QuakeCon 2002: Elite Force II updated impressions

Ritual shows off its sequel to the Star Trek first-person shooter.

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A game can change a lot as it nears alpha, and evidently Ritual has been busy since we last saw Elite Force II at E3 2002. The game is now just six weeks from its alpha milestone, when it'll be roughly feature-complete. At Activision's QuakeCon display, we had a chance to see a number of Elite Force II's 12 environments, one of the two races Ritual has created for the game, some new monsters, and the new weapons. Elite Force II will have many elements from the next Star Trek movie, Nemesis, which is now scheduled for theatrical release in December. Unfortunately, Activision can't show any of the Nemesis content that made it into the game until after the movie is released.

One of the levels that's being demoed at QuakeCon was shown at E3, but it served as an indication of how far the game has come in the intervening months. The mission involves an away team from the Enterprise landing on a planet in a shuttle craft and encountering small four-legged aliens that leap to attack. The level was much more regularly populated with monsters than when we'd seen it previously, and in addition to a solving a puzzle with the tricorder, the mission requires the team to interact with the Attrexians, one of the new Federation races native to the planet. A squat, humanoid Attrexian character helps your team open a blocked area and proceed to an encounter with what's essentially the big brother of the small aliens that have been attacking you. This boss monster is a big quadruped with a bony exoskeleton and an energy attack, but there are also other related monsters, including one that flies. Most of the monster encounters we saw involved monsters spawning in waves, but Ritual says the final game will vary the encounters much more.

Elite Force II brings back some of the many Star Trek energy weapons the first game had, but there are also a bunch of weapons with new and interesting attacks. All weapons now have alt-fire attacks, including the standard phaser rifle, which has a automatic burst mode in addition to the slower, railgun-like firing mode. An experimental Romulan weapon that shoots bursts of radiation has some unexpected uses. The radiation, displayed as an orange glowing particle effect, causes damage over time, and it sticks to surfaces and characters and will transfer some of its radiation to other nearby creatures. You can irradiate a wall and creatures that pass it will get irradiated and can then pass the radiation on to others. We also saw an electrical gun that fires an arc of electricity as its primary attack. The secondary attack releases gas into the area that will do a small amount of damage over time but is particularly devastating when it's ignited by the electrical attack and explodes.

The tricorder will play a bigger part in Elite Force II. Not only is it useful for surmounting some of the obstacles in the player's path, but it can also play a part in combat. Some creatures are hard to detect without the tricorder's help, so players will have to cycle between it and a weapon to deal with those threats. The tricorder also has a torpedo strike mode, and Ritual revealed that players will be able to call down a torpedo attack from a ship in orbit at some point late in the game.

Ritual has drawn its inspiration from many parts of the Star Trek universe, not just the Nemesis movie. The story mostly takes place after the final Voyager episode, but it works some of those events into the early game and then moves the setting to the Enterprise, which is commanded by none other than Captain Picard. There's even a point in the game when the player can go out on the hull of the Enterprise in an EVA suit. We also saw a level set in the Enterprise's engineering section, which had been transformed with Borg technology and resembled scenes from the First Contact movie.

Elite Force II is nearing alpha, but it still has a ways to go. The game is scheduled to ship early next year. For more information, check out our previous coverage of the game.

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