Friday, 26 April 2013

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force (PC)

Star Trek Voyager Elite Force logo
The Star Trek franchise hasn't quite done so well as its arch-nemesis Star Wars when it comes to games over the years, perhaps because Trek has always been about working through problems and moral dilemmas, something that's tricky to adapt. On the other hand Star Wars is more about using the force and locking s-foils in attack position, things that can directly translate into straightforward action games like Jedi Knight or TIE Fighter. Though I'm sure the fact that George Lucas owned his own top tier developer probably helped.

For Elite Force though the Trek license was entrusted to Raven Software, the people who brought the world Heretic and Soldier of Fortune (and would later go on to make Jedi Knight II). So of course they decided to take a series about a group of enlightened pacifists who travel through the stars trying to solve problems with diplomacy and reason, and turned it into a first person shooter with the tagline "SET PHASERS™ TO FRAG".

They could've made a Mass Effect style RPG or a Walking Dead style adventure game, but nope, it's a pure FPS built with the Quake III engine. So let's see how well that worked out for them.

(Most pictures can be clicked to enlarge, though they'll still be covered in ugly nasty jpeg compression artifacts.)

Star Trek Voyager Elite Force LCARS menu system
I always think it's funny when they use the computer interface from the series for in game menus, because it shows just how pointless a lot of the info around the screen is. Numbers everywhere, occasionally highlighted for no reason.

This may look like a some kind of warp core startup screen, but don't let the fact that it even says 'warp core startup' on the bottom fool you, this is the new game options. They've kindly given me a Mass Effect style choice of playing as either Alexander or Alexandria Munro, which is cool, assuming it's not just the same guy in drag.

And then Ritual Entertainment went and spoiled it in Elite Force II by dropping Alexandria (to presumably save hiring another actor), retroactively making the male version the only 'real' character. Classy.

The game starts with Kate Mulgrew herself narrating over this very heroic painting of the crew as semi-transparent giants floating around space in a conga line, dazzling alien races with their incredibly shiny badges. I guess actual cast photos wouldn't have fit with the less than photorealistic in-game graphics. Not the most interesting screenshot in the world I admit, but it wouldn't let me skip it, so I'm making you suffer too.

Apparently our hero, (I chose Alexander) is part of a special forces security team on the Federation starship Voyager, and he's gotten separated from his team while on a 'dangerous mission', so we're entering the story in medias res.

Oh, by the way it was a dangerous mission on a Borg ship. The Borg, in case you don't know, are annoying biomechanical space zombies with laser pointers mounted to their head to confuse and blind their opponents. They're all equipped with personal forcefield armour that usually adapts to shield them from rayguns, but this rifle I'm carrying right now has been modified with plastic tubes and green LEDs, so it can blast right through anything.

I'm still a little vague on what Munro is actually here to do, but breaking this Biessman guy out of his cell can't hurt. Probably. The guy reminds me of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future though, so I'm tempted to leave him there.


Well I broke Biessman out, but he soon managed to get himself recaptured by the Borg. He was kind of a dick though, so I'll get over it. I'm the only one with a gun that can hurt enemies, so he was pretty useless anyway. His AI was fairly competent though and he wasn't an active liability to me, which is fairly impressive for a game that came out the same year as Daikatana. Actually now that I think about it, he's still fairly impressive compared to the glitchy AI sidekick in the new Star Trek game. Say what you like about Biessman, I never had to reload a save because he was too busy running into a wall to come open a door for me.

There's no regenerating health or shields in this by the way, instead I need to find these Half-Life style wall terminals to recharge. I'm on Normal difficulty though and the Borg don't have guns, so I barely ever need to. I just need to unload a few shots their way before they walk into me and I'm fine. Unlike regular zombies I don't even need to aim for the head.

Whoa, is that Biessman? Whoever it is, he definitely seems to have been part of my team. I don't still don't know what my mission was here, but unless it was to get all my teammates captured and converted into cyborgs, then I think I might have fucked up.

Still, there's still some surviving crew members held prisoner behind a forcefield, so it's not quite a total loss yet. Give me 2 minutes though, I'll fix that.

I suppose this was the final straw for poor Munro, as I'm kicked out of his head and into a cutscene. Tired of me screwing up his life and making him look bad in front of the crew, he takes back control of his own destiny just long enough to shoot up a control panel to disable the forcefield and free the rest of his team.

Didn't work though; they all blow up and die. Ooops.

Mr Munro your tactical approach was shall we say tactless
But it's okay, turns out it was all a dream a vr simulation test. And we done fucked up. But wait, Captain Janeway assured me it was real in her very serious narration at the start!

Lt. Tuvok, my boss, makes it clear that he's disappointed with Alex for not following procedure, and says the mission might have been a success if he had. He doesn't actually explain what the procedure is though, so Alex decides to follow him down the corridor for a bit and inquire how he could have know that shooting a panel would blow them all up.

Turok name drops the Kobayashi Maru test
Tuvok pretty much replies that it was a no-win scenario and there was actually no way to save his team. So why the hell is he bitching at Mr. Munro for making the wrong choice in a situation without any right ones?

By the way these faces are actually animated textures and they don't have a lot of frames. Alex tends to end up twitching a lot when he talks.

BUT THEN, the ship rocks as alien energy bolts crash against the shields in a CGI cutscene video!

Fortunately Captain Janeway isn't the type to shy away from a fight. She waits until her ship is practically crippled before giving the order to shoot back... but only enough to wound them a little. Shields are down and the next shot will destroy Voyager, but that's no excuse for aggressive self-defence.

By the way, I can't say I'm impressed with Janeway's 3d model. The rest of the characters have been recognisable enough, but she doesn't even look vaguely like Kate Mulgrew.

Well at least the hair's pretty close I suppose. Plus the voice is perfect! The entire TV cast came in to voice their characters, and they help to add a bit of authenticity to the game. Well okay Seven of Nine ended up being voiced by a Jeri Ryan impersonator for a while, but the actress eventually rerecorded her character's lines for a free downloadable patch released a few months later. So that all worked out in the end.

Well against all odds Janeway actually won the fight! Unfortunately the alien ship had a magical explosion that teleports spaceships into the junk dimension. Presumably these wrecks were all winners too, once. Oh, plus Voyager is crippled now and entirely defenceless.

If this was a TV episode, this'd be a great time to cut to the main titles.

Whoa, it has the Voyager title sequence. Doesn't have the Voyager theme song, but it sounds a bit the same. And they've replaced the show's credits with Raven Software staff.

Design Lead Christopher Foster... hey, there was a character in Munro's team called Foster. Wow, the next guy in the credits is called 'Monroe'.

Hang on, I'm looking through the credits, and it seems that half the game's characters* are named after the developers. Even my buddy Biessman is named after a guy who worked on the multiplayer. Oh and he really is played by Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future)! I KNEW he sounded just like him.

*Not literally.

Huh, I'm wearing a Hazard suit? What am I, Gordon Freeman? No I can't be, Munro actually has lines.

Hey wait, you can't let me come up here to the bridge and then just send me off again before I've even had a chance to jump onto the control panels. I ain't leaving until I've looked around.

I love getting to run around TV and movie sets in a game, seeing it all from an actor's point of view, exploring all the places that would normally never be caught on camera because they actually lead out onto the stage or whatever.

Like you'd probably never get to see where that passageway on the top right goes in the actual series (my guess would have been the toilets), but from this angle you can clearly see it leads... right into a wall.

Also, shut up Tuvok. You're not my boss! Oh wait, he is. Damn, I guess I'd better head on over to Engineering then... right now.


Uh-oh, I made the Captain mad. I suppose she's not fond of people breaking into her room and messing with all her iPad. Or maybe she wants me to go down to Engineering, who knows?

Oh by the way, the bridge viewscreen in this is actually holographic, with the view changing depending on what angle you're facing it from. Not sure if that's how it works in the series, but it's a nice effect.


Wow, since when is repeatedly disobeying a direct order a crime? Okay okay, I'm sorry I left Borg blood footprints all over the Captain's couch, that was very bad of me and I've learned my lesson. Can I come out now? No?


Can't believe I have to load a save game just for hanging around and seeing what the sets look like in the Quake III engine.


OH, I guess he was yelling for me to turn the forcefield on AFTER he'd ran to safety. D'oh!

Still, it could be worse. The first time around I tried leaving the forcefield off to see what'd happen, and the whole corridor went up in flames. Oh okay fine, I'll reload again and save his life. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference to the story, but it's the Starfleet thing to do!

Of course the ship's a little smashed up inside, so I have to take the scenic route down to Engineering. There's even little bit of jumping required to get around this 'hazardous material' flooding the cargo bay. Wow, this really is turning into Half-Life. Next they'll be hiding head crabs in the vents.

Star Trek Voyager Elite Force B'lanna asks for a resonance cascade modulator
Yep, I'm definitely sensing some Half-Life inspiration here.

Well I've sorted out the engineering issue. Turns out they just wanted me to press a couple of buttons to stop the ship from exploding, but that's done and now Tuvok wants me to take care of alien intruders trying to raid our supplies.


Uh, thanks Doc, but I'm fine. Seriously, I've got 85 health, that's more than enough. Hey, keep your glitchy holographic hands off me, man!

It turns out that the ship is trapped in a void, with little hope of getting back to normal space even on a good day, and we're surrounded by hostile aliens even more desperate than we are who rely on raiding newcomers for their very survival. Funnily enough there was a Voyager episode aired a few months after this based around the exact same set up, called 'The Void'. I never saw it myself, but I'm guessing it has less first person shooting and more lengthy speeches about upholding the ideals of Starfleet and the need for cooperation. I bet the guest star of the week doesn't even jump all over Janeway's couch.


I saw this weird looking alien hanging around the Haz-Ops Lounge trying to poison my teammates, so I figured I'd follow him to see where he was going.

He got as far as a turbolift, but after we stepped inside he just stopped there and waited silently. Either he didn't want me to know where he was going, or he's part of the conspiracy keeping me trapped on this floor. The lifts don't work for me you see, as the developers had better things to do than model all 15 floors of the ship from bow to stern just so I could go exploring.

We stared at each other across the turbolift for a while, but it was clear he wasn't going to be the first to break, so I gave up and stepped back out into the corridor. The doors closed behind me, so I opened them again and... he was gone. There was a lift there, but the alien was nowhere to be seen. I guess that's why they're called turbolifts.

They at least let me wander around in my little boring slice of deck 4, section 12 between missions, so I decided to visit the nearby holodeck and test out my new guns. Funnily enough it turns out that an armoured spaceman with advanced alien tech can beat medieval archers fairly easily. Cowboys too. I'm hoping for pirates next. Not enough games let you raid a pirate frigate armed with a sci-fi grenade launcher.

This is old school 'strafe left and right while spraying enemies with bullets' first person shooting by the way. Hiding behind cover won't regenerate your health and going for headshots isn't going to help. Not that I'm complaining, though personally I'd take a nice solid modern semi-automatic over a blobby alien ray-shooter any day.

Elite Force Constitution Class Bird of Prey hybrid space station
Okay, for my next mission I've been ordered to fly over to this creepy kitbashed space station and steal their fuel. Granted they did attack us first, but it does seem a little strange that Captain "wait until our engines are hanging off before returning fire" Janeway has just authorised a mission of space piracy.

Surprise, it's a stealth level! The entire game up to this point has been running and shooting, but now I've got to sneak around pressing buttons without being seen or heard. Are the Klingons the ones with superhuman senses of smell and hearing, or am I getting them mixed up with Wolverine again? Either way it seems weird that this bloke hasn't noticed me yet.


You know, the sneaking hasn't actually been that bad so far. There's plenty of boxes to hide behind and stuff to distract people with, and if I want I can just ignore it altogether and murder everyone instead. The worst that comes from that is my boss gets a little annoyed with me, and let's face it, the guy's impossible to please.

I've always thought that the concept of space pirates welding together broken bits of spaceship to make some new space vehicle to be totally and absolutely dumb, because these things are precision made pieces of hardware built to exacting specifications and put through rigorous simulations and testing before being considered space-worthy. If you start cutting bits off and welding other bits on it's not likely to hold together in the way you were hoping for. But I think they've managed to pull the concept off this time... by making this makeshift space station a total shithole that seems like it's one slammed door away from a catastrophic hull breach.

And I plan to go find that door and slam it.

Haha, sniped ya, you bastard! Hey, that looks like a burned out shuttle over there, I must have found the Starfleet side of this structure. No clue how another Federation ship got sucked into the junk dimension seeing how Voyager is supposed to be sailing pretty far out from home, but I'm going to guess it involved some glowing thing in space. Possibly swirly too.

I was actually sneaking through these rooms just fine, until I backed up to take a better screenshot for you and accidentally stepped right onto one of the sleeping enemies. That kind of stirred up the nest.

These guys are actually from the mirror universe, where everything is backwards, good is evil, and Spock has a goatee. Doesn't make any sense to me why they'd be in this dimension, a hundred years or so into their future, and deep in the ass end of the galaxy, but I guess the developers are working off the Rule of Cool here.

Hey it's the engine room. Lots of broken panels and rewired consoles around, that can't be a good sign for what's basically a giant reactor. I foresee many more floating hyposprays in my future when I get back to the ship and the Doctor notices I'm glowing.

I decided to sneak around a bit in here and try pressing some stuff, and accidentally set off an explosion. Yeah yeah, I know, procedure says don't play around with strange computer panels, I remember what happened on the Borg ship. But you know, I think it works out better this way for everyone; I get to screw around with things I don't understand and continually blow shit up, and he gets to be condescending, smug and superior about it later when he's telling me off. Everyone's happy.


Well I've stolen enough fuel, but now I need to get back out to the extraction point. I was actually about to mention how easy everything's been so far, but of course that's exactly when the game decides to get tough all of a sudden, as the Predator's big brother has shown up to kick my ass. He just shrugs off my grenades and has a chain gun powerful enough to shred through the metal crates I'm using as cover. Basically I got destroyed in seconds and nothing I've got can touch him, I just don't know how the fuck I'm supposed to beat him.

Oh wait, I've figured it out. He may be ridiculously tough while he's glowing, but that golden shield of his eventually wears off for a few seconds, giving me a chance to send a few grenades over. All I need to do is hide avoid getting shot until I get my chances to shoot him back. Easy.

Plus he dropped his gun when he died, which helped make the journey back brief and colourful, as I held the fire button down and skipped gleefully through corridors echoing with the sound of a million plasma bolts a second and the screams of dying Klingons. Don't worry, I'm sure it was a good day for them to die.

Alright, think I'm done with single player for now, but the multiplayer thinks its special enough to get its own desktop icon and executable, so I'm going to break with tradition and check it out. Against bots.

But who should I invite to this deathmatch? Well I have to bring Gowron, I mean look at the guy! Desperado looks pretty badass and/or drunk so he can come too. Gotta have Janeway... oh, and Neelix obviously.

killing Neelix with an arc welder, over and over
You know, at first glance this deathmatch mode seemed a lot like an official Star Trek mod for Quake III Arena, but after playing it a while I noticed that... this basically is just an official Star Trek mod for Quake III Arena. Works for me though, it's a good solid foundation for some deathmatch slaughter. Now, where did that bastard respawn this time...

Elite Force doesn't really sit in the top tier of first person shooters for me, but it's a surprisingly decent basic action game. It's faithful to the Trek license without being dragged down by it into suffocating blandness, the characters are bearable, and the story is... well, we're not talking Bioshock Infinite here but it's better than Soldier of Fortune at least. Plus Voyager fans get to walk around all the sets from the series, though that might not actually be the selling point you'd think it'd be. The ship turns out to be pretty miserable and repetitive inside for the most part, with endless identical grey corridors, and everywhere you go you get shouted at by the main cast for interrupting their episode.

But yeah, it's actually pretty enjoyable for what it is and I wouldn't mind playing through more of it, so it's earned a shiny star.

Feel free to leave comments, give your own opinion on the game, point out all the Star Trek things I got wrong again, etc. It's always a pleasure getting feedback from intelligent life.


  1. Has always been one of my favortie Trek games. We spent many hourse playing deathmatches on this in my home LAN.

  2. Thanks for this post. I've been on a Star Trek kick all week because of the new movie. Watched like five Trek movies in a row and a little bit of the shows. You're right about Janeway not wanting to return fire; that seems to be a common trend with Trek captains...

  3. That's some funny crap, Ray! You should host your own gaming website!

  4. In case you're curious about the PS2 port of Elite Force: don't be. It's a turd.

  5. "The lifts don't work for me you see, as the developers had better things to do than model all 15 floors of the ship from bow to stern just so I could go exploring."

    Did you know there is an expansion pack for this game designed to do just that - go exploring? There's no added story or new missions or anything, it's literally just an expansion pack to explore the Voyager.


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