Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is an old video game. It came out in 2000 for Windows and MacOS and a year later for the Playstation 2. The game is based on on the Quake III Arena engine.
You play as Ensign Munro – a white male. There is no other option. It doesn’t really matter much because you spend the entire game viewing the world through his eyes. You only occasionally see him.
At the beginning of the game Voyager is caught in (surprise) some kind of energy vortex that almost destroys it and pulls into another dimension that is full of debris and derelict ghost ships. Luckily Tuvok has trained and put together a team of elite security officers called the Hazard Team. This is where you come in. Apparently everything in this universe is hazardous and you must enter first and make it safe for the others.
Nothing in Elite Force is surprising. When there are bad guys you shoot at them, when there are good guys you don’t. When you get stuck you blow things up. If you hold still the bad guys will kill you. It’s all pretty standard first-person shooter gameplay. What made this game enjoyable however where the particular Star Trek elements that were added to the game, and it’s interesting story.
The game opens with you trying to infiltrate a Borg ship to rescue your shipmates before they are assimilated. The Borg will adapt to your weapons if you try to fight them head on. Sometimes if you aggro one of them you can find a node attached to the wall. Blowing this up deactivates all the Borg nearby. It’s still not a good idea to attract too much attention. On other levels you sneak through a room full of sleeping Klingons, rescue a friend from alternate universe Federation officers-gone-bad, take on an army of defense robots, and destroy the galaxy’s worst ever cockroach infestation… all in the name of exploration and science.
One side note – why are the bad guys in science fiction always insects? Or robots? Or zombies? (Or Borg?) Which are all the same thing if you think about it.
The game has the usual standard array of weapons. All of them have a unique Star Trek feel to them that makes it feel almost a little bit cooler. Instead of the rocket launcher you have a personal photon torpedo cannon. You also have the standard Starfleet Type II phaser, and phaser rifle, grenade launcher, etc. These weapons all look like they could have been in the show, even if they weren’t. There is even a somewhat convoluted attempt to explain why you are capable of carrying nine guns, a helmet, all the ammo, and other gear you have without getting tired. You are equipped with a transporter pattern buffer that stores all of your gear in a suspended transporter beam.
The story of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is another good reason to play this game. It is far better than most of the Voyager episodes – which isn’t a great endorsement – and the writing is tight and well managed. Most of the story is gleaned from your teammates talking over the communications channel while you are in the midst of sneaking around apparently-abandoned-except-for-those-monsters-that-we-didn’t-see-on-sensors ships. In fact, listening, not only to your team mates chatter, but also to enemies who don’t know you are there can provide very important clues for getting through some areas. The characters that are not part of the show have interesting quirks. I found that I even laughed at some of their banter at times. Chell is a Bolian technician who is a little jumpy and very gullible, Csokas is hotheaded, Murphy is cool and businesslike.
Voyager was plagued with horrible writing, bad directors and awful producers but the cast was strong and even Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) learned to act by the end of her first season. All of those actors show up to voice their parts in Elite Force and the actors who played the new characters blended well with the world making it feel real. Every major character shows up, some more than others. My only complaint about the actors would be that the doctor (played by Robert Picardo) – the only character that the writers could figure out what to do with in the show, and by far the most entertaining character – only showed up a couple of times to heal you before missions.
The story does have some head-scratching moments. There is the part where you spend an hour fighting your way through one of those apparently-abandoned-etc. derelict ships, trying to contact the aliens attacking you. You finally get to the end and one of them tells you, oh by the way don’t hurt us we’re your friends, we just wanted to learn from you, by trying to kill you for an hour. These moments are few and I actually found them much easier to take since I just shrugged and said “well, it’s Voyager.”
The graphics were of an acceptable quality for the games age. The Quake III Arena engine at the time was the most powerful game engine around. It feels slightly archaic now but the game is fun in many ways that help you get past the lack of photorealistic imagery. Unfortunately the game slows down sometimes on the Playstation 2. I’ve seen better graphics, and more complex engines on the Playstation 2 so I know it can be done, but sometimes when there were a large number of enemies on the screen the framerate drops below the threshold of being able to tell what is going on. It only happens a couple of times so it’s no big deal.
The reason it’s no big deal is because this game is incredibly easy. Many times I thought I had been pounded until I had to be almost dead and I would glance at my health meter and realize that I had hardly taken any damage at all. That seemed okay for the earlier levels but the game is also incredibly short. There are only about five levels and the game doesn’t ever get hard.
My only other complaint is probably the teammates. While their dialogue is sometimes very entertaining, when there is fighting to be done all they do is get in the way. All of them must have graduated from Storm Trooper training, or perhaps it’s the red shirts they all wear, but none of them can hit anything consistently, except each other. Many times all three of them would try to kill one Borg while I finished off the entire rest of the shambling assault. Then I would turn around to help and they would all be clustered around the Borg grunting every time he hit them. I usually had to shoot one of them to get him to move out of the way so that I could kill the final Borg. I think I would have been better off if they had stayed on Voyager and worked on their hand-eye coordination.
In all, however, I enjoyed this game a lot. It felt immersive and pulled me right into the world of Star Trek. It felt almost like I was really on the Voyager talking with Chakotay in the ships lounge or crawling through the Jeffries tubes shooting at giant cockroaches. As a fun way to pass the time it succeeded. As a new episode of Voyager it probably outdid itself.