I call this one, "Review."
How many of you would prefer it if you walked into a store and saw a bag of "Food" or a box of "Drink" on the shelves, or perhaps the people and pets you know had signs on them such as "Man" or "Woman" or "Child" or "Cat?" Wouldn't you, like most people, prefer that things and people be referred to by their individual names, such as "Rick" or "Jane" or "Pubert" or "Dr. Fluffenheimer?"
Yeah, I would too, which is why it struck me as odd that Raven Software made an expansion pack to their excellent Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force that is named simply "Expansion Pack." Perhaps there isn't much in a name - the "cat" mentioned above is probably unaware of his college degree - but with a product this insipid the name says it all.
Elite Force, which hopefully most people reading this review have played, was an excellent riff on both Star Trek and Half Life that successfully endeavored to give us what we always wanted from the Star Trek license. Specifically, for once a Star Trek game didn't both suck and blow, and it took its inspiration equally from "we come in peace!" and "psst... shoot to kill, men!" It was involving, interactive, brilliantly realized, and entirely solid.
This generic expansion pack, conversely, is basically overpriced nothing. I don't say that to be cruel - it's actually rather well-produced nothing - but there is so very little of it.
Since Elite Force was based on the Quake 3 engine, its strength is in its single player game. Not to degrade the game's multi-player aspect, but solid as it may have been, it was essentially just Star Trek Quake 3, something the designers got for free with the engine and not something that was a result of the ingenuity of the developers.
The Expansion Pack, ignoring that simple fact, gives players a good number of new multiplayer maps and modes, but serves up very little on the single-player side of things. While the new multi-player content is entertaining, most players will be briefly amused and then return to more involved fare such as Unreal Tournament or Tribes 2. By yourself, however, you are now able to wander through the Voyager and, to a limited degree, interact with the crew and run errands (and a sort of treasure hunt).
For Voyager aficionados, having a "Virtual Voyager" may be a geeky pleasure, but for the rest of Elite Force's fans (who were drawn to the game for its decidedly action-oriented charms and relative lack of techno-babble) the Virtual Voyager gets very old very fast.
A small saving grace is that there are a few short single player missions available through the use of the onboard holodeck. While none of these missions are particularly well-designed, one of them at least takes place in one of the farcical "Captain Proton" programs that provided comic relief in the show, as well as a loving homage to Buck Rogers and similar serials. Unfortunately, once the geeky nostalgic charm wears off, even the Captain Proton mission isn't anything but frustrating. Expanding the meager mass of little is a lackluster target range and "Tranquil Garden" to explore.
Elite Force was great fun because of its strong single player action, story and gameplay. The Expansion Pack gives you next to nothing to extend that and decidedly shoots itself when the only missions you do get don't matter at all because they're just a great deal of light and sound within a larger context of light and sound, and that is just one too many levels of abstraction to be fun.