Two years have passed since X: Beyond the Frontier was first released on the PC. The game clearly was trying to be the elite for the future; however, it did not fully succeed. The game did show great promise with excellent graphics and some very good gameplay. X2 Ė The Threat has tremendous improvements over the previous game, including: far more gameplay elements (perhaps too many at once for some people), greatly improved graphics and a much better over all game engine.
For those who have not played the original I will give you some more background on what the game entails. You play a pilot doing various missions as either part of the in-game story or you can follow your own path though the game, trading, building, pirating, mining,and many others.
There is so much on offer here it is hard to know where tostart. The game contains some tutorials to help you though the controls. The controls are pretty good and are definitely needed as delving straight into a game like this is not a good idea as you will be overwhelmed by everything around you.
So where do we start? You begin the game with a small space ship that comes with guns and such, from here you can follow the games story (which isnít the best, but is quite fun to follow through). The missions range from trading special items that various races or scientists need to taking out enemies. Once you are past the first mission you get to use a trading vessel, this is where the game properly begins as it means you can trade more items and make more money due to the increase in cargo space.
But this is also where one of the first problems with the game crops up, your vessel is very, very slow and the most you tend to make on various shipments of Energy Cells (one of the more lucrative goods in the game) is around 4500 and when you consider that some of the cheaper ships in the game are in the 60,000 range you realize how long it will take you to trade items before you get a glimpse of a new ship. Also, although in the first mission you take part in your ship has a weapon, once you get this trading vessel you are without one unless you can afford to buy one, something that again means a lot of slow trading early on, and this could well put off new players to the game.
There is, however, a way to speed up the game, this is done by pressing on the J key, which enables something called Singularity Engine Time Accelerator (SETA), this speeds up time which helps to reduce the wait in the game when you are flying though sectors to various space stations across the system. The problem here though is that when this is enabled the game really stutters even on a high speed machine.
Now onto the docking, this is something you will have to do a heck of a lot in the game, especially when trading. You have to dock at a space station at first (not a problem if you enable auto dock, assuming the space station isnít spinning as Iíve had no end of crashes due to this) and then once inside you have to moor your vessel, something I must mention here is that it can be very tedious to moor your vessel every time you want to dock, well Egosoft forgot to mention that pressing ESC automatically skips the mooring sequence!
It certainly isnít all bad though, the game is massive, and I canít state that enough. There are loads and loads of ships available to you, every area of the star systems you tend to go to look and feel different, each race you come across have their own set of space ships and each race looks different from the other too.
Each space station you dock at has a bulletin board, from here there tend to be around a dozen news posts of missions available for you to choose from, they are randomly generated each time you land. Early on in the game you will notice that a lot of the missions are not available to you as your rank is not high enough but there will be some various transportation missions for you. Most, however, are trading missions.
The depth of the game increases even more when you start to purchase your own power plants and space station. Once your purchase your space station you must find a sector that has either high or low demand in what you are building there.
As mentioned earlier there is an actual story in the game too, following it means you can gain free ships, better weapons and even more add-ons like jump drives and such like. The only problems with the story are the animated cut scenes which are badly animated and directed to say the least, which is a shame considering how good the graphics are.
Graphically X2: The Threat is easily the best looking space simulator available today, it really is gorgeous, suffice to say this is the reason a lot of reviewers are now using it as a benchmark in graphic card tests. Iím glad to say that the black of space doesnít have to be a boring place anymore, ships are designed really well with so many different types, characters look good (even if they are animated badly in cut scenes), nebulas, dust clouds, asteroids all look fantastic Ė especially when all graphic settings are on full. It does come at a cost though, as the game isnít the smoothest, even with the latest hardware the game can chug along at some points.
Sound & Music
Speech is good in the game, especially over radio and in the cut scenes, all the voice work seems to have had a lot of time put into it. Musically the game also pans out well, with suitable variations when flying into fights or landing.
Although I have touched on a lot of negatives in the review, I really do enjoy playing the game, its far more open-ended than other titles around and has so much depth that you will get a heck of a lot of game time out of it. The other negatives such as graphical performance and a few crashes are likely to be fixed by Egosoft as they have a good past background in patching games constantly (not in a bad way like the Battlecruiser series) so I have faith that the game will get even better in the future. Space fans should not miss out.