The X-Files Game

Developer/Publisher:  Fox Interactive
Year Released:  1998

Review by Gordon Aplin (September, 1998)
xfile.jpgI am not a fan of The X-Files television series and have only watched maybe two or three episodes all the way through. The one thing that I do vividly recall from the show is how relentlessly dark most of the scenes are. Sure it may add to a spooky atmosphere, but for me it is overdone and so loses much of its impact. In this respect the game captures some of that atmosphere as you will find yourself exploring an assortment of dark warehouses, a dark secret base and the dingy bowels of a ship, desperately hoping to find a light switch that you can operate. Sadly, there aren't any, but you do have a flashlight that seems to work reasonably well in only one location and you also have some night-vision goggles that generally don't work very well in the dark.

Still, darkness is pretty much what I expected from my limited experience with the television series so the game faithfully delivers on this aspect. No doubt fans of the series will be thoroughly at home in this shadowy environment and, to be fair, it is not all doom and gloom.

The mystery begins
The game opens with agents Mulder and Scully investigating a seemingly deserted warehouse. A group of men walk in and start shooting at them. Scully is hit and a blinding flash of white light kills the assailants. This is where you come in. Mulder and Scully have disappeared and, as FBI agent Craig Willmore, you are assigned the task of finding out what has happened to them.

The X-Files is a first-person perspective interactive movie with third-person sequences that allow you to watch your character carrying out the actions you have selected. Without giving too much away, your investigations are mundane enough in the beginning, but will eventually lead you down the familiar X-Files path to alien visitations and a government cover-up. Oh, and I should point out for fans of the series that you will meet up with Mulder and Scully near the end of the game, though whether or not this will satisfy you is, perhaps, debatable. In the meantime you will have to make do with Craig Willmore played by Jordan Lee Williams as you carry out your investigations by talking to people and searching for clues. There are also one or two other familiar faces from the series, most notably the mysterious X and Assistant Director Skinner who assigns you to the case and helps with the early field work.

On death and dying
Sadly, there is less to this game than meets the eye and though I quite enjoyed the investigation part it isn't too difficult and nor is it a very long game. The seven CDs are, as you would expect with an interactive movie, largely taken up with video footage. In an attempt to extend the gameplay the designers have chosen the easy option of timed action sequences and instant death over developing the puzzles and exploration side. Even on easy mode the split-second response time is annoying and definitely not what I appreciate in an adventure game. Still, some may argue that this feature adds to the realism, but from my, admittedly, limited exposure to the series I don't remember Mulder and Scully relying on reflexes to get through an episode. Ok, no doubt someone will quickly correct me on this. As for dying in an adventure game, well I normally don't mind meeting the odd sticky end as, unlike in real life, you can learn by your mistakes, but here it was taken to absurd levels especially on the last CD.

Much of the early exploration involves searching for evidence that you can have analysed in the crime lab, or for information that you can research in the data bases of your computer. To that extent the gameplay is a cross between Police Quest and Spycraft and is quite entertaining for a while even taking into account those long searches for a black cat in a cellar at midnight. You are further aided by the now ubiquitous Personal Digital Assistant which enables you to travel between locations, review your field notes and send and receive e-mail. You also have a cellular phone, evidence kit and the usual paraphernalia indispensable to your investigation although most of these trappings are sadly under-used.

Conversations are fairly straightforward although the dialogue isn't always realistic with the necessity for your character to ask questions about things he would obviously be aware of. A mouth icon lets you know when you can talk to someone then you just choose what you want agent Willmore to say from the available selection. Occasionally, other icons will appear at the top of the screen representing what you have learned and you can ask about these by clicking on them.

Plentiful options
There are lots of options to customise the interface and you can enable on-screen text for all conversations, show or hide the inventory, change audio and gameplay settings (here is were you can set the action sequence difficulty) and enable the 'artificial intuition' feature. This is an on-screen help indicator that glows at the top of the screen. When it is dim no help is forthcoming, but when it glows it lets you know there is more to do at that location and, if you are really stuck, you can click on it and it will perform the next action for you. Pity it doesn't enable you to skip the action sequences. My advice is to leave it off as the puzzle aspect is easy enough without it. You can always activate it if need be.

So the X-Files game has shooting sequences, lots of death scenes -- mainly your own, dark locations, an alien who is able to assume human form and evidence of corruption in high places, but is it scary? Well, no. The scariest moment for me was unintentional. I had my gun drawn and was exploring a warehouse when instead of clicking to go forward I accidentally fired the gun. It frightened the life out of me I can tell you, so on that score I have to say the sound effects were pretty good. As an interactive movie it certainly has its moments, and the available help makes it attractive to newer game players, but for me it doesn't really measure up to similar, more involving games such as Black Dahlia, Gabriel Knight II or the Tex Murphy series. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1998. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Pentium 120 MHz or 100% compatible processor (166 MHz recommended) Windows 95 or Windows NT 4.0 (with Service Pack 3) 250 Mb free hard drive space, 16Mb RAM (32Mb recommended) 4X CD-ROM (8X recommended) Windows 95 DirectX compatible graphics card supporting High Color (16-bit) at 640 x 480 resolution (24-bit or 32-bit True Color recommended), Windows 95 DirectX compatible sound card Windows 95 compatible mouse or pointing device. QuickTime and Microsoft DirectX will be installed if they are not already present.