Star Trek Elite Forces Header Image

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Back in the 90s I wasn’t really that into science fiction. Sure, I’d seen Star Wars

before you ask: Empire is the best in the series, and that’s all I say about it

and the early Star Trek movies. But I couldn’t seem to get into the whole genre.

That was until I found Star Trek Voyager, Quantum Leap, and Discworld

yes, I’m classing it as slightly science fictiony

There was something about Quantum Leap and Voyager that spoke to me. What was great about Quantum Leap was that it was, effectively, a completely different story each week.

But Voyager was were it was at. A brand new ship, with half of it’s crew missing is propelled 70,000 light-years from home and they have no conceivable way of getting home in their life times.

70,000 light-years is a figure similar to $100 billion, in that it’s a scale that I can’t even imagine.

Forced to survive on what they have, creating alliances and enemies along the way, charting the areas that they travelled through. You knew that they’d survive at the end of each episode, but would they be in a good enough shape to continue and if they did, would they even want to?

how could you not love it? Maybe except for the sciencey mumbo jumbo, perhaps

The Game

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force was a game developed for Microsoft Windows by Raven Software, and published by Activision in September 2000. It was later ported to Playstation 2 in 2001 by Pipe Dream Interactive; it was also ported to MacOS by Aspyr Dream late in 2000.

The Plot

Trapped 70,000 light-years from the Alpha quadrant, the crew of the USS Voyager form a team of highly trained, elite crewmen. These crew members, known collectively as the Hazard Team, are the first to be sent on dangerous away missions.

Voyager is teleported to an unknown area of the Delta quadrant by a space anomaly

really, they should be used to these kinds of things by now

in which they are surrounded by derelict ships. In need of heavy repairs, meaning they can’t move, Voyager’s crew decide on scanning the ships in the vicinity.

They meet a race of creatures called the Etherians who agree to help. It seems that a space station called The Forge is draining the power from all of the ships in the area. Until The Forge is shut down, repairs cannot be made and Voyager cannot escape.

The Engine

Elite Forces runs on the Quake 3 engine (also know as idTech3), which is incredibly well written

anyone wanting to know the technical details should take a look at Fabien Sanglard’s fantastic write up of the source code for idTech3

And was used by a (frankly) huge number of games, including:

  • Quake 3 (obviously)
  • Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (again, obviously)
  • Return to Castle Wolfenstein
  • Call of Duty
  • American McGees Alice
  • Medal of Honour: Allied Assault
  • Resident Evil Outbreak
  • Resident Evil Dead Aim

for a more full list, I’d take a look at this page on wikipedia

Because it uses idTech3, it plays a lot like you would expect a first person shooter to play. WASD to move and the mouse for aiming and shooting.

Voyager Ui
The graphics still hold up quite well, for an early 2000s game

It also means that the game is incredibly mod-able

is that a word?

and that an average person can dive into the games resources and extract all sorts of stuff from it.

the game uses pkg files (which are zip files) to store game data

For instance, here is a skin which is applied to the computer consoles on Voyager that the player finds throughout the game:

helmpanels.glow2
I manually extracted this, using a zip archive tool which was provided by the operating system on my computer

How Does It Play?

Most of the stages are the standard run-and-gun style that a lot of first person shooters of the time had. You’re given objectives for each stage, and most of them involve “go to X point and press Y button”, along the way you’ll get into fire fights with all kinds of enemies.

I realise that I’m describing every FPS ever

There’s even a stage in the game where you have to get your sneaky ninja skills going and sneak through a Klingon ship.

Voyager Sleepy Klingon
A sleepy Klingon captain snoozes whilst we sneak past him

This is one of my favourite stages in the game. Sure you can go through guns blazing, but there’s a certain feeling of achievement for getting through this stage with as few kills as possible.

There are parts of this stage which force you to take on rooms full of enemies

turn a corner, they’re right in front of you and firing on you, for instance

and there’s a section (towards the middle of the stage) where, if you’re not stealthy, you’ll be surrounded by Terran Empire soldiers and have to fight you’re way out. Either way, once you’re at the half way mark you have to take on a Hirogen soldier

which is a tough battle in itself

THEN run the gauntlet back to the starting area, fighting your way through Klingons as you go. And when you reach the start/end, you get ambushed by the Borg.

heady stuff. And that’s only stage 3

Enemies and Level Design

You can tell that this game was developed after Half Life, and it takes a lot of inspiration from it.

Before Half Life, enemy AI in first person shooters would simply move towards the player and fire when they had them in their sites. Half Life changed the game

if you’ll pardon the pun

by having vaguely intelligent AI for the enemies. When they crossed the line of fire and got hit by weapon fire from other AI characters, for instance, they’d return fire which would set two or three enemies on each other.; leading to an almost free for all with the player in the middle wondering what’s going on.

The AI in Elite Forces follows that pattern and expands on it by having the enemies move, and jump around in order to take you out. To be fair, most of this was the Quake 3 Engine in play.

there’s a reason that it was used for a whole bunch of games

Each of the stages has at least one “Half Life” section. By that I mean things like this:

Voyager Totally Not Half Life
Fans of Half Life will feel right at home here

Raven (the developers of Elite Force) took the platformy bits from Half Life and included them in Elite Force to break up the game play a little. With this, the game is taken from the level of “impressive Quake 3: Arena mod” to “feels like a custom built engine”.

A lot of care and attention had been put into the level design. Walking around in the Borg cube looks and sounds like it does in the TV show – from the beeps and boops of the Borg and their terminals to the low hum of the large bits of equipment. Even the background music feels spot on.

to be fair, I don’t want to imagine how the hardcore Star Trek fans would have reacted if Raven had gotten it wrong

 

Aside from the animation during the exposition bits

pre-rendered CGI is used for spacey stuff, but everything else is in rendered with the Quake 3 engine, on the fly

it doesn’t feel like you’re (effectively) playing Quake. There are a lot of games which use FPS engines, but feel like a direct rip off of the game whose engine they’re using.

Super 3D Noah’s Ark, I’m looking at you

But Elite Forces doesn’t feel like a Quake-based game, it feels like a Half Life based game.

then again there are plenty of run-and-gun games based on the Half Life engines

On top of all of that, there’s a mode in the expansion pack which allows you to explore the ship, tricorder in hand, finding stuff and interacting with the crew and parts of Voyager itself.

which is pretty neat

Exploring Voyager
Excuse me, Miss of 9

All of this combines to make for a really cool FPS Star Trek specific experience.

there aren’t that many good Star Trek FPS games out there


Did you ever play Elite Force? PC, Mac or PS2?

Recently, I played it on my PC which is running Ubuntu, but I originally played in on my Windows XP back in the day

What did you think of it? Does it still hold up well, in your opinion?

Let us now in the comments and lets keep the conversation going.

we may even bring up interesting comments in our podcast. Who knows?


Oh, and in case you’re wondering: from the Star Date given at the beginning of the game, it falls between Season 6 episodes 21 and 22.

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Jamie is one of the Waffling Taylors. He spends a lot of time blogging about things sometimes related to programming and sometimes not.