FBT is back in the Elite Force
I really enjoyed the original Elite Force. It was a great shooter with tons of different aliens to shoot at, interesting locations and levels, and the non-shooter stuff was equally good; wandering the corridors and chatting to background characters from the series gave it a deeper sense than usual FPS, and the plot unfolded like an episode narrative. We even had time for a love-affair with the permanently-in-need-of-rescuing Telsia. And, we got to play the lead, Alex Munro, as male or female. That was Number One. But this is Number Two.
The first let down is Alex herself; Alex is a himself only. It’s a shame, but at least we’re still in a relationship with Telsia, which you can continue or end. Chel is back too, just as nervy and completely inappropriate for a spec ops team. But then, there’s no need for a team.
Once Voyager returns to Federation space, the Elite Force is disbanded and the team is split up. But never fear, Picard pops up and asks Alex to rebuild EF as a covert ops team aboard the Enterprise. Set after the final TNG movie, we conveniently sidestep any ST character bar Picard who only appears in key cut-scenes, and Tuvok who also signed up for the Enterprise and is our primary mission-giver.
The first game had a great plot; we were trapped in a spaceship junk yard where various other ships had banded together into lose criminal-scavenger collectives while fighting a larger foe. It allowed a focused narrative – find a way to escape - and every level was different as we hop-scotched around the derelicts; we even got to experience the alternate universe Enterprise. But this time, we’re getting involved in a private little war which we just kinda drag ourselves through. Attacked by what looks like Race X from Opposing Force, we discover an archaeological team who accidently/on-purpose triggered a processing plant that is spitting out Race X clones now spreading across the galaxy attacking planets. Guess who has to stop them?
Thing is, it’s all very standard and not very Star Trek. This could be a Quake sequel, or any b-grade sci-fi shooter that’s ripping off Star Trek. The AI of the Race X creatures is just ‘run towards you’ and they’re nowhere near as much fun as the original’s ever-changing bullet-catchers. The Borg appear early on, but beyond that it’s Race X and occasionally a few Romulans. And it’s heavily scripted. You fight through, press a button then that triggers more Race X. It becomes a bit of a drag.
The original also had nice ways to keep the gang together – you became invested in the rest of Elite Force, felt like a team; Chel would hold a door open, Telsia would get stuck in it, it was great. A lot of missions centered around teamwork or rescuing Telsia but here we’re largely on our own. Even when the team beams down together there’s immediately a reason why Alex has to separate. It turns it into a pretty lonely shooter and Star Trek was always about the ensemble.
It’s revealed one of the archaeologists is working for a break-away Romulan sect who wants to use the creatures to provoke a war, or kill other Romulans or something. Although we have a war to avert, I find myself wishing for the original’s more intimate and immediate plot. It’s just clear out a planet of Race-X, then go to another planet and do the same thing again.
There’s some nice stuff in here, it just feels a little under-done. Telsia still gets herself into trouble – the first Enterprise mission is to rescue her – and we have the option to get it on with Kleeya, one of the archaeologists who dresses like she was expecting Captain Kirk.
Telsia is onto us though, every time we have a scene with Kleeya, she wants to ‘talk’ – but rarely actually says anything. Which is good because Alex is the worst flirt ever; “Aren’t the star beautiful/Not as beautiful as you/Oh, thanks”. Oh boy. Alex is no Jim. You have basic dialogue choices which decide who you eventually end up with, but sometimes it’s a bit shaky. Both will ask you to come to their quarters, but you need to see Kleeya for some plot info (honestly). So you do, remain professional and the option to go see Telsia disappears. Babe we were just talking.
You can tour the ship during off-mission moments but the Enterprise is boring. It’s just one long corridor with nothing and no one interesting in it. Being set after the final TNG movie, where most of the crew went their separate ways, is part of the problem; you miss that familiarity. Whereas the original Elite Force let you eavesdrop on conversations that referenced the series or chat to characters like Nelix, there’s none of that here.
If you do ask someone something you get ‘sorry but I’m very busy’ no matter what they’re up to - I got that answer from a guy lying in the medical bay. In one scene I have to beat up a bouncer to gain access to a VIP room, yet after the fight he carries on giving me threats and telling me I can’t go in, although I can. There’s even the classic scene with a baddie who basically says ‘since you’re about to die I’ll explain the plot and my intentions’ and then of course, we escape and know where to go next. It’s just lazy plotting.
Overall, STEFII has a sense of the cheap about it. It was was one of the last major releases built on the Quake III engine idTech3, and it shows. The levels are all basic with little detail, they’re both linear and confusingly laid out with lots of padding, and all of the enemies, and most of the crew look the same. There’s a nice level where we’re zero-g bouncing around on the Enterprise’s hull taking out an invasion but you have to ask, has the Enterprise only got one spacesuit? It’s not all bad, it’s just all okay.
It’s even got boss levels that would have felt a bit tiresome even back in the day. One where we man a cannon (no one else can do this?) to repel an attacking ship that has loads of mini ships also firing – the massive Enterprise seems to have no gun support and can only take 3 hits while you have to land 4 perfect hits on the ship to disable it while also repelling the smaller ones and shooting their torpedoes.
The problem is, when STEFII goes full Star Trek it really shines; one scene with a Frengi sees us battle using Rules of Acquisition, we use the tricorder to hack or scan for dangerous gases and alarm-tripping lasers, and there’s some really nice space-vistas and shots of the Enterprise cruising about. But the rest is just generic shooter stuff. There’s the holodeck to muck about in but it’s always the same shooter level, it would have been cool to chose certain scenes from the series or even the original game; why can’t we take Telsia or Kleeya in there to stare at the Moon over Rigel VII … There’s also a weird Star Wars rework in a cantina where we hear the Kessel Run story reworked – mixing up your Stars? Sacrilege.
This is the last Star Trek game from Activision, who had a falling out with the licence holders Viacom so we’ll never get to be either Alex again. That’s a shame, the original STEF nailed Star Trek better than most tie-ins, but while there are some mini cameos - Barclay rocks up and several voices are provided by Star trek alumni Jeffrey Combs and Tony Todd - I can't work out who this is for; not detailed enough for ST fans and not good enough as a Quake era shooter.
The original might be twenty years old but it’s still the better game – and easier to find; STEFII has all but disappeared and isn’t available on Steam or GOG yet copies go for 20 -plus quid on eBay and Amazon, and I have no idea why. It’s just a fair shooter, an okay story, an all-right game. If you’re desperate for a bit of Star Trek shooting, stick to the original.
Read FBT's Elite Force review here
2003 | Developer Ritual Entertainment | Publisher Activision