When I think of space simulations, I think of giant spaces with stunningly crafted ships that are able to play and fight throughout space. In addition, there is nothing more fun then using the enormity of space as your home of economic power and strength. X2: The Threat provides all this and a lot more all bundled up in a great single player game. With one of the largest and most detailed universes I have ever seen in a game X2 excels at a lot of things including, openness, graphics, economic system, and a robust number of items to use. For those of you looking for a great new space trader simulation game X2: The Threat will be the perfect game for you.
The concept puts you as a former criminal on a military ship where your given command of a small ship at which point you follow a not very well crafted plot that takes you through the game. The plot of the story while interesting is mainly there to allow you to feel like there is a reason for continuing to quest. You are attempting to find, get rid of a threat from an alien race. The true greatness is with the open endedness of the game play. Simply put you can have and own anything within the game, from small ships, space stations, to Military command ships. You also have the options of going through the game as a pirate or defending against other enemies. Combat plays a large role in the game. Combat is quick and there is a large twitch factor that relies on your ability quickly dispatch your enemies while moving through space.
Graphically when I first started up the game, I was not sure how I would like it. As time went on, I began to understand that most everything about the graphics is superb. The ships, which graphically in true to life sizes. So if you come upon a space station your ship will pale in comparison, however if you are on board a transport or giant military ship you will be the behemoth. Most of the game is from the comfort of your cockpit however, you have the ability to change cameras and view the different camera angles as you fly through space.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the graphics was due to the interface. It integrates very well with the ship controls and allows you to continue looking through the controls of your ship while you are going through the numerous menus. Since the game never pauses, it is important to have an eye on what is going on at all times. Being inside the ships for long times you also have monitors that you can set on a number of different screens these include different cockpits or outside cameras of other ships that you may own. However, you have to be within range of the ship for the monitor to work.
Another top-notch portion of the graphics is the sheer beauty of space within X2. The planets and stars shine brightly and provide backlighting. This also goes for the stations throughout the universe. As you fly through the game I suggest you fly in near the space stations just to grasp the great imagery and animations of the stations. These include things like signs that rotate around or the actual structure of the station, which may be spinning or rotating. Landing in stations is a lot of fun as you have to approach at a slow speed and once in the station you have to find a docking bay to dock. You have the ability to eject from your ship to get to different ships. This is a lot of fun as you can get out of your ship and see what it looks like from the outside although don’t stay outside too long you have a limited supply of oxygen in your space suit.
X2 has a decent techno beat sound track but its best audio aspects are the sounds the weapons make when being fired. Alongside, the soundtrack they have also included half-decent voice-overs within the cut scenes and the computer noises made while scrolling through the interface screens. In general, the sound provides a simple and some times pleasing mood feel however, it never allows you to feel very completely comfortable with its enhancements to the flow of the game.
Here is where I had some problems. The game seems better with a joystick and keyboard. The joystick allows you to control flight movements, which are very useful, while in combat or quickly flying through space. The keyboard quickly maneuvers through the options, control speed, and other ship functions. The problem comes if you have a mouse. The game has no room for it. If you happen to try to use the mouse, you will be very disappointed with its abilities. The mouse movement seems to be very jumpy and nearly useless. When in combat as long as you ready for battle it is easy to control. A joystick is necessary have for those of you wanting to play.
Game play is very fluid and presents a number of challenges that will keep players playing for a very long time. When you first start the game up you enter a cut scene of your character attempting to steal another ship. Then brought to the main menu where you can choose from the tutorial system or dive into a new game. The tutorial system walks you through everything from simple steering to complicated economic controls. I suggest everyone who buys this game go through the tutorial to learn all the little tricks.
When you create a new game, you have the choice of four difficulties. Then you launch into the abyss. When you start out you have a small ship, which generously is given to you. From here, you will need to complete the assignments that you are given. The great part of the game comes in how you accomplish these tasks. The universe is broken down into sectors. Gates connect sectors. You also have access to a universal map that shows you all the different sectors. The importance of where you are is apparent by the use of communications. If you are too far away from a ship, you will not be able to communicate with it. However, there are satellites that you can deploy to increase your communication abilities.
Space flight is actually very easy within X2. Simply point your ship in the right direction. There are times when it seems like forever to get from one point to the next, which with upgrades that you can use to decrease the length of time it seems to take. Another important and fun aspect of space flight is the docking procedures. They have made it easy and it is actually a lot of fun. You can purchase a docking computer upgrade, which will do most of the work for you. You can also do it all manually. Once you are within the hull of a station you then have your choice of docking bays. Once docked you then are able to trade and communicate with the station.
The economy is a key element to the game play. One of the great things about this game is the living breathing feel you get with the economy. Whether it is selling meat for hamburger stations or buying high tech laser components for your ships everything you could imagine is available to purchase. You will have access to transport ships designed to carry heavier wares and distribute them for you. You will also soon have stations built up for yourself. The problem with the economic system is that it is almost too realistic and keeping track of all the things you have going on takes a tremendous amount of time.
Another key component of the game play is the combat system. The first part of this is readying your ships for battle. You have to ready weapons in slots in your ship whether they are missiles or lasers. You then just have to find something to fight. Usually it is easy to find a fight. Once you get in a fight, you will have to use your weapons faster than the other person does. You both have shields which will quickly be gone if hit by the right weapons. Once a fight is over remember to look for the leftovers from the other ship. Items can be picked up by dropping your shields and opening your cargo bay door. Be cautious not to open up while enemies are still roaming around.
Final Thoughts – Overall X2: The Threat is one of the largest and most complex yet easy to play space simulation games I have ever played. Now with that all said the graphics are tremendously realistic and are greatly done. The audio adds little to the atmosphere, while the story although a driving force is never really the main reason to play the game it is more of a guide to what you should be doing. As for the game play controlling your ship is a complex but yet very simple process. Movement is simple but the amounts of options within the economic and trading system are overwhelming. If you have ever enjoyed space Sim, games or economic pirating games you will feel at home in X2: The Threat.
Date: 5 February 2004