X2: The Threat PC CD-ROM
by Deep Silver
Developed by Egosoft
Released - February 6th 2004
Price : £29.99
Ever since Elite numerous games have tried to capture the feeling of an open ended space game that allowed you to do what you wanted. Several games, Freelancer, Freespace 2 and many, many more have all tried but not quite succeeded, although that's not to say they weren't very good games in their own right. One of the better 'Elite like' games of recent times was X-Beyond the Frontier from Egosoft. It had all the right ingredients as you could trade, build and fight your way around the galaxy. It wasn't perfect though and with extensive play it was obvious that it wasn't as open ended as it first appeared to be.
X2: The Threat begins with the central character, (the character you control) Julian Gardna, and his friend attempting to steal a spacecraft. Their attempt is a doomed one though and soon enough they are being chased by the Argon Police and they are eventually caught. Julian is given a five yazura (yes they give all kinds of funny names for their units of time) sentence. During the transportation to the jail though his ship is intercepted by the comically named Ban Danna (it could have been worse, he could have been called Shoe Horn or Ed Scarf) who works for the Argon Intelligence Service. Ban insists on taking Julian and gives him a second chance. The reasons for this will become known later in the game.
Your first tasks are to fly from one location to another and transport some passengers. You'll have to cross huge expanses of space but thankfully there are gates that can transfer you from one sector to another and you can equip a SETA which acts as a time compression device and essentially puts you in a fast forward mode. If I'm being honest here I would have to say that the game takes a few hours to get moving and it can be quite tedious to start with. Like X-Beyond the Frontier you'll be able to build your own structures later in the game and have your own convoys and trade routes etc. but initially you have to carry out your orders. Once these missions are out of the way though you can do as you please and pick up the main thread of the story as and when you want to. In this respect it's more open ended than X-Beyond the Frontier ever was.
Despite the mammoth amount of potential that this game has it's by no means a classic but it's still very good nevertheless. The major issues I have with the game is that you cannot save anywhere you want to. Add to this that you can come under attack at any time from pirates and other such enemies (and that at the beginning of the game your ship is weak and virtually a sitting duck) and you can see that irritation may creep in. You can't alter the control setup either but thankfully you can use a joystick if you prefer although I found it a little too sensitive and remained with the keyboard and mouse setup.
X2 is nothing if not graphically stunning. The numerous spacecraft all look great and various locations throughout the game all look impressive. One disadvantage of all this detail though is that the game requires a powerful PC to run at a decent resolution. Thankfully you can sacrifice the excellent bump mapping and anti-aliasing if your system is not up to the task and it doesn't harm the appearance of the game too much. Whilst the graphics are generally excellent there are a few rough areas. The cutscenes are a major disappointment and look decidedly rough. The character models and animations are quite poor and look completely at odds with the rest of the game.
X-Beyond the Frontier was a major disappointment for deaf gamers as it wasn't subtitled. X2 initially had me worried as the opening sequence (which details the arrest of Julian Gardna and his rescue by Ban Danna) isn't subtitled but thankfully after the introduction everything else is. Conversations are shown in text which is placed on the bottom left of the screen in a dialogue box. The essence of the conversations can be read again by reading your message log. You are visually alerted to any incoming messages and these messages are shown in text. Before you start the game you can participate in some tutorials that cover all the gameplay aspects and these are all subtitled. You can even take a pilot license test and again this is subtitled. The only criticism I have is that if you do decide to access any information during space travel, the game does not auto-pause so if you don't pause the game yourself it's possible to crash into another spacecraft or station, which isn't a good idea.
Your opinions of X2: The Threat will depend on how much time you devote to playing it. This isn't a game where a couple of hours play will show you all the game has to offer. Initially it can seem quite difficult to get to grips with and as we mentioned earlier it can be quite tedious in it's early stages. After half a dozen hours play though it gradually becomes more rewarding and satisfying and the niggles with the game tend to be overlooked. You'll appreciate the open ended nature of the game and appreciate how you can upgrade your spacecraft and do virtually anything you want to do. It probably doesn't live up to the expectations that many who were waiting for the game would have had, and in some areas it lacks polish, but overall it's a very enjoyable space simulation that fans of Elite or X-Beyond the Frontier will get a lot from.
Game Rating: 8.4/10
X2 lacks polish and in certain areas it's a little wanting but overall it's a space simulation that's open ended and ultimately rewarding if you dedicate the time needed to appreciate the game.
The introduction is not subtitled but otherwise it's fine.