The Truth Is Out There - and it's official. As I am sure that anyone reading this review must be aware, the X-Files is probably the most popular science fiction television series of all time. Not only avid sci-fi buffs but the public in general just can't get enough of it. With its success obviously comes the merchandising, films, books, posters, the obligatory t-shirts and the action figures, some becoming collectors items and exchanging hands for considerable sums of money.
There is one medium however that the series has not flourished and that is the gaming industry. Surprisingly there have previously only been two X-Files games ever produced. The first was an arcade pinball game from SEGA way back in 1996 and two years later in 1998 Vivendi released X-Files-The Game for the PSX and PC which was a point-and-click. Surprisingly however, you did not get to play the game as either of the two main characters, but as another FBI agent in search of the missing Mulder and Scully. It was possibly for this reason the game was not a huge success as anticipated, riding high on the X-Files fever that was around at the time and the game had some unfavourable reviews.
Thankfully Vivendi did not give up on the concept, and some six years later on have given us X-Files: Resist or Serve. The game has had a complete overhaul and looks and plays completely different from the previous offering. It has grown up and has and developed a survival horror 3D style akin to Resident Evil with a touch of Silent Hill thrown in for good measure. What's more you get to play the game from start to finish as either Mulder or Skully, thereby getting two different perspectives of events, and meaning it in effect two games in one.
From the title screen you are asked which characters perspective you would like to play the game through. If you decide to play as Mulder the game is in my opinion appears possibly to be more action orientated, playing as Skully seems slightly more puzzle based but you get the opportunity to carry out autopsies. But to be honest there isn't much in it and neither option is easier or harder than the other.
A cut scene will then play showing a Russian couple and their young child trudging through a forest in the snow. A bright light illuminates the sky and as the light gets bigger the couple make a run for it, as they realise it is falling towards them. The light hits the ground and a large explosion of energy radiates from the impact site. The couple however cannot outrun the blast and are killed. The baby is then shown on the ground and appears to have been thrown to safety and has survived the explosion, however the scene continues to show the child being smothered by a strange thick black goo....
The classic opening credits from the series then plays. This is an obvious but nice touch as it gives the impression that you are about to take an active role in an episode of the series. Cut then to a movie of Mulder and Scully inside their car as they drive towards a town called Red Falls in Colorado. They have been assigned by the FBI to investigate a new case whereby two twin girls, Mandy and Katlyn Winslow, have been accused of practicing witchcraft. The girls activities have led residents to believe they are responsible for a string of murders that have recently occurred in the town and what's more the girls have now gone missing. As they drive, the two agents debate whether witchcraft actually exists and if it does could two young girls possibly have anything to do with the recent murders in the town.
Scully suddenly spots something in the road and tells Mulder to stop the car. They get out and find a mans body in the road. This is where you take over in the role of your previously elected character.
If you decided to play the game as Mulder you will head off into JJ's Diner in search of a telephone as you can't get a signal from your mobile phone. Inside to the right, past a jukebox you find a dreary, unhelpful waitress slouched in one of the booths. (I'm sure she has served me recently, I recognise the blank expression). Anyway, after speaking to her and getting little or no response and after another brief search of the area you will spot a payphone near the toilets. Unsurprisingly as these games go, the phone isn't working. A banging and clattering noise behind you will attract your attention. It appears that the waitress has recovered from her stupor and is happily smashing up the jukebox which falls over and blocks your exit (nasty and uncalled for I would say). The begruntled psycho then turns her attentions on you and goes for the throat. A few shots to the head later and she's dead, leaving Mulder to find another way out.....
If you elected to play as Scully you stay to look after the man in the road. She checks the mans neck with her fingers, searching for a pulse. However you loose the battle to keep him alive and he appears to die in your arms. However, he repays your kindness and concern by suddenly springing back to life and grabbing you around the throat and throwing you to the ground. (I'm sure a simple thank you would have sufficed). As soon as you recover and you take control of Scully repay the compliment with a few rounds to his head....
As Mulder and Scully continue their investigations at Red Falls, they soon realize that there is a lot more to the case than they originally thought. As one would expect they eventually discover a conspiracy involving the existence of extra-terrestrials and their plans to take over the earth. (It wouldn't be the X-Files without an alien conspiracy now would it?)The truth is out there and you are gonna help them find it.
If you have played any other survival horror title, the control system will be very familiar. As you search and investigate areas icons will appear on the screen. A rotating "X" at the bottom right indicates that an item can be picked up, interacted with or a conversation may be instigated. If a "notepad" appears on the bottom right of the screen this indicates that you have acquired new information. You can access these notes at any time by pressing the L1 shoulder button from the inventory screen. At various points during the game you will have to fight the obligatory Boss level at this point a green "X" will appear on the top right of your screen. This represents the health of the "Boss". Green means the Boss is in good health as you attack and cause damage the icon will turn to black, then a few more shots and its light out. The "O" button allows you to equip an item from the inventory screen, for example you can switch on and off your torch. R1 helps you aim your weapon and the R2 button allows you to run as long as your haven't got your weapon and torch both in use.
The inventory screen is very similar to that of any of the Resident Evil series. In the centre you will have a picture of your character. This will alternate between an internal and external view. Red areas on the internal view give an indication of the damage your character has suffered. To the left of this is the weapon and equipment window. This shows the weapon that is currently in use and the specific item that has been assigned to the "O" button. The boxes on the right of the screen show items, weapons, first aid kits, bandages etc that have been collected Some of these items may be combined to create other items, and some items may need closer examination to find a hidden clue. This can all be done from the inventory screen.
The game benefits from the fact that it was written by the original script writers from the series, therefore the characters retain their screen personalities and chemistry. Other charters from the series also appear throughout the game Assistant Director Skinner, The Cigarette Smoking Man, Alex Krycek The Lone Gunmen and Marita Covarrubias all make an appearance. The original cast members have also supplied the voices for their characters. This all gives the game the feeling that you are actually involved in an X-Files episode and is very well thought out and put together. There are also numerous in-gags and references to the original show for example the street names are names of actual X-File episodes, Syzygy, Lazarus, Conduit etc. and in the video store reference is made to Mulders love of porn, which was a running gag throughout the series.
The game looks and sounds pretty good too. The streets have an almost Silent Hill eerie quality and you can almost feel the crunch under your feet as Scully walks over broken glass. There are times when the tension builds and the game can really make you jump, for example like when you investigate....... no, I won't spoil it. The sound track is also taken directly from the series so there is no complaint there. As you progress through the game you unlock special features, storyboards, concept art and there is also a movie of the actors recording their dialogue.
All this and the game on release has been priced at a very affordable £19.99. This is fantastic I hear you cry, this game doesn't appear to have a downside. Well unfortunately it does have one or two. The main criticism is that the camera angles are awful!! Exploring areas is made difficult as the camera angles switch back and forth, for example, you enter a room you see an object on a table in front of you that could be of interest, however as you approach the table the camera angle will change and you can no longer see the object from that view. This makes finding important items or clues difficult and frustrating I often found myself having to travel backwards and forward to change the camera angle to pick up a chosen object. The camera angles don't help either when you are being ambushed by marauding zombies as some of the camera angle puts you too far away from the action and you sometimes can't see what is going on around you. Using the street map can also be a little disorientating as it only shows your current location as a dot in the middle of the street and doesn't show what side of the street you are on. On a number of occasions I lost track of my position and found that I was backtracking areas I had already searched. Some might say that these are minor issues, but I felt that it stopped what is a good game from being an excellent game. For its £20 price tag the game is well worth purchasing and can be forgiven for its faults. However, if Vivendi can resolve these issues and decide to produce anther X-Files title, and I personally think they should, the X-Files gaming series could give the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill series a serious run for it's money.