of the storyline to the cinematic breaks. Throughout the course of a mission the players entire outlook on their surrounding and their goals will change. The personalities of team members build atmosphere as they dramatically react to climactic events in a mission. The game seems to be built around the story, it is through this approach that it becomes true to its Star Trek origins.

The level design is done in a relatively linear design which means players will continually progress through the game and will not need to perform tedious exploration and repeat gameplay trying to find their way around. Rooms are designed in a manner, which permits an entrance and an exit only, on the most part. Players race with relative ease through levels and soon reach points of the game where critical storyline elements surface. The level design contributes to Elite Forces playing more like an interactive movie, than a standard FPS. The levels are designed in a very thoughtful manner. Intricate detail is meticulously included in all locations to bring to life the distinct characteristics of each unique location. At one stage the player ventures aboard a dwelling of scavengers comprised of three different races. As the player continues through this level the contrast between each section and thus each race is astounding. These levels are also designed so that there is a variety of gameplay. Occasionally the player will need to solve puzzles in order to progress, this adds a new element to the shooter injecting more depth. Hardcore FPS fans may be disgruntled by the simple linear design of most of the levels, however, hardcore Star Trek fans will delight in quickly progressing through these levels while soaking up the storyline elements and intricate Star Trek detail in the process.

At its core Elite Forces is a FPS, however, woven into the fabric of its design are many elements commonly associated with other genres. The puzzle-solving players are occasionally confronted with is much akin to that featured in Adventure games and the dialogue and character interaction is much like that of an RPG. Yet the developers have not tried to create a hybrid. These elements from other genres are inserted to augment the storyline and to add a new depth to the shooter. This is the refreshing approach, which allows the storyline, and the characters included within, to play a continuous role throughout the game. However, in this diversity of gameplay, the FPS aspects of the game have suffered. The AI, which controls both your squad mates and the enemy, is pitiful. Many enemies will charge carelessly into the fray and your squad mates will often do the same. An experienced FPS enthusiast will have no problems progressing through the game without death occurring. This lack of difficulty does have its benefits despite its obvious disadvantages. This ease of gameplay results in very little repeated play, newer players will also welcome this ease as it will allow them to immerse themselves in the Star Trek world without progress hindering difficulty. It is for this reason that die-hard FPS fans who play for the challenge of the kill should avoid this game, as it uses the FPS gameplay to create an interactive story.

The game design of the creatures, the non-player characters and the weapons is a unique Star Trek experience in itself. Aside from the small amount of creative license the developers have taken, this game is a true-to-trek game. Many of the familiar faces of Voyager will appear in this game, personalities included, along with a few of the well know races of aliens such as the Borg and the Klingons all make an appearance. The developers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the Star Trek theme remains intact while building upon it slightly. The entire game resembles a Voyager episode in design. All events that occur within the game are plausible in the Star Trek universe. The weapons themselves are designed with general Star Trek concepts behind them. The time-honored Phaser makes an appearance along with various other weapons, some which are directly ported from the Voyager series and others, which are unique to this individual Star Trek experience, yet have been created with the unwritten Star Trek laws in mind. Many games in the Star Trek "series" (I use that term loosely) have been guilty of staying within the already overused central concepts of the Star Trek universe; whereas others have failed due to the innovations being out of touch with the Star Trek feel. In this area Elite Forces transcends all other Star Trek games offering the familiarity of some Star Trek concepts while introducing its own unique ideas. In terms of a FPS game, the weapons are designed to have their own unique uses, strengths and weaknesses. Virtually every weapon also has a secondary function, which adds depth to the potential of the player. All weapons are useful throughout the game at different stages.

Whether it be the stylish character modeling, or the detailed texturing of a gritty Klingon warship, or the ordered chaos of a Borg cube, the game offers pleasing eye candy. Once again, in this aspect of game design, Star Trek fans will adore the authenticity of the scenery and modeling. In this aspect of the game, the Quake 3 engine is taken to new levels to reveal its potential. The graphics are unparalleled in their "trekiness". Whether you are a Star Trek fan, or a graphics loving gamer you will enjoy the style in which the graphics are developed. It is awe inspiring to wander through a Borg cube in the same why in which those red clothed security staff have done in Voyager episodes, in the same way it is to watch as the Borg collapsed and "die" in the same manner in which they have on the television so often. However, it will probably take a true Star Trek fan to fully appreciate this. What all gamers can appreciate is the quality and beauty of the graphics, which help to build the atmosphere in this truly unique Star Trek experience.

Being a story driven game with relatively weak gameplay elements, replayability of this title is next to none. However, the "Holodeck" multiplayer features help to create some lasting appeal, yet even that wears off in time. To further add to this, the game is extremely short for a FPS and coupled with its ease will result in very fast completion. This is one area, which could have been improved, yet it is safe to say that while this game may not last long, you with have a pleasurable experience while it does. For once, a Star Trek game has something more to offer than its affiliation with the cult series.

By John Farnik - 01/21/02
ESRB Details: Animated Violence
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Screenshots for Star Trek Voyager Elite Force

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