The X-Files: Resist or Serve Reader Review

I'd like to think that we have developed an understanding. You have begun to read my review from this point and not just quickly skipped through all the boring words to read the summary at the end. This is good, because it demonstrates that you have an open mind. If you would please, I have something to show you. Some of you will be able to handle this very well. Others may not. Some of you may even experience dizzyness and nausea. But this is normal in the case of a licence. Now, if you'll follow me...

This, dear friends, is The X-Files: Resist or Serve. A game that once again Eurogamer seemed to miss out on (perhaps this is a conspiracy with an other-worldly force), and a game which sank with barely a trace into the depths of gaming obscurity. People didn't notice it, though for a brief few moments it shone brightly and with purpose in the stars of the gaming cosmos. We recently recovered these remains from the bargain bin at my local games retailer, and as there is a sad job to begin an autopsy on these remains to determine why it failed in its duty to entertain the masses of fans the series still has...

Subject is a survival horror game, approximately two years old and a clearly flagrant use of licencing. Before we even open this up, it is worth noting that the external appearance of this game is rather poorly executed. On the surface, this starts of and plays much like any survival horror title on the market pre-RE4. It uses a mixture of static and dynamic camera angles and keeps the tone as dark as is almost acceptably possible. Whereas games of its time used well-crafted, sympathetic models, this game does look like it was knocked up on the cheap: the characters are a good likeness and it is nice to hear the actors doing the voicework, but the models are a bit cartoony and rigid, a bit cumbersome and even here the lip-synching is not entirely convincing. Scully really ends up as the most well designed member of the entire cast, but I think that would be a given under the circumstances. Covering this is a really rather believable game environment, which does have a bit of diversity and looks asthetically pleasing, although it must be said that it certainly isn't going to win any awards. All that said though, there is something here which is rather interesting, and that is the usage of the camera isn't too shabby and works surprisingly well, but even with this it myust be said that it suffers from the staple issue of its genre from time to time.

OK, gloves on, let us begin the investigation proper. The first thing we should be looking at are the controls, arguably the making and indeed, breaking of a title. The X-Files uses a tried and trusted method of controls that has been used in this genre for the past decade almost, yet despite this they aren't too bad overall. Walking while aiming a weapon is something many titles fail to address, let alone the technical aspect of letting you HOLSTER your weapon as well. But the controls otherwise hold no surprises and come up much as anyone would expect.

Hmm... this is odd... this title appears to have something which resembles a coherent and well-penned plot, something of an unusual presence in this genre and even more interesting when it we uncover that this was written by a person who is considered to have penned two of the worst ever episodes of the X-Files ever. It is considered to be something of a "lost episode", a plotline that was never seriously considered for the series proper, perhaps due to the overusage of the a-typical "zombie" and "zombie virus" lines, as well as numerous X-Files staples such as cloning, gene manipulation and alien abduction. It ties together some loose ends perfectly, but at times creates another question with no answer or explanation...

Aha, the music of this game. If I am not mistaken, this is a graft from the X-Files music album, and it is surprisingly well integrated into this game, although I doubt that would come as much of a surprise when you consider the type of moody, errie and sometimes haunting music that we expected from the series. It is a pity someone came along and scribbled dialog over some of the music, but we may have to let that one slide...

From initial observations, there isn't much terribly wrong here. Despite being a bit loose and flabby in certain areas, on the surface it appears to be a rather healthy title. Aha... thank you. The X-Ray results are in... and this is where we see the flaws.

While the meat is somewhat digestible, it must be said that the skeleton underneath is nothing more than a generic, by-the-book survival horror game. The game relies on stringing out its areas with the age-old game of 'fetch item a from place b and then return to me', sometimes an overuse of shock tactics and the odd cryptic boss fight, not to mention the confusion of when progress isn't so obvious. This is its fundamental failing: the structure underneath all of the work on top isn't strong enough, nor unique enough to carry the weight of a big franchise name like the X-Files, and it doesn't take long for it to buckle under the strain. This is a pity, because with some reinforcement work and a little restructuring (not to mention some cosmetic work), this title could have very comfortably carried itself off. Having the two-tier system of two distinctly different styles for both Mulder and Scully provides more weight, and despite the chirpy little quirks that it flashes from time to time - such as Scully performing autopsies - you can see the pressure building up and you know, almost instinctively, that it just won't carry itself through to the end. While measured in its pace, it just might not be enough to carry most people through to the end of both scenarios.

This is a pity, because the idea was good, the plot was surprisingly well-constructed and forms a reasonable basis to work from. But for some reason, it was deemed good enough to be released in this raw state - and it was never going to work, ending up teetering on the edge between missed oppertunity and flagrant cash-cow. It has potential and is surprisingly good fun when it gets going, but it is formulaic, typically X-Files and unless you love this brand of gaming AND love the X-Files then you will feel mixed feelings towards this title.

My diagnosis is leaning more towards the line of missed oppertunity. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of work went into this, and there is life within it, but the end result isn't revelatory. However, it isn't some half-baked hoax either. Where it applies the strengths of the X-Files, in terms of dialog, plot and interaction and the general theme of the show, it works. But where it deviates and tries to appease the market base, in terms of how it plays, handles and progresses, it fails miserably. With more due care and attention, and perhaps a little more courage to deviate from the generic norms that the survival horror have provided in the past decade, this title could have been so much more than what it is. What is left is a game which is enjoyable and certainly clever, just nothing new or exciting in terms of the genre.

Is this worth playing? That diagnosis I feel should remain inconclusive. It really is a title which requires you know your source material and appreciate the genre in which it is based first, and as such fans of the X-Files, and survival horror in general, will get a lot from the quirky story and be able to glance over the generally weak and predictable structure that is provided. If you are either/or, or perhaps neither, then this really is a game you should miss. It isn't going to convince you that the X-Files is great, it isn't going to convince you that the genre is great, and it certainly isn't going to do both at the same time.

A very niche title then, which will no doubt attract its own little cult following in years to come. For now, I'll spare filing this review under "X", and instead plump for filing it under "6". The truth may be out there, but it's certainly not in this game...

6 / 10

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