Review by Saboruto

"Gameplay? No gameplay here, but LOTS of atmosphere."

First off, I have to preface this review by saying that I'm a Star Trek fan and have been since I was a little kid begging my dad to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the show. Because of the nature of this particular title, that fact has a huge bearing on my overall impression of this expansion pack. You see, this is one of the most unique expansions I've ever seen for any game of any genre and it's impossible to give it a truly objective review. Allow me to explain...

With most games, the announcement of an expansion pack usually heralds the addition of new gameplay features, new modes of play, new races or items or missions. In this case, that doesn't hold true. The Elite Force expansion pack doesn't add any new missions or gameplay content at all. Instead, it does something very different. It adds a tremendous amount of Star Trek "flavour" to the game. Instead of new gameplay elements, this expansion gives you the opportunity to explore the U.S.S. Voyager and to move amongst the ship's crew as they go about their daily activities.

The expansion content takes place just before the final mission of the main game, but fortunately it also gives you the opportunity to jump directly into the extra features of the expansion without having to replay the storyline missions if you choose. There are a few minor objectives and tasks you can pursue (for instance, you can collect Elite Force team member action figures hidden throughout difficult-to-access areas of the ship, or you can play a Borg-slaying mini-game reminiscent of Tomb Raider, or you can scour the ship for various other bonus items tucked away in the most unlikely of places), but for the most part the expansion was designed with exploration in mind.

While exploring the decks of Voyager, you can read various crew-members' personal logs and get insights into their thoughts and emotions during the crisis taking place in the main storyline. You can look through the main characters' quarters and examine their personal belongings and memorabilia. You can read Mr. Nelix's favourite recipes or use Captain Janeway's replicator to make yourself a "coffee, black". Transporters allow you to beam from deck to deck and reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and you can even assist in the launch of a shuttlecraft. Another great feature is that you can overhear routine conversations between crew-members if you hang around for a while. On the bridge, you can listen to Captain Janeway and Chakotay giving orders, or you can go to the mess hall to listen to Nelix attempt to boost the crew's morale as they try to cope with the crisis taking place in the main game's storyline. There are even little easter-eggs scattered throughout the ship, such as the self-destruct button hidden on the bridge, or your meeting with the poor ensign on the lowest deck whose sole job it is to lower the landing "legs" of the ship (something they only did two or three times in the seven years the show aired, and something they take great delight in joking about in the expansion pack). The level of detail Raven included in this expansion is delightfully jaw-dropping and suitably impressive for even the most hardcore fan of Star Trek trivia.

In addition to the virtual free-reign you have in exploring Voyager, the expansion pack adds a couple of new multi-player maps, a few small but fun holodeck settings you can access in the Voyager exploration mode (including a ridiculously clever Captain Proton holodeck adventure entirely in black-and-white), and it incorporates the most recent Elite Force patches (meaning that if you haven't patched your copy of Elite Force, the expansion will do it for you). A very welcome addition in these patches is the inclusion of Jeri Ryan's voiceover as Seven of Nine. At the time Elite Force was being developed, Ms. Ryan was occupied with other projects, but Elite Force finally features the voice acting of the complete cast of Star Trek: Voyager now that she's been able to lend her voice talent to the game. But don't get the expansion just for this; as impressive as Ms. Ryan is as Seven, she's not worth paying for since Raven has offered her voice-over patch for free on their website. It's just a really nice touch that they also included the patch in the expansion.

The single biggest strength I see in the expansion is how richly it rounds out the Voyager world. While in exploration mode, you really feel like you're walking the corridors of Voyager. There are so many little nooks and crannies to explore, and all the little mini-goals keep you searching. It took me ages to figure out how to hack Voyager's ship computer, and I still haven't found all the hidden bonus items. For me, this is just as fun (if not more so) than blasting new aliens or playing new multi-player modes.

But therein lies the problem. How do I review such a unique expansion that DEFINITELY isn't for everyone? Well, I chose to give it a score of 10 based upon my enjoyment of all these subtle new additions. If you're not a Star Trek fan or you're the kind of person who doesn't really care about the minor nuances and the back-story of a game, you almost certainly won't find anything impressive in this expansion. I get the feeling that this was intended more as a nod and a treat for the fans of the television series than a true "expansion" to Elite Force.

So, final impression: If you're an avid follower of the series or of the Star Trek universe, and if you're the kind of person that enjoyed aimlessly wandering the island after your Myst adventure was complete, you should definitely find a copy of this awesome title. However, if you enjoyed Elite Force more for its pulse-pounding action and its first-person-shooter heritage, I don't think this is worth your money. It's a very slow-paced, relaxed (and a bit tongue-in-cheek at times) look at day-to-day life on the starship Voyager. Not for everyone, but definitely enjoyable for fans of the franchise.

Oh, one more thing: with the right Earth-ingredient substitutes, some of Mr. Nelix's recipes are quite tasty. Enjoy!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/30/04

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