Review: Star Trek: Elite Force II (PC)

In this review, try the first person shooter, Star Trek: Elite Force II. We find out if it’s logical to give this PC game a replay.

This game was released in 2003 and is a direct sequel to the game Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force.

You play as Munro, leader of the hazard team aboard the star ship Voyager. The game starts during the events of the TV series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager has been captured by the Borg. The hazard team has been deployed to destroy the critical infrastructure that is keeping Voyager held within the Borg sphere (mainly bringing down the dampening field). After the initial level, Voyager escapes the sphere and is finally re-united with the rest of the Federation. Shortly after, Captain Janeway gives high commendation to the hazard team. Star Fleet decides to break up the hazard team seemingly on the assumption that the members would want easier, more laid back tasks. Another part of the reason is that such hazard teams are no longer needed because normal away teams would suffice. After the team is broken up, the actions of the hazard team didn’t go unnoticed. Captain Jean Luc Picard meets with Munro and offers a chance to reunite the team for more missions. Happily, Munro accepts. After parts of the team are reunited and new members join, their first mission is to answer a distress call from the USS Dallas. The rescue and subsequent investigation leads the hazard team on a rather large mission to discover the source and, ultimately, stop the attacks that have taken place.

When you start the game, you are given a choice of difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. The differences between the difficulties seem to be how much damage you take from enemy fire and how much ammunition you can get from various terminals (I didn’t really notice a difference for health terminals). Otherwise, play is largely the same.

From there, you are given the opportunity to undergo a training level. While this level is optional, it doesn’t hurt to play this level. For one, it can explain some of the controls that might not be immediately apparent to you. For another, this level can help you determine if the keys you’ve selected are good or if you would like to modify them for increased ease of play.

After this level, you get to play the first Borg levels. You get a phaser, a tricorder, and a rifle. Much like the previous game, the phaser is essentially your weapon of last resort. While it has unlimited ammo (provided you allow it to recharge), there are more effective weapons available. the iMod is a carry over from the previous game along with a few other weapons that are found in the game. In addition to this, there are health and weapon energy terminals that refill your iMod weapon, armor, and health. To add to this, each weapon once again has an alternate fire. Also, there are destructible objects throughout the level that can open up passages.

What is largely new is the tricorder and its capabilities. The tricorder serves numerous functions including helping you “modulate” terminals to unlock doors and lower forcefield. This isn’t that different from the data uplink in Perfect Dark. The tricorder can also hack or repair some terminals and equipment. These are displayed through various minigames such as keypads, matching waves, or undertaking a re-routing minigame. This concept might be familiar to those who played System Shock where mini-games are used to hack certain things.

While the tricorder is often used as the game tool, it also, via the secondary fire function, changes your field of view. It can detect structural weaknesses in obstacles (which you can subsequently destroy with weapons), detect trace gas particles for the purpose of sealing gas leaks, and it can be used as a bio scanner which can be used to detect invisible traps or scanners.

Like the previous game, there is a whole array of weapons that can range from the compression rifle to grenade and rocket launchers to even various machine guns. One oddity is the fact that most weapons can be reloaded. Given that most weapons are energy based weapons, it seems somewhat strange to see such a requirement, but there it is. Like the previous game, many weapons share a small number of ammunition supplies. There is basic weapon energy that can be used for your more basic weapons such as the compression rifle. There is the federation ammunition which can be used for your more heavy duty weapons. Finally, there is Idryllium energy which is used for some of the more alien weaponry.

Health, armor, weapon energy, and ammo in your weapon are all displayed through your TED HUD (Heads up Display). What’s new is the radar that is information obtained via your tricorder. In addition, the TED system also has a built-in night vision mode. While this overrides any tricorder view mode, this view mode is seldom used in the game.

One particularly new and interesting addition to this game are the use of secrets and golden starships. Secrets, while nothing totally new to gaming as they have been seen in games like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, is likely a welcome addition for gamers given that it adds to the replay value. At the end of each section, there is a total number of official secrets and how many you managed to locate. Even though there are “official” secrets, there are plenty of non-official secrets to be found such as a hidden alcove containing ammo. While it’s not immediately apparent for many levels that there are many secrets, it appears that there are actually a lot of secrets to be found in the game. You’ll also notice the starships number as you enter a new area. A number of official secrets contain starships (though it should be noted that not all starships are located in secret areas). These starships are similar to challenge points found in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. In Elite Forces 2, the more star ships you collect, the more secret maps you can unlock.

Another new feature that is found in this game is the use of the additional bar. Sometimes, it is used to show how much heath a new boss or boss-like enemy. Other times, it acts as a timer or how much health is left in a piece of infrastructure or person you are trying to defend is left. The versatility of the meter gets a thumbs up from me.

One notable improvement is the AI over the previous game. While it still happened that your team members ran in front of you while fighting the enemy, this didn’t happen anywhere near as often as the previous game.

One great part about this game is the fact that there is a nice careful balance between story and game. This was a tough balance that was successful in the previous game and was largely maintained in this game. While the overarching plot was very well realized that will keep you in suspense to the very end, there are some finer points of the plot that are a little off. Even still, the finer points that seem less than refined don’t detract too much from the overall game.

Another good element was that the objectives in the missions are generally improved and more refined. Instead of most of the objectives being something just tacked on, there are certain things you actually have to do to complete them. This includes interacting with people and the environment in certain ways. It made the objectives more meaningful.

The level design was also nicely improved. Even though some of the initial levels are somewhat more linear in nature, some of the later levels have a much more open feel to them to the point of reminding me of some of the locations in Elder Scrolls III – Morrowind.

A great element in this game is the fact that the missions have a fair amount of variety. Some missions are stealth missions. Other missions are “blow everything up” missions. There is even a turret gunner mission where you fight off ships by disabling some while shooting enemy fire to avoid taking damage yourself. Some missions are more problem-solving than the traditional style of FPS play where you find yourself activating bridges or disabling force fields. A few of these missions rely on movement a lot more as you avoid lava pits while fending of enemy attack. In two of the missions, you even take a Bat’leth into battle. All in all, there is plenty of variety to be had here.

With so much going for this game, there wasn’t a whole lot of faults I could find in this game. Probably the only real fault in this game is that it doesn’t bring anything to the table that hasn’t been found in other well known games. While that might be a weakness, the blend of already existing ideas did work quite well here. It still works in spite of the lack of novel new ideas.

Graphically speaking, the graphics were pretty good. The animated sequences worked well and the modelling was pretty good for a game of its time. The effects were great and the gameplay was quite smooth. One thing that is particularly notable about this game is the variety of cutscenes here. While there are plenty of plot driving scenes as well as the curscenes you get for completing mission, there are other kinds of cutscenes that aren’t exactly par for the course either. These cutscenes are the mission failure scenes. Most games I’ve played show your character dropping to the ground or floor, then give you a mission failure screen. In this game, you not only get both, but you also get a cutscene of the consequences for your character. This can include being assimilated or even the sight of the Enterprise exploding. This really helped set this game apart from others in my view. A very well done job overall in my view.

The audio was interesting. While the music relies on orchestral elements like the last game, the music was actually better realized. What also elevated this game was the fact that the music changes if you encounter enemies (just like The Elder Scrolls III – Morrowind). While the music doesn’t necessarily stand out on its own outside of the game, it was pretty well done at giving the levels a better atmosphere. The sound effects were decent, but the voice acting worked quite well here. A thumbs up from me.

Overall, this was a great game to play. It had a well realized overarching plot, an interesting set of weapons, varied missions/levels, improved level design, interesting secret and starship systems, and nicely done features. While there wasn’t anything entirely novel, the blend of ideas worked quite well. The graphics and cutscenes were great and the audio was pretty good too. So, I’d say it gets a thumbs up from me.

Overall
Furthest point in game:
18 Golden starships
Easy: Won the game
Normal: Completed the Borg levels.
Hard: Died shortly after rescuing Telsia
Very Hard: Same as hard interestingly enough.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 86%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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