Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force Preview

Though official details regarding Majesco's PS2 port of the popular PC first-person shooter are scarce, we're able to paint a fairly detailed picture by using information from the PC version as inspiration.

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Majesco has picked up the rights to distribute the PS2 port of Raven Software's Quake III Arena-powered, Star Trek: Voyager-themed PC first-person shooter. Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force is a highly acclaimed first-person shooter on the PC, and Majesco plans on bringing every aspect of the game to the PS2. And while Majesco has made no official announcements regarding the actual mechanics of the port, we can only assume that the game will contain the same meat and bones as its PC counterpart.

Like the TV show it's modeled after, Elite Force initially takes place aboard the Federation Starship Voyager as it continues its journey back to Earth from the Delta Quadrant. Upon receiving a distress call from a derelict alien probe, the Voyager finds itself under attack - the victim of a trap; and it is forced to return fire. Voyager manages to destroy the alien ship, but the resulting shock wave from the explosion causes a rift in the space-time continuum, sending Voyager into a mysterious starship graveyard with no way to escape. It's revealed later on in the game that an alien species known as the Reavers constructed a massive space station called the Forge, which creates a dampening field that prevents escape from the graveyard. Any race advanced enough to defeat the derelict probes are sent to the graveyard, and their technology is then assimilated into the Reavers' own, much like the way the feared Borg operate. But even the Borg can't seem to adapt to the Reavers' technology, as they too took the bait and now find themselves trapped within the confines of the graveyard.

Voyager's Captain Janeway puts into place a series of plans to get her ship back into operational status and find a way to break the clutches of the graveyard. One of the key elements of Janeway's plans is the Hazard Team, an away team that comprises the ship's most elite Federation officers, who have been handpicked by Tuvok, Voyager's head of security. You assume the role of ensign Alex Munroe, the levelheaded second-in-command of Hazard Team. As you jump from ship to ship, you rally the aliens that have also fallen victim to the graveyard against the Reavers and the Forge. Most of the missions are played as part of a squad, and while you won't be able to control your team members, the other Hazard Team officers are competent enough to not accidentally shoot you in the back or to keep themselves from getting stuck behind walls. During some of the later missions, you'll even be joined by some of the Voyager crew - such as Seven of Nine and Tuvok - from the TV show.

Elite Force is split up into roughly 30-plus single-player levels, and it's clear that the developers at Raven took cues from Half-Life in its design. Limited supplies of ammunition and health are dispensed by wall-mounted stations, which are found throughout the game's alien ships (while you're aboard Voyager, the holographic doctor administers medical aid to you). Level transitions also occur in a manner reminiscent of Half-Life in that you don't realize that you're about to enter a new area until the "now loading" text appears across your screen. To preserve suspension of disbelief, the progress meter of the level load time is displayed as a transporter icon going through the motions of locking onto your position and energizing.

Raven has also included the same style of scripting sequences that made Half-Life so popular in Elite Force, albeit with a slight twist. Scripted events in the game are somewhat interactive, and you'll be given the power to affect their outcome by simply interfering with them. For example, during one of the earlier missions that take place aboard the Voyager itself, you'll hear an engineer desperately asking you to activate a containment field in a hallway in order to contain an imminent explosion. At this point, you can choose to run past the explosion's path (at the cost of a handful of the crew's lives) or you can turn on the field and save the lives of your crewmen. You can also opt to activate the field before or after the engineer clears the hallway - both actions will contain the blast, but the former provides you with a great view of the engineer getting caught between the explosion and the force field. The developer has even manipulated the Quake III engine to physically change the layout of certain rooms as part of this unique brand of scripted sequences. Explosions will cause hallways and rooms to break apart, which will reveal previously inaccessible areas.

Each of the game's 30 single-player levels take place aboard either the Voyager or one of the five different alien spaceships that the Hazard Team will be sent to. These levels are extremely varied in their design to reflect the different alien cultures of the game, which include the Etherians, the Borg, the Scavengers, and the Reavers of the Forge. The Quake III engine's rendering capacity shines in some of the more organic levels, as Raven has made full use of graphical effects, such as curved surfaces and scripted levels. Where the graphics of Elite Force really impresses, however, is in the weapon effects.

Like most first-person shooters, it's obvious that a majority of the Elite Force's design went into creating visually stunning, visceral weapons. The game has a total of nine ranged weapons (Elite Force has no melee weapons) that are available in both the single-player campaign and Holomatch multiplayer mode. Most of the weapons are futuristic revisions or alterations of existing Federation weaponry designs. But there are a few completely new weapons that either have been created by the characters in the game or have been stolen directly from the aliens that you encounter in your missions. All the weapons in the game have two modes of fire, and they vary in both style and technique.

The multiplayer modes that the PS2 version of Elite Force will have are still unknown. While the PC game boasted a solid holodeck multiplayer mode complete with online play, the PS2 version will probably have only a four-player multiplayer mode at best. Majesco has made no official comment about how the game will deal with multiple players.

Pipe Dream Interactive, an in-house development team for Majesco, will be handling the game's port from the PC to the PS2. Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force is currently scheduled to ship in the fall of 2001.

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