I typically shy away from PC games, mostly due to my machine seldom (if not barely) meeting the specs for minimum system requirements. Because of this, I engage in a ritual every few years when I do acquire a new computer: I’ll install a few of my games from 5-8 years past just to see what they look like on a PC that can handle their optimal potential.
This most recent round, the one title out of the handful I’ve re-installed that I found myself continuing to play through is Star Trek: Elite Force II. I know; it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Up until I found it for under $5 at a used game store years back, I thought the premise of the game was absurd. Here’s the common sense math:
Once I sank my teeth into it, however, I was blown away. The Elite Force games—Elite Force II, especially—is beautifully tailored for Star Trek fans. EFII’s single-player campaign is structured around a solid story, faithful in tone with the TNG-era series. As the lead character, you engage in Federation diplomacy, explore mysterious alien cultures, and tangle with Romulans. There’s a token garnish of technobabble, but it’s kept relevant and at a forgivable level.
The game’s most memorable missions place you in situations that any Trekker would gush in assuming a role. The first of which is the initial mission, which takes place during the Voyager series finale and ties EFII to its predecessor, infiltrating a Borg cube. Later, you restore power to a derelict ship, dodging the floating corpses of fallen crewmen. Further still, you’re surgically altered for an espionage mission at a secret Romulan base.
There’s even a level where you’re sent to walk the underside of the Enterprise-E’s saucer section, à la First Contact. I’m the only person on the planet that despised First Contact, yet I couldn’t resist jumping into the turret gun crying, “Come get some, bitches!”
Between missions, you’re able to explore familiar Star Trek locations, like Starfleet Academy and various decks of the Enterprise. Each of these areas are constructed in brilliant detail, successfully immersing you in the Star Trek universe. Each of these moments are a relaxing oasis and returning to them is my thrusting incentive to complete each mission, well beyond the simple satisfaction of victory.
What most captures me in EFII is the healthy amount of fan service. It’s subtle; players that don’t pick up on it won’t notice missing it. Those that do are in for a treat. Most of these involve references to previous Star Trek episodes and characters, but there are plenty of Easter Eggs to be found as well. For instance, in the Enterprise library, one of the computer displays shows a profile for the Predator. There’s also a hidden level where you enter a side-scrolling platform game resembling Super Mario Bros.
My favorite feature of the game is the ability to eavesdrop on the conversations of background characters. Aside from story-related dialogue exchanges, there are character-specific subplots, like the running gag of the plant-obsessed ensign annoying each of her crew-mates. There’s even a cantina bar scene where you encounter alien patrons having a discussion that paraphrases the Mos Eisley scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi negotiate with Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Of course, no thorough helping of fan service would be complete without a portion of sex appeal. EFII is on the ball with specimens of polygonal hotness. In fact, the ending cinematic is determined by a dating sim sub-game, where you can hook up with either your tenacious teammate or the busty blond alien chick in the metal bikini. Pimp it up, ye nerds.
My one gripe with the entire Elite Force series is its monsters. While you do face off against plenty of humanoid races, the primary adversary in both games are the same: Bugs. I can forgive their use in the first game since bugs are easy monsters to understand—there’s no remorse in splattering them and they need only be as gross as possible.
While they’re not the same bugs in EFII, they’re still bugs. That is not acceptable. I’m playing a Star Trek game, not Starship Troopers. The monsters in EFII could have easily been robots, energy beings, clones, or even trained monkeys.
That aside, the game is a must-play for Trek fans, along side Bridge Commander. Though obtaining a copy now will cost significantly more than the pocket change I paid for mine at the time. Because of the conflict between Activision and Viacom shortly after EFII’s release, the game has a slim chance of being re-printed or made available via digital distribution. Thus, I invoke my philosophy on piracy until someone gets their act together on a product with continuing evidence of support and demand.