Review: Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force (Playstation 2)

In this review, we beam into the First Person Shooter (FPS) game Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force. We find out how well this Playstation 2 game plays.

This game was released in 2001 and was a port from the PC version.

This game is a part of the TV series, Voyager, storyline. You play the character Ensign Munroe, a member of the newly formed Hazard Team. Following the intro mission, Voyager responds to a distress signal from a derelict ship. Upon arrival, the ship opens fire, attacking Voyager. After repeated hails that go unanswered, Janeway orders Tuvok to fire at the ships weapon system. With no effect, Janeway then orders for a volley of photon torpedo’s. The torpedo’s destroy the ship, but the resulting explosion pulls Voyager into an isodimensional rift. With Voyager heavily damaged and trapped in a massive dampening field, the hazard team is called on to explore other vessels that also appear to have been pulled in in the same manner to look for supplies and information about this unknown region of space.

As you work your way through the game, you’ll collect various weapons with increasing power. There are no melee weapons, but you do get a phaser for most missions. The phaser has an ammunition capacity of 100, but it’s the only weapon in the game that regenerates ammunition. While not exactly powerful, it’s better than nothing. The second weapon you get your hands on is the plasma rifle. This rifle will use weapon energy. Weapons collected will gradually increase in power and have the general feel of either a machine gun, grenade launcher, or a laser beam type weapon. In addition to this, each weapon has a secondary fire type similar to that of Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007. The phaser rifle, for instance, has a secondary fire type that fires a more powerful pulse that vaporizes the target. Very useful for harder difficulties when dealing with larger clusters of enemies.

Like other FPS games before, such as Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, you’ll have different kinds of ammunition supplies, but many weapons that share those stock piles. You have the weapon energy which can be restocked either between missions or if you happen to come across an weapon energy recharging station. The second kind of ammunition stockpile are the crystals which can be picked up along the way.

Protecting you is your hazard suit known as TED. In a similar fashion seen in Half-Life, the TED suit is responsible for picking up things of interest in the environment. It also displays your armor and ammo stats. In addition to this, the TED suit is responsible for keeping you as healthy as possible as well as offering protective properties. The maximum armor and health varies. In easy, the maximum for armor and health is 200. On all other difficulties, the maximum is cut in half (100). You can replenish both health and armor at regenerating stations found in the various levels. Alternatively, in at least 2 missions, the Doctor will become available. Talking to the doctor will replenish all health (provided he isn’t “busy” at that point in time).

Your missions will take you onto various kinds of environments. In two instances, you’ll be in a Borg vessel. Other times, you’ll be in alien vessels that might have similarities to either Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil (Hive of the Mantids) or Perfect Dark so far as design and structure is concerned.

Getting in the way are various enemies. These enemies can include Klingon’s, Borg, Human, and Hirogen enemies. Helping you are your other team members that can help provide cover fire or access otherwise inaccessible panels to unlock security doors. You may also get a set of objectives. With the exception of the first retrieval mission, these objectives are fairly straight forward and are often completed just by working your way through the levels.

A standard feature in many FPS games that is found here are the difficulties. You have easy, normal, challenging, and difficult. The easy setting, as mentioned earlier, allows you to have double the capacity of armor and health. This setting also has fewer enemies and you take less damage per hit. Normal has the same number of enemies, but your capacity for health and armor is halved. Challenging has a few more enemies, but you take more damage per hit. Finally, difficult setting has the most number of enemies and you take the most damage per hit. Also, enemies seem to require more hits to die and your fellow men can take less damage before getting killed.

Another option you are afforded was the fact that you can pick either a male or female protagonist. The game adapts somewhat to your choice, but this option is actually a very good addition to this game. It’s not often you get a choice of protagonist that lasts through the entire game, but this is an option I think more games should have. A big thumbs up from me for this feature.

One of the biggest source of criticism I found with this game is the AI. A lot of it is directed towards enemy AI being predictable and bad. To be fair, the enemy AI isn’t bad all the way through. Enemies like Klingon’s and Hirogen actually take cover and fire at you if they see you. Many people agree that the AI for Borg enemies also make sense. Still, most of the remaining enemies follow along that logic of appearing at a generator point and just moving directly toward you similar to that of Gauntlet. This does, at time, make for some pretty boring gameplay because all you need to do is take aim at a particular part of the enemies path and fire whenever the next enemy crosses it until the generator point is exhausted.

while I don’t think that makes for terrible gameplay by itself, what really irked me was the AI of your team mates during various missions. In the earlier missions, fellow Star Fleet members actually take cover most of the time and fire at enemies (albeit to borderline useless effect). As you progress in the game, their habit of just running out in front of you as you are firing will gradually get worse and worse. It gets to the point where gameplay would be substantially easier without any of this “help”. To make matters worse, if you kill a team mate by accident, the remaining team mates will fire at you until you are dead. If you have one team mate required for opening a door, this will stop your progress on a mission dead in its tracks.

Another common complaint about this game is the clunky controls. To some degree, this is certainly true, however, it is also a bit of an unfair comparison if one were to compare the analogue stick to the mouse look system of the PC counterpart. Mouse look is almost always going to win regardless. Still, controls can be a bit annoying at times.

This is not to say this game is without perks. The puzzles, while rather minor and often thin at times, do help break up gameplay a little. The repairing fireflies puzzles did at an interesting element to play as did the Indiana Jones style walkway towards the end. This game would have benefited from a few more minor puzzles, but that’s just me.

Another major element in the game is the plot. Since this game is based off of a TV show, it makes sense that this game be much more storyline driven. Storyline may be laid on a little thick for some players, but had it not been, I would argue that this game would have easily been passed off as just another generic FPS game with the only added bonus of seeing Star Trek characters. In between missions, you are given opportunities to not only interact with fellow crewmen, but also explore parts of the ship including sick bay, the bridge, engineering, the transporter room, and the mess hall. All of these locations were iconic locations contained within Voyager from the TV series and it was great to see everything nicely recreated here. To make things more interesting, you are also given 3 diversion levels on the holodeck to “test out” some of your newfound weaponry. All of which just adds to a sense of immersion throughout the game. Always a bonus in my book. With diversions and sections of plot, this game does try to be more than your standard par for the course FPS game with some degree of success.

The level designs themselves seem to be a hybrid of both areas that were borrowed from the TV show as well as seemingly inspired by major hit sci-fi FPS games in the past. While the designs may have been inspired by previous games, they always add their on flair to give that sense of creativity and originality. Since they were seemingly inspired by some heavy-weight games in the past, that adds a subtle sense of familiarity and shows that the developers knew where to glean inspiration from.

Generally speaking, while this game does a nice job at balancing plot and gameplay, this game is far from a perfect play. The AI was a major drawback for me along with the flawed control system. Even though I certainly do not regret playing through this game, I do feel strained playing this game again once I’ve beaten it. Even with the ability to skip large chunks of dialogue as you complete certain tasks, the game becomes less of an exercise of exploring the environments and more just getting to point “A” to point “B” upon replay. With objectives seemingly added as an afterthought, this game is seemingly the most enjoyable the first time you play it – and one play seems to be more than enough to get what you want out of the game. Because of this, the lasting appeal is distinctly lacking here. What might have helped this game might have been an actual secret area system such as what was found in Duke Nukem 3D. Such areas might have incentivize players to be motivated to play through this game multiple times as opposed to that “play once then throw it out” feeling. An increase of map complexity in general may have also gone a long way as well. Unfortunately, this didn’t seemingly happen.

Graphically speaking, this game does have some praiseworthy areas. While some consider other games to be far superior in this area for the time, it is difficult to overlook the environmental recreations of Voyager, Borg, and Original Series areas. The recreated environment is a very hard thing to fault. In addition, some of the alien vessel environments were actually pretty good in that they often gradually changed in look as you progressed deeper into the level. Having said that, between the models themselves and the special effects, it’s very hard to see where this game boldly goes where no other game has gone before. There’s the crudely animated lip movements when characters are talking, the badly animated falling grates, and basic animated lifts that could have been pulled off to some degree on previous generation consoles. So, while there were some good points in the area of graphics, they also don’t exactly amaze either once you get past the recreated settings. The drop in frame rate may have been something that you would see in a previous generation console game, but to see it in this generation console from time to time was also an eyebrow raiser.

The audio was hit and miss in this game. The sound effects did a lot to add to the overall environments. The weapon fire also did a decent job. Another major strong point was the voice acting. The voice acting added so much to the game and made it more than possible to sit through cut scenes and care about the story as a whole. In addition to this, there was a huge variety of voice actors in the game which makes the game feel much more populated. While all of these were strong points, the weak point here was the music. Sometimes, the music does add a little to the mood, but never really does much more than that. In fact, for large chunks of the game, you almost forget the music is even there to the point that you confuse it with folly sounds. While the orchestral music echos the style of Star Trek, it surprisingly doesn’t step up to the plate as an element that really adds much to the overall game. In fact, I don’t really recall anything memorable about the music. It’s very fortunate that the effects and voice acting saves this game in this area.

Overall, if you haven’t played this game before, and you want a different FPS experience, you can do a whole lot worse than this game. This game does offer a great degree of entertainment value. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to envision very many people wanting to play this game over and over again. This game borrows some influence from other great game all the while infusing play with its own elements and style. While the graphics do a great job at recreating TV environments, it doesn’t do much else to make this a standout game. In fact, you may cringe at the occasional drop in frame rate and animated objects. Sound effects and voice acting were parts of this game, but the music was forgettable – surprising considering it was of an orchestral style. You won’t regret playing through this once, but don’t expect much for lasting power here.

Overall
Furthest point in game:
Easy: Beat the game.
Normal: Accessed the second Borg level.
Challenging: Accessed the stealth mission.
Difficult: Died on the first level shortly after the timed elevators section.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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