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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.1    CPU: G3 @ 733 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1050 MB    Graphics: 16 MB VRAM


Star Trek Elite Force II
March 15, 2004 | Richard Hallas
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Multiplayer
Unlike the first game, multiplayer is built into the main game rather than being a separate program. However, that's of little consequence. All the options you'd expect are there: you can play against real opponents or computer-generated ones, you can customize your appearance and there are lots of maps to choose from. It's standard fare but well executed. What's a bit more unusual is the range of options and rules you can tweak if you go into the advanced setup page. I won't go into those options as there are far too many to discuss, but there's loads of variety. If Holomatch was your thing in the first game, there's more of the same here, but even better.

In fact, Holomatches make their way into the single-player game from time to time in that you play one whenever you're given a new Starfleet-issue weapon. Unfortunately this is one of the less successful parts of Elite Force II. In the original Elite Force, Holodeck training took place in a variety of fun locations, but in Elite Force II it's always in the same unimaginative space station layout (also available in true multiplayer mode), which is pretty dull. At least these sections don't last long.

Graphics: How long-range is your scanner?
Elite Force II is based on an enhanced Quake III Arena engine, and to be honest I didn't realise quite how much enhanced it was until I had played through the game and was going back to take the screenshots for this review. When I played through the game I thought that the graphics were good but not spectacular. However, I was also aware that my system was not really doing them justice. I was using my 800MHz PowerBook G4 at a resolution of 800600, which seemed to give pretty good performance all-round. When it came to producing the screenshots (which are taken at 640480 resolution) I decided to turn on all the high-end options to get the best possible appearance. I knew I wouldn't get a very playable game (and indeed it dropped to around 2 fps on my system), but I was unprepared for how stunning it would look.

The difference was absolutely striking. Many details, such as the glowing skin markings of the Idryll and the iridescence of their eyes, had simply not been visible at all before but looked wonderful when present. Most striking, though, was the quality of the characters' facial animations: when they speak, not only do their mouths synchronise properly with the words but they change their expressions very convincingly. You don't really think you're looking at real actors, of course, but even so they're the best people-substitutes I've yet seen in a game. Aside from a few minor glitches (my machine didn't seem able to handle stencil shadows properly) the graphics looked absolutely wonderful, and made me wish that I had a dual-processor G5 with a top-end graphics card to play it on!

Sound: Not the final front ear
Unfortunately the stunning graphics are not matched by the sound quality, at least in terms of the music. When the first Elite Force game appeared I was pretty disappointed in its theme music because it was not an authentic Star Trek theme, but rather a feeble pastiche of the Voyager music. Sadly, the same theme music has been reused with this game, which is unfortunate. Even if the music weren't pretty poor to start with, a "sound-alike Voyager theme" seems inappropriate for a game that's based on the Enterprise for all except the first couple of missions. As for the in-game music, it fits the mood but that's about all you can say about it. It's pleasant background ambience rather than anything memorable.

The voice acting is where this game really scores, though, and several Star Trek actors have contributed. The jewel in the crown is Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, though Tim Russ reprieves his role as Tuvok and Dwight Schultz is in there as Reg Barclay. I won't enthuse about him, though, as Barclay is my least favourite Star Trek character. Excluding Wesley, obviously. But it's interesting to listen out for other well-known Star Trek actors who are playing characters other than the ones they're known for on-screen. Jeffrey Combs, for instance, who has played lots of different characters (including Brunt and Weyoun on DS9) is very easily recognisable as a Romulan in the game, but others include J. G. Hertzler (Martok), Martha Hackett (Seska), Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) and Tony Todd (Kurn).

The voice acting is very good throughout, and most characters have a range of things to say if you prompt them to speak to you. If you get annoyed by typos, spelling mistakes and poor grammar, though, don't turn on the subtitles: they're full of bad mistakes that should never have got past QA.

Conclusion: Boldly Go!
I thoroughly enjoyed Elite Force II. The original Elite Force was good, but this is even better; the designers seem to have done a good job of creating a similar sort of game to the original, but with a new story and with most of the previous game's problems removed. The levels are much bigger and far more interesting to explore (and the secrets provide a real incentive to do this) and although loading times can still be very long, at least they're not so off-puttingly frequent.

The game also feels less linear, even though it's still very much a sequential story. The previous problem of the player not feeling he could explore Voyager has largely been solved on the Enterprise, without going down the route of providing a large, empty ship with nothing much to do in it (which is what the Elite Force expansion pack provided).

Elite Force II delivers fantastic graphics on those machines that can render them and still degrades well on machines that can't. The weapons are varied and well balanced, and there are strong exploration and stealth aspects for those of us who enjoy doing more than just the hack-and-slash stuff. In fact, hack-and-slash may be underplayed for some, but it doesn't really fit into the Star Trek ethos (unless you're a Klingon).

So, great stuff. This is definitely a game that Trek fans will enjoy, but it's still a good romp for non-Trekkers because the game is just set in the Star Trek universe rather than being totally wedded to it. You certainly don't need to be steeped in Trek lore to enjoy this.

Pros:
  • Superb graphics and character animation
  • Reasonably long and challenging single-player story with lots of variety
  • Interesting levels with great secrets to discover
  • Good, well-rounded multiplayer facilities
  • Excellent voice acting all round, including contributions from Patrick Stewart and other well-known actors
  • Reasonably engaging story, even if it's not very faithful to the Trek genre
  • Female Idryll dress sense. Wow.
  • Cons
  • Ten minutes to load one level? Has the warp core been ejected or what?
  • Some plot holes are as big as DS9's wormhole
  • Game play can be a bit uneven: some ridiculously difficult sections are mixed in with a game that's often a bit too easy
  • Nondescript music
  • Captain Picard never says "Tea, Earl Grey, hot." What a missed opportunity.


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