In the now-concluded television series Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Kathyrn Janeway and her crew were stranded thousands of light years from Earth in a region of space called the Delta Quadrant. Without a conceivable way to return home, Janeway did what any practical starship captain would do: seek out strange new life and new civilizations, uncover and infuriate new enemies, stir up more trouble than a tribble, and sufficiently wrap up the storyline to fit snugly in a 60-minute time slot.
Pipedream Interactive's Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force (a port of a PC title from Raven Software) expands upon Voyager's lost-in-hostile-territory scenario with the introduction of the Hazard Team, an elite security team specially trained to deal with unpredictable crises. You assume the role of Ensign Alexander or Alexandria Munro, depending on your gender preference, the second in command of Hazard Team's Alpha squad. After Voyager responds to a false distress call, an unknown force transports the Federation vessel and its crew into an alien graveyard of ships. Cue the Hazard Team!
Elite Force effectively mirrors an episode of the television series by including an action-packed teaser before the credits that provides an introduction to the Hazard Team and offers the basics on the assignment and fulfillment of mission objectives (an alternate training mode covers more fundamentals for first-person shooter novices). The main story begins in earnest after Voyager's familiar opening credits sequence (though with curiously altered theme music) and a meet and greet with the starship's bridge crew. Elite Force boasts above-average voice acting featuring the voices from the television show's principle players, including the matter-of-fact Captain Janeway, the stoic Vulcan Lt. Commander Tuvok, and the sultry half-Borg Seven of Nine. You'll also encounter and team with many red-shirted crewmember extras, no doubt awaiting their untimely demise at the hands of the current villain.
Despite the glamour and extensive back story of Star Trek, Elite Force is simply a first-person shooter. As part of the Hazard Team, you're sent on missions typically requiring more brawn than brain. Nine weapons become available over the course of the game, and each one features two firing modes. Don't expect first-person shooter staples such as a pistol, shotgun, or rocket launcher here, though there are some equivalents. Elite Force offers an array of high-tech "laser guns," such as the standard issue phaser, with low and high energy settings; the infinite modulator, the best weapon against the constantly adapting Borg shields; the Federation photon burst, which is basically an extremely powerful rocket launcher; and the scavenger weapon, a combination machine gun and grenade launcher. You're also outfitted with a hazard suit, standard equipment for all team members. The hazard suit monitors health, armor, and the power supply for your various weapons, which can be replenished at the energy stations--even alien consoles--scattered throughout the game.
It appears that even in the Delta Quadrant, first-person shooter puzzles rarely deviate from common scavenger hunts, such as locating the mechanism to unlock a door, a panel to deactivate a force field, or an entrance to an area containing a critical item. However, these twists on the age-old "find a key" puzzles are disguised just cleverly enough that you'll continue to complete mission objectives in order to reach the next action sequence or cutscene plot point even though you'll realize you aren't participating in groundbreaking gameplay. Elite Force moves at a brisk pace (with somewhat tedious load screens providing commercial-like breaks), ushering you quickly through the starship Voyager and on to your next away mission. The game's hints and conveniently updated mission objectives leave little question as to where you should proceed next.
Elite Force's high points are its engaging firefights and scripted sequences. Unlike in many first-person shooters, you aren't always a lone Rambo (in this case, armed with a phaser) against the entire enemy horde--fellow Hazard Team members often accompany you into the unknown and take part in gun battles or the fulfillment of mission objectives. While the computer-controlled red shirts don't offer significant help, their presence in missions, and more importantly in battles, adds to Elite Force's effective Trek atmosphere. Also, scripted sequences add a sense of teamwork with your computer-controlled comrades, as the other team members assist in the completion of puzzles, and your ability to protect them can end in varied results. The enemy artificial intelligence is predominately weak, though it's at least fitting for the Borg--the drone-like race mindlessly swaggers toward your drawn weapon like a zombie eager to dine on your brains.
Elite Force utilizes id Software's Quake III Arena engine, which translates into fantastic PC graphics but only slightly above average visuals on the PlayStation 2. For instance, the game's textures are murky and drab, and they bleed together, offering little in the way of detail. Familiar aliens and the innards of Voyager itself do look the part, but don't expect Elite Force to tax the PlayStation 2's graphical capabilities. The game's weapon effects fare better--the assortment of colored lighting provides a dazzling battleground, at least until the firing stops. And Star Trek fans will appreciate the recognizable sound effects, most notably the aforementioned voice actors, who give Elite Force its best attribute: an authentic Star Trek feel.
For those who prefer uninterrupted carnage to storyline, Elite Force includes more than 30 multiplayer maps in its "holomatch" mode. Free-for-all and team variants are offered, but both modes feature few options--while you can select point and time limit, toggle falling damage and weapon stay, there are no computer-controlled bots to substitute for human opponents. A wide variety of player skins are available, giving you the ability to climb into the clothes of a Borg, a Klingon, or even Seven of Nine herself, but most of these player models will go unappreciated given the game's lack of multiplayer bots and graphical clarity.
Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force is a fairly by-the-book first-person shooter given depth by the Star Trek mythos. For the first-person shooter fanatic, there are better games available for the PlayStation 2--like the all-time classic shooter Half-Life and the stellar Red Faction--that offer greater action and more diverse gameplay. A Star Trek fan, especially one eager to spend more time with Captain Janeway and her crew, will find the authentic voice acting and new aliens and weaponry--as a Vulcan might say--fascinating, but the bland environments and short single-player campaign make for a rather average voyage.