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The X-Files, Fox Interactive, 1998

When The X-Files game came out, I heard nothing but bad word of mouth on the Internet. Perhaps not bad, but rather mediocre, lacklustre, lukewarm. On that basis, I decided not to bother with the game -- not the best way to make decisions, I admit, but I tend to be more ruthless about which computer games I play compared to which book or movie I read or watch. Compare 2 or 3 hours of time invested (movies or books) to 30 or 40 (a good computer game), and that's the reason, plain and simple. In addition to this concern, The X-Files movie was released roughly at the same time as this game, and I was somewhat unimpressed by the movie. However, I have been enjoying the current season of The X-Files immensely, and decided that I would give the game a chance. Maybe something about it would impress me, or at the very least, remind me fondly of the television episodes. And I can report without equivocation that both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are in this game. And what's more, they play their respective roles of Scully and Mulder, just like in the TV show. But that's the extent of the positive things I can say about the game without lying.

The game comes on 7 CD-ROMs and the entire game is nicely packaged. The box is nifty, with a giant X incised in the cardboard. Inside, the manual is conveniently laid out, so no complaints in that department. The box that holds the CDs is also attractive and easy to use. Again, I seem to stretching the point in order to say something nice.

How about the gameplay? And my answer is another question, what gameplay? The X-Files uses full motion video (FMV), which has always created problems for the fun value of a game. While it may look impressive to see Mulder and Scully walk into a warehouse to investigate something, I'm not doing anything at that point except stare at a screen. Pardon me if that reminds me of watching television, I thought I was playing a computer game from Fox Interactive. Yes, the game does go to great lengths to try to create interactivity, but the options are always necessarily limited. How many truly non-linear games are there? Not many, but my point remains that I found The X-Files to be mildly interesting as I was first playing through. But after seeing each bit of video once, the fun factor dropped noticeably and my boredom became frustration. Even in the game's climax, I got extremely fed up with seeing the same sequence over and over again as I tried to find out what to do. What we see on television might be fleeting, but I'm beginning to appreciate that quite a bit.

Interestingly, Skinner has the biggest role in the game, at least for the first half or so. Both Scully and Mulder are present later in the game, but I suspect that the respective actors were somewhat too busy to spend much time on a lowly computer game (Skinner doesn't seem to have much screen time this season, which I think is unfortunate). The X-Files also creates a few roles that are not in the show, like the main character, Agent Willmore. The less I say about him, the better for my belief that I am a calm, unflappable person. Willmore is not the most charismatic person to spend time with, and he is at the centre of every scene. As for the villain of the piece, Agent Cook, I'm not giving away much information when I say that he is indeed the villain. Anyone who can overact to such a degree deserves to be mistrusted, betrayed, possessed by aliens, and eventually done away with in a disgusting manner.

Chris Carter wrote the original story that The X-Files game is based upon. It's not particularly up to date. I don't know when this game went into production, but if you're looking for insights into the conspiracy or what's going to happen next in the overarching story, look elsewhere. An alien who possesses human bodies and the only sign of its presence is a strange black film passing over the host's eyeballs -- I won't say more, apart from the fact that the plot from there will be familiar to those who watch the show.

To close I would just like to say that the Lone Gunmen are hilarious. There are a few other injokes, like a receptionist describing Mulder as "spooky" or a coroner mangling the names of our heroes (Diana Scully and Wolf Mulder). Not much else in the game is funny. Or scary for that matter. Or particularly fun. Maybe I should have listened to the word of mouth, or stuck to watching TV.

Last modified: December 3, 1998

Copyright © 1998 by James Schellenberg (

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