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X2 -The Threat Review
Corwin, 2004-04-29

The Space Sim as RPG is a genre almost as old as computer games themselves. Well do I remember playing Privateer and Planet's Edge many, many years ago. Another often heard cry by the regular gamer, is "When will they make another Elite?" Maybe never, but the latest entry in the genre, X2-The Threat by Egosoft (www.egosoft.com)  is, if nothing else, a worthy successor.

The debate over what constitutes an RPG has been raging since the term was first invented, and I doubt there will ever be complete agreement, However, most people will agree that a story, a main character who grows and develops, assorted quests with rewards that both advance the plot and the character, combined with plenty of combat are, at least, some of the main ingredients. This X2-The Threat has. In fact, there's even the hint of romance in the air.

The plot is the usual fare, save the galaxy from the rampages of the invading hoard of Khaak, while rescuing your Father, helping your friends and building an economic empire on the side. The pleasant aspect here, is that you can involve yourself as much, or as little in the plot, as you like. The game allows you to leave the story while you build your empire and then return whenever you are ready, without penalty. In fact, it encourages you to do so.

Don't like space battles, but would enjoy the chance to trade, build factories, buy ships, go mining and make several million dollars an hour? You can. Want to buy a fleet of ships and control massive space battles? Yes, that's possible too. Would you enjoy being a pirate, preying on innocent traders? All of these and many more are open and available to you almost from the very start of the game. There's even an auto-pilot to fly your ship and fight your battles.

Ships! What would a Space adventure be without ships and here the game excels. Want a slow lumbering trader, easy; how about a fast, nifty little scout, no problem; fancy a fighter capable of taking on all but the largest of ships, they are all there and quickly available. The range of ships is amazing and all fly differently and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The game even gives you some for free, just for completing some of the early quests. Want to be able to zip around all over known space? Simple, get a jumpdrive, and yes, one is available as a quest reward too.

Let's get down to the nuts and bolts. Graphics, sound and performance. Graphically, the game is quite stunning. At times you really believe you are piloting your ship and are about to dock with a space station. The engine is 3D and highly immersive. The animations are still a little blocky, especially in the cut scenes, but I've seen far worse. The music is excellent, ranging from soft and soothing to totally enervating as you plunge into battle. The voices are well done for the most part, though I found the synchronisation was frequently off by several seconds which became annoying during lengthy conversations. Fortunately, there aren't many of them after the first few quests.

Performance was generally good on my system, but at times it really struggled and became quite choppy.

Now for the downside. The game has a very steep learning curve initially and the manual is not much help. Many features are not documented and most of the tutorials that come with the game are not only broken, but are virtually useless and even worse, totally confusing. Avoid at all costs. Fortunately, there is a great deal of online help and support which I found absolutely essential.

In conclusion, have you ever blinked and wondered where the last four hours went? That's what happened to me regularly whenever I played. It's an enjoyable time sink which will wrap you up and not let go. The depth of this game is amazing; there's just so much I haven't even touched on. Discovering that depth is half the fun. If you're at all intrigued by this game, get it. You won't be disappointed.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 76%
Sound (15%) 80%
Control (25%) 70%
Fun (45%) 90%
Overall 81%

The ups and downs:
Great DepthSteep learning curve
Suits all player typesHopeless manual
Incredible time sinkUseless Tutorials
Heaps of funHigh system requirements
Great sense of accomplishment

Reviewer's System
Version: 1.3
CPU: AMD 1.4 GHz
RAM: 768 MB
Graphics NVIDIA G4 MX440
OS: WIN XP vers 2002 SP 1

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