|Star Trek Elite Force II|
July 31, 2003 | Nat Panek
Star Trek: Elite Force II -- developed by Ritual Entertainment, published by Activision, and ported by Aspyr Media -- is the long-anticipated sequel to the original Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force first-person shooter. While it boasts several improvements over the original title (as a good sequel should), it remains true to the spirit of the former game as well. We return to the Voyager and its now battle-hardened Hazard Team, headed up by you in the form of Alexander Munro, who has been promoted to lieutenant from ensign. Some other familiar faces return, including the lily-livered, blue-headed Chell; Jurot, sporting a new hairdo; Chang (who seems very angry in this game for some reason); and, of course, Telsia Murphy, who looked to be striking up some sparks with Munro before the first game ended so abruptly. Few franchises have been as successful as Star Trek at fusing sci-fi action with soap opera relationship storylines, and this game has heavy doses of both. Will Telsia and Munro succeed in getting their mack on this time around, in between the raging firefights with hideous aliens? You’ll have to play to find out!
A New AssignmentYou may notice that “Voyager” has been dropped from the game’s title. This is because, with the exception of the first episode of the game, the action has moved on, first to Starfleet Academy on Earth, and then to the pride of the Federation, the one and only U.S.S. Enterprise-E. Here, Munro takes his orders from the man himself, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, voiced by Patrick Stewart and not some third-rate impersonator hack, thank goodness. And so the stage is set for another trek across the stars, one noticeably longer than its predecessor, I’m pleased to say.
Without giving too much away, the story unfolds like this: the Enterprise rushes to the aid of a space station owned by an industrious but slightly dim race called the Attrexians. The station has been attacked by brutal, seemingly mindless aliens that at first blush bear an eerie resemblance to the insectoid Harvesters of the previous EF game. It develops that these creatures are somehow connected to a mysterious race called the Idryll, whose worlds have been colonized by the Attrexians. The Enterprise pays a visit to a nearby Idryll planet, where the Hazard Team discovers a vast factory manufacturing the bioengineered aliens that attacked the Attrexian station. And so our Starfleet heroes find themselves in a familiar state of affairs: caught between two antagonist races with no idea whom to believe or trust. The situation deteriorates. The living alien weapons start attacking Attrexians, Idryll, humans, and anything else that’s handy. It becomes apparent that they will threaten all of known space unless a way is found to stop them. But how, Spock. . . how?
GameplayWell, as it turns out, stopping the aliens, or Exomorphs, as they prefer to be called, involves blowing the hell out of them for the most part. Munro is very well-equipped for just this task, with an impressive array of weaponry at his disposal. Aside from the standard-issue phaser and compression rifle, there’s the Attrexian arc-gun, a spiffy new sniper rifle, a wildly inaccurate yet highly badass tetryon Gatling gun, and a bunch of other stuff, familiar and un-, that I won’t get into here. Augmenting this gear is the piece of equipment no well-dressed Starfleet officer should be without: the tricorder! Before I played EFII, I’d always found the sight of Starfleet personnel wandering around staring intently into their tricorders a little silly. What were they really using those things for? Now I know. This Palm-Pilot on steroids plays an integral part in most of the missions in the game. You’ll use it to repair broken computers, scan for traps and weakened structures, modulate waveforms, and more. But can it connect to the Internet?
Turning to the things on which you’ll be using this weaponry, the AI definitely makes for a significant challenge. Even with the difficulty set at “Normal” (the second of four settings) I found myself being humiliated at several junctures. Creatures don’t just stand there taking your abuse; they’ll dodge your fire, charge you, take cover, or run away. The wise player will adopt these same tactics. You can almost never afford to stand in one place for more than a couple seconds, and often, when you’re swarmed (and you will be), the only way to escape with your butt intact is to just run. Sounds like a lame tactic for a first-person shooter, but sometimes it boils down to whatever works, you know?
Combat, naturally, is one of the main features of the game, but it’s combat punctuated by extensive game-engine cutscenes that advance the very hefty plotline. Anyone looking for a mindless frag-fest would be better advised to find a UT2K3 server and have at it; Elite Force II has the scope of a Star Trek movie, and about as many main and supporting characters. Some of them will be familiar from the previous game and television series, some are all-new. Dialogue abounds, and you, as Munro, will be called upon many times to determine how he responds to various characters. These decisions won’t affect the overall arc of the story, but they will affect certain subplots. It should add to the replay value of the game just to be able to go back to certain key points and respond in different ways.