The Doctor is being musical, Tuvok is giving a stern lecture, and Neelix has offered someone a bizarre dish. You take advantage of a sudden lull in the action to grab a drink, but this isn’t a commercial break — you’re playing Star Trek: Voyager — Elite Force. This impressive, first take on the Star Trek: Voyager universe was originally developed by Raven Software and ported to the Mac by Westlake Interactive.
publishes Elite Force and has worked with Westlake to bring other titles such as The Sims and Deus Ex to Mac gamers everywhere.
In Elite Force, the player is cast in the role of Alex Munro. Munro is a leader of the newly formed Hazard Team, charged with handling and defusing any volatile situations Voyager may encounter so the bridge officers don’t have to.
The story behind Elite Force is simple enough. Voyager has been trapped in an unknown portion of space, where other trapped starships are being scuttled for parts. Voyager’s officers are determined to avoid the same fate as the crews of those other vessels, so the Hazard Team is sent to gather information, acquire needed materials, and defend Voyager from attack. This sector of space is also populated by familiar faces like rogue Klingons, Borg, Hirogen, and even “Imperial” Starfleet personnel as seen in the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror.”
Elite Force players can look forward to dealing with unappetizing new species, also. Thankfully, the game includes several new and fun weapons to augment the show’s phasers. In the single-player game, Voyager’s armory will gradually provide users with access to novel weapons that boast much more firepower than Voyager’s standard-issue sidearms. Elite Force also allows players to choose the gender of Alex Munro as desired — this choice affects Munro’s voice soundtrack and Munro’s visage, but nothing else.
Faces and voices familiar to Star Trek: Voyager fans are prevalent throughout the game, including metallic Captain Janeway and austere Tuvok, the acerbic Doctor and cheery Neelix. Just about all of the original Voyager characters are voiced by the actors who portray their on-screen counterparts, although Jeri Ryan — Seven of Nine — wasn’t able to participate (her dialogue was dubbed by a sound-alike voice actress).
The Hazard Team’s most important piece of gear is the “Hazard Suit”, worn by all team members. In creating the Hazard Suit, Raven has, incredibly, made a plausible first-person shooter. The Hazard Suit is replete with armor and medical devices known as “dermal regenerators”, which allow a player to be completely and believably healed within seconds. Most games of this genre are also satisfied to let the main character hold nine guns simultaneously, while ignoring the effect this should have on mobility. Here the suit delivers as well, using a “Site-to-Site Transporter” to teleport weapons to and from the player.
While this does stray a bit from the show, Elite Force delivers a fun multi-player experience, called Holomatch. With regard to general play, Holomatch is much like Quake III’s multi-player action, including items to improve weapon damage, render players invisible, allow flight, and more. Since all modes of Elite Force employ the Q3 Engine, this should be no surprise. Three types of play are supported: Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Team Holomatch. Elite Force supports Scott Kevill’s Mac-only free online multiplayer gaming service, GameRanger.
Most will be able to enjoy the game, as it has some lenient minimum system requirements compared with other recent 3D action game offerings: a 266 MHz G3, 64 MB RAM (plus Virtual Memory), 6MB VRAM video card with OpenGL 1.1.2, 560 MB free Hard Disk Drive space, Mac OS 8.6, and a 4x CD-ROM drive. Holomatch supports Internet and LAN play; Internet users will require a 28.8 Kbps modem or better.
Installing Elite Force is simple, but be prepared to watch a status bar for awhile. A large .pak file, which contains game data and resources, contributes to a long install time.
Owners of lower-end machines would do well to tweak Elite Force’s video settings before starting their first game. We found slower machines to crash or become unresponsive during map loads when video settings were at default. Otherwise, the game is almost completely stable. Once during the course of this review, we did experience a crash during one of the game’s cinematic cut-scenes. To make matters worse, none of Elite Force’s automatic game saves had occurred prior to the crash, making us start over several levels behind. Using the game’s Keyboard Settings panel to assign a key to save the game manually is recommended.
Additionally, overall performance on slow machines can take a hit during chaotic scenes, such as firefights. A noticeable drop in framerates can become distracting, so players are advised to adjust game settings to suit their comfort.
Anyone who despises load times should also be warned, Elite Force is spread across numerous maps. Loading and reloading maps is one of the unfortunate realities of this game. Generally, though, the rest of the experience entirely makes up for these tests of patience.
Star Trek: Voyager — Elite Force has been criticized for being “too easy”, but this isn’t entirely true. Deceptively titled difficulty settings have greatly contributed to this reputation. Prospective buyers, take heed: adjust the game difficulty until sufficiently challenged. This will ensure long-term playability and better satisfaction with the game.
As a whole, Elite Force really delivers. It is peppered with enough technobabble and Voyager TV show references to keep even the most rabid of Star Trek fans sated. Luckily, though, Captain Janeway never once mentions the Prime Directive. At around US$50, most players should find Elite Force’s engaging plot, weapons, wide gamut of environments, and overall fun to be well worth the money.