Star Trek Elite Force II Review
When the original Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force game was released, it was a large surprise to the FPS gaming community who made the game an instant hit and, as a result has given the green light for a second adventure for Lieutenant Alexander Munro and the rest of the Hazard Team. But with a new developer, a change in setting, and a good reputation to live up to, can Elite Force II make the grade.

Well the gameplay certainly lives up to its predecessor, mainly because Elite Force II is once again shaped around the Quake III engine. However many would admit that this engine has seen it’s fair share of games, a more recent example being Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, which does have an effect on the originality of the gameplay behind Elite Force II, which can give you the same feeling as playing games like Jedi Outcast, even though the setting is completely different.

The switch to developer Ritual Entertainment has helped tone down this issue, as the Uber Tools Ritual created for the engine help things run a little more smoothly, with more impressive environments and character models to help playing within the engine seem a little more realistic. For the most part, the gameplay was stable, and I encountered very few errors or crashes while playing through the game. (Although shooting Mr. Stemmons with the Sniper Rifle at Starfleet Academy produced an interesting ‘program error’.)

One of the great things about the game is that it seems to cater well for most gaming systems out there today. On my low end PIII 670mhz, 32mb TNT2 graphics and 256mb RAM, I managed to pull off medium performance from the game, yet it still looked and felt impressive. Even so, an investment in the game is well worth it for those will impressive high end systems as the game has features to turn on which those of us still living several years ago can only dream about what they are like.

As I said before, the game has switched setting within the Star Trek universe, as for the most part you operate from the Enterprise-E, under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The initial mission of the game is a must for Voyager fans however, as it reveals the untold story of Voyager’s escape from the Borg Sphere in the final episode, ‘Endgame’. We were told that the single-player campaign would about 1½ times the size of the original Elite Force in length, but playing it through took me about the same 9 hour mark as playing the original game for the first time. Nevertheless there are secret areas and starships to look for to unlock new maps, and for the general or newcomer to the genre there should be enough to keep you satisfied for a long time.

The story itself has a true Star Trek feel to it, even with new races. Ritual really did their research to make sure everything seems as true to the franchise as possible. For those not really interested in the Trekkie stuff, there should be enough to blast and frag in the single-player to keep you happy for the most part, but the long cut-scenes will probably make you hit your esc button quite often. I found the Munro/Telsia/Kleeya romance quite stupid to be honest, and a poor attempt to distract from the linear gameplay. I did find the whole idea of the Exomorphs being an overwhelming engineered race gone wrong quite similar the Vorsoth in the original game, but I can’t really mention this a negative point as it is a personal view, and I still found the playing experience enjoyable.

Elite Force II’s graphics are simply put, magnificent. I was amazed at the level of detail on models and environments even on my system. If you are lucky enough to have all the bells and whistles turned on, you are certainly in for a treat. I did notice some graphical glitches while playing the campaign however, especially with people half morphing into the walls.

Like the Star Trek show itself, the soundtrack in game changes to reflect the mood of the situation in game at any given moment, which really adds to the suspense and action of the game. There is also good sound quality in game and in the cinematic parts, however I did feel the quality of sound in the intro movie was quite poor, I guess it isn’t a big issue.

Although most of the original Hazard Team voice-over actors returned, and many veteran Star Trek actors provided alien voices to the game, I did feel that – from a Trekkie point of view at least – their were too few main stars on the Enterprise to make the experience of being aboard the Federation flagship complete. Only Patrick Stewart (Picard), Dwight Schultz (Barclay) and Tim Russ (Tuvok – who is from Voyager anyway) reprise their roles in game. I would love to seen Michael Dorn and Levar Burton whose characters Worf and LaForge remain on the ship after Star Trek Nemesis to have made appearances, but I guess this would have put a strain on the budget.

The in-built multiplayer system in game makes setting up and joining servers via the internet or LAN easily, and multiplayer is very fun and stable. Many previous and new game modes such as capture the flag are team death match are in, with modifiers such as Action Hero and Disintegration to add some variety to matches that you play. There are less multiplayer maps than were available before however, which should be filled by mappers once the GDK for the game is released.

For those who want the experience off line, SoloMatch also makes a return, allowing all multiplayer features just against computer bots rather than opposing human players. The AI in game for this however is very dumb, and this is also apparent in the single player campaign, as the AI seems to make stupid moves and strikes allowing them to be killed easily. Experienced FPS gamers will need to play on a harder level for a challenge in game, but this does little to distract from the AI problems.

To round up, Star Trek Elite Force II is a good solid game, with every component needed to make such a game successful. For me, it is even an improvement of the original in terms of look/feel, gameplay and the storyline. I have few gripes about the game, mainly voice overs and the AI, so the game is bound to score highly. Ritual has done a superb job in balancing the target between Star Trek gamers and FPS gamers and I hope that this game will prove to be as successful for Activision as the original title.