Starlog, UK edition , #004, August 2000
ST: Voyager’s Tuvok is about to lead an invasion into your PC. Richard Holliss talks to Tim Russ about life on Voyager and the upcoming Star Trek PC fight
‘It’s so intriguing, so compelling, so realistic looking; playing it on a large computer screen is really intense,’ enthuses actor Tim Russ. He’s describing what may well transpire to be the most popular Star Trek game ever made: Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. ‘It’s not all shooting and running and jumping,’ he adds. ‘You’ve got to figure this out and that out or you can wander around and get lost if you want to.’ Warming to the subject, Russ explains that the game has ‘… doors and rooms and turbo lifts and all kinds of stuff. It’s very cool.’
‘Cool’ is also a choice word to describe the actor now known the world over as Tuvok, undoubtedly the best Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy donned the pointy ears for the original Star Trek series.
The game, as Russ explains, is about the capture of the Federation Starship Voyager by a marauding alien species. Only the newly formed elite security force, the Hazard Team can save the crew, and doubtless the entire galaxy. Under the command of Lt. Tuvok, you assume the identity of one of the team ordered to defend the ship from assault, infiltrate a Borg cube and take on the ultimate colonization force, facing annihilation at every turn.
‘I first became aware of the game about seven months ago’ says Russ, ‘when I visited the Activision facility. The game was about 70 per cent finished and was truly amazing. If you like ‘first person’ game playing – though at times it slips from first person to third – you’re going to be on this thing forever. You’re not going to get anything else done.’
The single player option includes an integrated story and non-linear level structure which allows the player to affect the outcome of the various missions, and even the game. The game also features authentic Star Trek sound effects and music, while sophisticated animation textures add to the realism.
Feel the force
In this Trek meets Quake hybrid world, players are pitted against a multitude of Star Trek enemies, including the relentless Borg. Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force utilizes the acclaimed Quake III: Arena engine, considered by many to be the most advanced 3D shooter engine in existence. But wait, there’s more. The designers wanted to do a game that really did justice to the Star Trek franchise, so they’ve added loads of groovy extra features.
This being the Federation, it’s not all about all-out violence. You can earn victory through stealth tactics. The usual multi-player options are there, flag match, one on one etc. But Starlog suspects the real fun lies in the holodeck.
There, you can switch between playing as a member of the Voyager crew or as an alien (including the Borg, Hirogen) or take on the role of a Voyager crew member or Hazard Team member in Holo-deathmatches. Motion capture adds polish and helps with the realism. Being in the midst of a battle and have your enemy materialize directly in front of you is just too good to be true. This option extends the game’s longevity after the first thrill of controlling Seven of Nine’s every movement has passed.
To make the conversations between crew members more realistic, Activision dragged the cast into a recording studio. ‘It was two days of very intense work to get it done,’ remembers Russ. ‘I had to sit in this box with a microphone and a script that contained over 365 pages! It’s not a narrative, so you need to be more emotional or realistic in order to make it clearer to the player. It was two very long days in the booth. Fortunately, I’m very familiar with the character, so I don’t have to find out where he is or where he’s going. Tuvok has a specific way of speaking and that made it a lot easier than voicing a character you’ve never played before.’
When in space, scream!
It’s no surprise that the Vulcan Tuvok is one of the best realized on the show. Says Russ of his character: ‘I think by the end of season seven we will have explored Tuvok’s character pretty thoroughly. It’s all about the stories – without them you don’t know anything about anyone. You can introduce a character like Seven of Nine and she can be dressed up as a Borg, but we don’t know how she got there, where she came from or why she behaves the way she does. We don’t know what lies beneath the surface so we’ve brought out many stories about her since she joined the show a couple of years ago.’
Russ sees Tuvok as a commentary on human behavior. Even though his Vulcan culture is alien to the rest of the crew, it’s his philosophy and way of life which has made him stand out on the show. ‘Our society is reflected in Tuvok’s mannerisms, his ideas and his way of doing things.’ Says Russ. ‘At the same time, there are lots of things Tuvok doesn’t have that we as human beings cherish. Things he will never come to know and experience in the same way.’
In brief: Star Trek Voyager’s Vulcan Tuvok, played by Tim Russ, was very impressed by the preliminary work which went into the Elite Force game. ‘Activision worked with the people in special effects, the design studio, the graphic department and in construction. It used photographs and drawings to render the ship as the basic model and outline.’