|Publisher: Aspyr Media Genre: Action|
|Min OS X: Any Version CPU: G3 @ 266 MHz RAM: 64 MB Hard Disk: 560 MB 4x CD-ROM|
“Analysis, Mr. Tuvok.”
“Captain, we are detecting the formation of a spatial anomaly off the port bow. Short-range sensors are registering a number of unforgivable clichés emanating from the rift.”
“Mr. Paris, plot a course around the anomaly.”
“It’s no good, captain, we can’t break free. We’re being sucked in …”
“Red alert. What more can you tell us about this anomaly, Mr. Tuvok?”
“It appears to be toroid in outline but of negligible thickness, and possessing reflective surface characteristics. It is also spinning at high speed. I predict that if Voyager were to impact with the phenomenon, we would become embedded within it. The force of the resulting collision would propel us back in time to a period close to the end of Earth’s second millennium. Logic would dictate that the avaricious commercialism of the inhabitants in this period of Earth’s history would result in the anomaly being cloned by the thousands and sold to a receptive public in time for the Christmas market.”
“Mr. Paris, you’ve made a study of this period of Earth’s history; what’s your opinion of the situation?”
“Count me in, Captain! I’d love to be immortalized on a CD-ROM, especially if it runs well on the Mac.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have let the cat out of the bag about how Raven has managed to recreate Voyager in such a convincing and lifelike way on CD, but I’m pleased to report that--despite Voyager’s being arguably a weak example of the Star Trek series so far--this is undoubtedly the strongest game yet to emerge from the Star Trek franchise.
A lot has already been written about this much-anticipated game (based on the Quake III engine), so I won’t swamp this review with an excess of technical details. Suffice it to say that Elite Force is fundamentally a 3D shooter, but it breaks new ground by featuring detailed characters with discernible personality traits and excellent animation, and it also includes a strong storyline which you follow as you play through the game and, to a limited degree, affect. The underlying intention (which is largely successful) is to make you feel as though you’re participating in an episode of the TV series.
Elite Force is an officially-sanctioned part of the Star Trek universe, and has had a lot of work put into it by most of the regular Voyager actors and many members of the TV show’s production team, as well as all the usual game designers and programmers. This consideration means that the story element of the game is much more important than it would be in almost any other 3D shoot-’em-up game of this nature. I’m therefore going to look at Elite Force both as a game in its own right and as a piece of Star Trek fiction.
The story and Trek authenticityDuring the course of this review I managed to play the game right through to the end, and so experienced the entire story. In essence, without giving it all away, Voyager is attacked to within an inch of its warp coils by an unknown alien ship, but is able, in typical fashion, to defeat its adversary just one shot ahead of its own destruction. However, it’s a trap: any ship which is able to withstand the hostile encounter is transported to a vast celestial graveyard of derelict vessels, where its technological secrets are plundered by distinctly unfriendly aliens known as Harvesters. Having been thus ensnared, it is Voyager’s duty to (a) escape and (b) issue a severe reprimand to the despicable wrong-doers.
Voyager arrives in the graveyard in pretty bad shape, and repairs are hampered by the presence of a dampening field which is being generated by the Forge, the Harvesters’ nearby headquarters. It is therefore necessary to acquire certain items to assist in the repairs by investigating nearby ships, while repelling attacks from Scavengers, an unruly alliance of humans and Klingons from the crippled vessels. You can play Ensign Alexander or Alexandria Munro (depending on your gender or inclination), a leading member of Tuvok’s newly-formed Hazard Team, an elite group of officers, trained to engage in particularly difficult and dangerous missions.
The early stages of the game involve exploring a variety of ships in the vicinity of Voyager, initially in search of isodesium needed for repairs. The presence of many different types of alien ships in the graveyard is a blatant excuse to take the player through a reasonably wide range of popular ships and species from the Star Trek universe beyond Voyager. For instance, early on you’ll prowl around a Klingon vessel, a Borg cube, a number of other brand-new alien ships (invented for this game) and even an old-style Original Series Enterprise-like ship. For true Trekkers, it is actually an alternate-universe-style Constellation-class starship with daggers painted on its doors, as seen in the Original Series episode entitled "Mirror, Mirror").
Later on in the game you’ll have to reactivate a massive alien dreadnought (while fighting its automated defenses) in order to try to hit back at the Harvesters, who are about to slice Voyager into lots of little pieces; then you’ll lead an away team in an attempt to annihilate the Harvesters themselves. It’s not all hack and slash, though; along the way you’ll have to accomplish a variety of extra tasks, such as averting the warp core breach, without which any Star Trek story would be incomplete.
Apparently Raven Software (the original developers) had a big hand in creating the story, but there also was plenty of consultation with Paramount Studios’ staff and a lot of input from Voyager’s artists and set designers. As a result, there is a lot of very authentic attention to detail in what goes on, which fans of the show will relish (though for non-fans they’ll just come across as part of the atmosphere). For instance, in one section you’re in the sickbay in the company of the doctor, and he’s wandering around, issuing his usual repertoire of irascible comments and singing about how he’s been working on the railroad all the live long day. It’s a nice touch from the show, even if the good doctor is not the wonderful singer he’s cracked up to be.
The voices of the real Voyager actors are used throughout the game, and almost all have taken part. The glaring omission is Jeri Ryan, which is unfortunate because Seven of Nine has a fairly large role in the game. Her sound-alike makes a valiant attempt, but is obviously not the real actress. The other inauthentic voice is that of the ship’s computer (used in the menu system), which is usually spoken by Majel Barrett Roddenberry. However, her voice-double is so similar as to be indistinguishable. I only discovered that it wasn’t really Mrs. Roddenberry by reading the credits.