Reviewed: April 6, 2004
Released: March 18, 2004
The X-Files is one of those pop-culture phenomenons that inexplicably captivated an entire generation of television audience for eight unprecedented seasons and will likely outlive the cast and original fan base in syndicated reruns. And what wasnít to like? You had had the witty and sarcastic FBI agent with a trouble past desperately trying to prove the existence of aliens, while his sexy and intelligent partner tried to debunk his paranormal cases week after week.
When you have a smash success like The X-Files itís only a matter of time before the series spins itself into a game. The first game to arrive back in the 90ís was simply called The X-Files Game. It was one of those 3D QuickTime adventure games where you moved around photo-realistic environments and interacted with people and objects to solve a big mystery. The only hitch was you didnít get to play as Scully or Mulder, but rather some unknown agent assigned to the case by Skinner to solve the disappearance of our heroes.
The X-Files: Resist or Serve approaches the franchise from an entirely new direction, first and foremost by putting you in direct control over the stars of the show, and secondly, by shifting the focus of the gameplay from the slow and plodding adventure genre to the faster and more intense action, survival horror themes you might expect from a Resident Evil sequel.
Truth be told, during my adventures with Fox and Dana I had flashbacks to several titles from my extensive gaming history. Obviously, there were numerous nods to the aforementioned Resident Evil games. Without going into too many details to spoil the story, you will be fighting zombies and a lot of them. Youíll be moving around 3D environments with constantly changing perspectives that shift to slow-moving tracking cameras that invariably have you walking into the lens so you canít see that zombie ready to leap out and say Boo!Ē
Adventure gamers who had the pleasure of playing Alone in the Dark: A New Nightmare will find even more similarities in game design. Both games allow you to play the main story from two unique and parallel storylines, one male and one female with very diverse paths and methods of solving puzzle and overall gameplay. Another element stripped right from New Nightmare is the use of a flashlight to reveal important items. While these items could be found by thorough exploration, shining your high-powered beam will cause important objects to glint with that trademark sparkle effect that yells, ďPick me up!Ē
Resist or Serve sets up an interesting story comprised of three unique, but interwoven episodes created by the writers from the television show. Set in the showís seventh season, Mulder and Scully travel to the small Rocky Mountain town of Red Falls to investigate a string of unusual murders linked to ghost sightings, the undead, and other paranormal phenomena. The agents then pursue an inhuman killer to a secret research facility in the Siberian wasteland and finally into the depths of a buried alien spacecraft.
With a compelling plot and the return of all your favorite actors to reprise their voice roles, Resist or Serve marks one of the best presentations of a TV show turned computer game, but it doesnít necessarily mean the game is entirely fun to play.
After you pick your favorite agent the game kicks off with a stunning CG movie that shows an alien ship crashing into a frozen landscape, the force of the impact obliterating a forest and a native family, leaving only a crying infant afloat in a sea of the sinister ďblack oilĒ. Cut away to the all-too familiar opening theme complete with MPEG video then to the CG movie of Mulder and Scully driving to their next case.
As you arrive in town you find a deputy lying in the road in shock. Scully begins to administer first aid and Mulder runs off for help, and this is where the game begins. Depending on whom you chose to play the game unfolds in two different paths. You will remain in contact with your partner through two-way radio and even join up frequently to combine your efforts and firepower, but just as often you will be alone and solving very unique puzzles in your own special way.
My only real complaint with Resist or Serve is that aside from the use of the characters from the show this game could have been called anything other than X-Files and worked just as well, perhaps even better. I fear that a lot of X-File fans are going to unknowingly get this game thinking they are going to be solving analytical puzzles, but this game is total action and a clone of any other survival horror game you may have played in the past.
No matter which character you choose it wonít take long to find out that the city of Red Falls is now Zombie Central. Using a control scheme that is ripped right from the Resident Evil design docs, you whip out your pistol and pump your undead enemies full of lead until they twitch no more. This alone goes against the grain of the show. Youíll fire your gun more in the first hour of this game than they did in all eight seasons of the show.
Your FBI powers of observation are reduced to finding objects like keys, ammo, medicine, notes, etc. and using these items or information to further the story, usually gaining access to new parts of the levels where you can kill more zombies and get more items. Itís classic survival horror design and pretty good, but itís just not ďX-FilesĒ.
Control is pretty good as is the interface for interacting with your inventory, which is thankfully unlimited in this game. You can examine items in full 3D, rotating and zooming, and you can combine items, reload weapons, etc. You can also access a map (provided you have found one) that auto-updates the locations as you visit them, and there is a nifty health meter that slowly fades your clothes away to reveal a medical diagnostic.
The camera angles are scripted so they change to creepy perspectives when you exit the border of a screen. Each new area will slowly track your character and pan or zoom as necessary, but you can almost bet that something is going to leap at you from off-camera. Fortunately, you can press the aim trigger and shoot enemies that you canít see.
Game design appears to be wide open but everything is actually quite linear and you are cleverly kept on the scripted path by locked doors and environmental obstructions. Early in the game Mulder is trapped in a diner because a jukebox has been tipped over in front of the door. Rather than move the jukebox you exit through the back door and then take a 90-minute detour through town to get back to Scully.
The designers try to keep things fresh and scary but it all becomes a bit too predictable a few hours in. Whenever you come to a door you know either a zombie will leap out at you, the room will be empty, or a useful item will be inside. The only time itís scary is when you guess wrong.
There are also some illogical things that really take you out of the moment like finding a 9mm ammo clip on a female zombie (in a bikini) that just climbed out of a hot tub. You train yourself to search everything, but some of the rewards are just silly. Then again, some things make subtle sense like finding a package addressed to the pharmacy with a health kit inside or a package addressed to the sporting goods store with ammo inside.
At the end of the day Resist or Serve is a clever mix of slow and methodical searching of every screen for useful items while you fight off seemingly endless hordes of spawning zombies. Ė just what was the population of this town anyway? The two unique stories is a great touch that will guarantee you play the game through at least twice.
Considering the only other X-Files game I ever played was FMV I was pleasantly surprised at just how good a CG rendered version of the X-Files could look. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson both had facial scans and these were applied to acceptable models. They look great in the game-engine cutscenes but lose a bit of their impressiveness when they are animated during gameplay. They just seem a bit robotic or stiff when they walk or run, but Mulder does look like a badass in that classic pistol-over-flashlight attack pose.
The levels are nicely detailed but often hidden in an overly dark presentation. Obviously this is to promote the use of your flashlight and to make things even creepier than they already are. The sinister use of shadows, lens flares, and radiant light beams really enhances the effect.
The supporting cast, which is mainly comprised of lurching zombies, is suitably horrific, at least in the close-ups. From a distance they arenít that scary but the ones on fire might spook you a bit more than the others.
The interface is clean and easy to navigate and the overall presentation is classic X-Files with logos, opening theme, captioning for date and time, etc. The game definitely looks like an interactive version of the TV show.
The soundtrack is pure X-Files with the original theme opening the game and plenty of recycled music along with some original ambient tracks to enhance the sinister atmosphere of the adventure. Itís your typical horror soundtrack that lurks in the shadows then kicks in when the cat jumps out of the dumpster or a zombie crashes through a window.
Sound effects are minimal and include weather sounds like the incessant trickling of water during the rainstorm, plus a wide range of authentic gunfire from favorites like the AK-47, 9mm, and others. You also get the standard offering of creaking floors, squeaking doors, bubbling hot tubs, breaking glass, and any other environmental effects required to bring these levels to life.
Of course the shining star of the sound package are the very stars themselves. Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprise their roles and youíd be hard pressed to tell that they havenít done this show in a few years. They slip right back into their roles and deliver quality dialogue with flawless perfection. Dana is still her dry skeptical self while Fox is always cracking wise and coming up with some genuinely funny lines like lamenting the fact the local video store is out of his favorite porn movie.
Resist or Serve will take you about 10-12 hours to finish, but keep in mind that is just for one agent. There is plenty of original gameplay for both agents, so you will certainly want to replay the game from both perspectives effectively doubling your play time. Once you have finished the game as both agents there is no real incentive to play again.
There are some nice bonus items you can unlock by simply completing each episode. These include your typical DVD-style bonuses like storyboards, artwork, excerpts from the recording sessions, etc. These items are a nice bonus and donít take any real extra effort to earn them other than just finishing the game.
I love survival horror and I love the X-Files but I never really thought of the two going hand-in-hand, and even after a few weeks of playing The X-Files: Resist or Serve Iím still not sure they do. It almost seemed like somebody had dropped Fox and Dana in Raccoon City and I was waiting for Chris and Jill to show up and relieve them.
X-File fans be warned. While this game manages a flawless presentation worthy of the X-File legacy, the gameplay deviates from the detective-styled adventure offerings of the past and chooses a more intense action style that might put off the more casual gamer.
Personally, I think itís a good game only made better by the integration of a hugely successful franchise. Iíll let you decide for yourself. The Truth is Out ThereÖTrust No OneÖ