The Star Trek science-fiction franchise seems cursed - the last few movies have been unremarkable; the current television show is tepid at best; and a majority of the related games have, in a word, stunk. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I picked up Aspyr's newest addition: Star Trek Elite Force II. But despite some minor glitches, this first-person shooter largely manages to escape the curse - it is a worthy addition to the Mac shooter market.
Like its predecessor, this game places you in the role of Lieutenant Alex Munro, the leader of a specially trained security force known as the Hazard Team, aboard the USS Voyager. Having successfully defeated the Borg and returned home from the Delta Quadrant, you suddenly find yourself reassigned to a teaching position at Starfleet Academy - and champing at the bit for more action. Relief comes from none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who needs you to round up your original team and join the Enterprise on a mission to save ships and colonies from a new wave of attackers.
Make no mistake, this is an action game, through and through. Aside from the occasional puzzle, such as using your tricorder to change shield frequencies or hacking systems to gain access to new levels, you're here for one thing - to blast almost everything that moves. And to that end, you're given a dizzying arsenal of Starfleet weaponry.
Elite Force II features a dynamic soundtrack that adjusts to the action around you; it's cleverly implemented, and it helps heighten the sense of tension. The game's graphics look astoundingly better than its predecessor's - aliens and humans look startlingly lifelike, and environments feature a magnificent level of detail. Even better, you won't sacrifice game play for the extra visuals. Aspyr has cranked up all the action in Elite Force II. This is especially true for the multiplayer Holomatch mode, which lets players engage in arena-style combat (Windows and Mac players can square-off over the Internet or over LANs), or against computer-controlled bots.
This game does suffer from a few shortcomings. Its AI, for example, occasionally causes computer-controlled friends and foes to get confused about where to go. Repetitive voice tracks might get on your nerves, too. The biggest frustration I experienced, however, was with the level-loading design. It seemed that I had to stop every couple of minutes and wait for a new level to load - a tedious delay that broke up the pace of the action.
Star Trek Elite Force II is an enormous improvement on its predecessor and a welcome relief in the beleaguered franchise. Despite some shortcomings, it offers plenty of challenge for action-hungry Trekkers.