As a rabid X-Files fan for years and considering that survival horror is my second favorite game genre (guess which is the first!), I was naturally excited when an X-Files survival horror adventure game was announced! Now that I’ve finally played X-Files: Resist or Serve, let’s see if it lived up to the expectations.
After booting the game, you are, of course, taken to the main menu. But, if you wait patiently for about a minute, the game goes to a trailer that is definitely worth the viewing as it shows bits and pieces from several X-Files episodes. After watching the trailer (a must for all X-Files fans) you can now choose your game options. At this point you realize that this time you can finally play as either Mulder or Scully – as opposed to the 1995 X-Files pc adventure game where you played some random, unknown agent. The game is divided into three different episodes, each of which is in turn divided into two sub-episodes. The story is the same, regardless if you choose to play as Mulder or Scully, but each character has a different perspective and objectives and if you play as both you soon realize how perfectly their perspectives blend into one cohesive story.
The game opens with a cut-scene in Tunguska circa 1908. A couple is walking in the woods, carrying their baby, when they spot something falling from the sky. The ensuing explosion separates them from their baby flying who is next seen laying on the ground surrounded by a black liquid (X-Files fans know what it is!). We then jump to the present, where Mulder and Scully are driving to the small town of Red Falls to investigate three unexplained deaths. According to the autopsy, the killer’s fingerprints belong to a man who died long before these mysterious deaths! But two sisters - Mandy and Katlyn Winslow – have been dabbling in witchcraft and are suspected of bringing the dead back to life! Are the girls really responsible for bringing a murderer back to life or is there something else going on? And what was that incident in Tunguska anyway? All those questions, and more, will be answered as you progress through the game. Or will they?! The story unfolds in typical X-Files fashion, with Mulder and Scully being their usual selves – Mulder questioning everything while trying to find the truth and Scully constantly trying to prove him wrong with scientific facts (you’ll love their discussion in the car as they’re driving to Red Falls!). But Mulder and Scully are not the only familiar faces to appear. I’m not revealing anything more, but X-Files fans will love it!
Regardless of which character you choose – I played first as Scully - the game starts at the same place, a cafe in Red Falls. As the pair come across a seemingly dead police officer lying on the road, Scully stays with the body while Mulder enters the café to investigate. The first thing that you’ll notice is that character control is 2D – they walk/run in the direction you move the joypad. It may have been better to offer the player the option to choose between a 2D or 3D control method - 3D is when your character turns around his/her axis with left/right, and moves forward with up, and it’s my personal preference. The worst thing though is that the camera angles are awful and probably some of the worst ever in a game. If some people thought Silent Hill had bad cameras, they’ll change their mind right after they see this. Not only is the selected angle occasionally the worst possible (several times you’ll even find yourself walking/running towards the camera, having no idea what’s in front of you), but the way it changes while you move around can be totally disorienting. The controls of course change along with your movement - left becomes right, up becomes down, and you’re soon controlling a Mulder/Scully that looks like they just finished their eighth Jack Daniels. This might have been passable, maybe even funny, if the zombies weren’t so unforgiving. Cause if you think that a zombie will pause after a camera angle change so that you can become re-orientated, then you’re sadly mistaken and possibly dead!
The zombies are pretty swift too. Forget Resident Evil’s slow, dumb zombies. The X-Files walking dead are slow, but are quick and agile when they attack. So more often than not, you’ll have a rotting hand around your neck before you even know what happened or before you can raise your gun and aim, the zombie will be behind you, decreasing your health points. While the zombies are very challenging, you’ll also encounter undead dogs, wolves and cats (!) that are very fast. The bad thing is when they’re biting at your feet, you can’t shoot them and will always miss if you try! This is extremely frustrating, and it makes no sense whatsoever, that you can’t aim close to your feet. Be prepared to unfairly lose valuable health because of that – especially at one very frustrating point in the game.
Throughout the game you will mainly be by yourself, but sometimes your partner will tag along, offering suggestions and backup firepower. In addition to zombie fighting (and of course the usual bosses!), there’s a lot of investigation, a lot of snooping around and a lot of doors to be unlocked – including some “silent-hillish” doors here and there that can’t ever be opened. The game helps out a bit by featuring a rotating white ‘X’ in a red circle at the bottom right of the screen every time there’s some action to be done. This helps to avoid the frantic pressing of the action button everywhere, to make sure you didn’t miss anything. This proved to be very helpful, although it does take away some of that “I found that myself” feeling. The ‘X’ is also used to indicate the energy level of the bosses - this one in green and at the top right of the screen – and when you discover an ‘X’ taped on a window or wall etc it represents a save point. While I really dislike this method of saving, it unfortunately seems to be the rule in all console games, but thankfully not for pc games.
A very interesting and original feature of the game is that, when you play as Scully, you’ll be required to perform autopsies and create antidotes! Autopsies are performed by opening up the body and then dealing with the internal organs according to what you’re trying to find! As Scully is removing organs and getting sample fluids she also provides a full report that includes descriptions of each organ! Antidotes are mixed under a microscope by combining different chemicals. Apart from the autopsies/antidotes, there are also a few inventory based puzzles in the game. Those mainly consist of finding the right item and using it in the right place, combining items etc. Pretty easy in general, but enough to make the game not be just a shooter. The inventory screen is pretty practical, with all the items on the right side, which you can manipulate in full 3D, spinning them around, zooming in/out etc, and a picture of the body of Mulder/Scully (with the clothes they’re currently wearing), which represents their health and gets gradually red the more they get hurt or full green if they get poisoned. From there you can also access the map of the area you’re in, as well as the notes that Mulder and Scully keep throughout the game, which help you follow the story and remember important things, like keycodes etc.
The graphics are solid though not mind-blowing. The main characters are well-designed, especially Mulder, and so are all the other regulars that you’ll eventually meet, making you feel like you’re playing an actual unaired episode of the X-Files – which is how it should be. There are some problems though, like the occasional clipping – at one point I witnessed an open door cutting Scully in half! But the biggest problem is the flashlight, which you’ll need to use more often than not. The flashlight lighting effect is poorly implemented. If you point the flashlight towards the screen, the entire room lights up! You can actually see everything better by pointing the flashlight towards the screen instead of moving it slowly in search of objects. If this was done intentionally in order to make item hunting easier – which is doubtful – it’s not a good idea at all as it completely ruins the atmosphere – and it’s a shame, since the game is very atmospheric.
The sound is the highlight of the game! All the characters feature the original actors' voices from the show, and, as expected. the voiceovers are perfect! This adds greatly to the feeling of being a part of an actual X-Files episode. The music is also excellent. The X-Files theme is of course present, while the in-game music creates a suspenseful atmosphere, with lows and highs according to what’s happening. There will be times that the sound will draw you in the game so much, that you’ll find your fingers molded into the joypad with the tension!
Overall, X-Files: Resist or Serve should be viewed in two different ways. As an X-Files game - directed to fans of the show - it should receive an ‘A’ as it features everything an X-Files episode would and the player gets to participate. As a survival horror game though it suffers from problems that make other games in this genre - Parasite Eve, Silent Hill, Resident Evil or the new fantastic Fatal Frame 2- far superior, and those are where a non-X-Files fan should seek the truth.
Final Grade: B-