Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5472)
Written on  :  Jan 12, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars4.14 Stars

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Better than a book of Old Klingon Proverbs.

The Good

It takes a while after all the developer credits, but finally the Enterprise NCC-1701E whooshes around the screen with Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) offering the famous split infinite speech and Elite Force II begins…

on the Voyager, stuck in a Borg Cube, back in the Delta Quadrant. Okay, apparently the Cube is the only thing preventing Voyager from getting home so the Hazard Team infiltrates the Cube, takes out some Borg, reroutes power and modulates shield frequencies and then they're back home…

to the Alpha Quadrant where Starfleet bureaucrats don't see the need for a Hazard Team when Away Teams do just fine, thank you very much. And the Hazard Team is quickly disbanded, leaving Lt. Alexander Munroe grounded at Starfleet Academy teaching small group tactics to eager students.

After this entire preamble, the game takes off when visiting Capt. Picard is impressed with the way Lt. Munroe and his Klingon student Korban (Tony Todd) chop up holo-Romulans with Bat'Leths. Picard reinstates the Hazard Team and none to soon, since the Enterprise receives a distress call from the Dallas—something about aliens chewing through their hull.

The Elite Force concept is the same in this entry—that the new life and new civilizations out there can be dangerous and it's not a bad idea having a heavily armored landing party equipped with personal photon torpedo launchers just in case things get hairy. Unlike the previous entry, I found this game more focused on the first-person shooter experience rather than the squad. Lt. Munroe often scouts ahead or is separated from the rest of the team and then rejoins them later. This works well, since my review of the last game notes, "the team AI did little other than jump into my line of fire or shoot me in the back. At best they drew fire away from me so I could flank around the enemies."

The game's story deals with the Federation's mediation of tensions between the unallied Attrexians, who are conveniently located near the Romulan neutral zone, and their servitors, the Idryll race. The Idryll are trying to prove that they were once an advanced race the Attrexians conquered and Idryll archaeologists have discovered ruins on one of their ancient home worlds. Unfortunately, the ruins have come to life and ancient factories are spewing forth exomorphs (the aliens chewing through the Dallas' hull).

Exomorphs, large bugs with built-in flight and weapons systems, comprise most of the game's enemies. Since they can chew through metal, they often pop out when least expected. Their AI is limited; they mostly charge into the attack. Other enemies prevent the game from being an all-out bug hunt, including the aforementioned Borg and other traditional Trek baddies. These exhibit more intelligence (well, not the Borg), ducking for cover and using appropriate weapons (beam vs grenade) at the appropriate times.

Munroe, the main character, is well-armed and armored, so the overwhelming odds are never too daunting. The standard Federation phaser remains the best fallback weapon in FPS history, since it's both high-powered and self-recharging. Munroe also comes across various energy rifles, shotguns, gatling guns, and plenty of other weapons.

The tricorder takes on more importance this time around, since Munroe has to reconfigure circuits and modulate frequencies. The tricorder has other modes which affect Munroe's view. A structural scan shows pulsing weak points he can destroy with a phaser blast. The gas scan shows vent leaks he can wield shut. Bio scans show sensor beams. Also, a final mission lets Munroe use his tricorder to call in air strikes.

Mission locations could be more varied, but variety within mission is exemplary. One sequence involving a raid on the Enterprise has Munroe rescuing different personnel, defending the warp core, restoring power, defending the Bridge (alongside Picard), and ends with Munroe on the ship's hull using a manual phase cannon against enemy vessels.

Elite Force II's final accomplishment is elevating Munroe from grunt status to real character. Munroe feels like another crew member, interacting with ship personnel and exploring different areas. The welcome addition of conversation options gives the player something to do between fragfests, allows the player to participate in a *brilliant* interrogation using the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition and works nicely with Munroe's love life.

The Bad

  • There are a few clipping problems that cause Munroe to get stuck under boulders or in narrow crevices.

  • Too many bugs (of the exomorph variety).

  • It's the post-Nemesis Enterprise, so Capt. Picard and Lt. Barkley (Dwight Schultz) are the only familiar faces.

  • I still don't think Elite Force is immersive enough. Starfleet Academy feels superficial and the Enterprise has limited deck access.

The Bottom Line

It takes too long to get started, but once it does, Elite Force II is a great ride. Whether you're just plowing through the levels or searching every nook for an elusive golden starship (used to unlock secret levels), the game has something to offer. What really impressed me was the great Star Trek feel to it. At higher resolutions, detail leaps off of panels and you can see the various Enterprise systems at work. It's also a good first-person shooter, providing the player with a wide range of weaponry against increasingly difficult opponents. It still feels too short, but this time, in a good way.