previews\ Sep 23, 2003 at 8:00 pm

X2 - The Threat - PC - Preview

An attempt to steal a small spacecraft went wrong and landed Julian on a prison ship in the deep cold of Argon space. It seemed he was destined to spend quite a while there, but his flight skills were not unnoticed by the powers that control the world.

He is given an opportunity to work for the warden of the prison he is confined to, or spend his time in prison. Freedom and the joy of space of flight or the cramped quarters of a cell. Hmm, is there a choice?

X2: The Threat is a PC space simulation from Enlight and EGOSOFT, slated for release in October. While the master copy received for the preview was not completely intact, and some of the included elements were not as crisply done as they will likely be at final release, there was enough there for to jump into the seat of the refurbished Argon Destroyer and head out of the docking port.

The game is a sequel to X: Beyond the Frontier, a 1999 release. In X2, players take on the role of Julian. While the game does have a variety of missions that players can undertake, there is room for a little free-flight action, and some side quests. The game promises players the opportunity to take on the role of a trader, bounty hunter, pirate or miner.

What sets this game apart is that while there is a base storyline, players are allowed to depart from it and create their own empire. Ships can be upgraded with the thousands of interactive objects within the universe, including weapons, commodities, space stations and other ships.

Initially your weapon systems are lacking and to engage in gun-fight is foolhardy at best. But the AI of this game is such that you can jump in and go. The game does evolve to present a continued challenge as your skills improve.

The game begins with a rather extended cutscene involving the foiled ship-jacking of Julian and his friend. A cutscene shows the warden of the prison talking with another power player in the universe about Julian’s skills and how he can be a great asset. He is given a choice, and, obviously, you choose to join the team. Before you know it, you are in a Destroyer scout ship and in the universe moving about at your whim.

That is a defining moment in the game - what do you do? You can run from the prison, but the prospects are not good that you will escape for long. You can play along and see where it leads, or you can try a combination of the two, act as an independent trade contractor while immersing yourself in the storyline and finding out what ‘the threat’ alluded to in the title refers to.

The sound of this master disk set (it is a two-disk install) had some stutters in it - again, expect all this to be polished in the final release - but enough was there to indicate that the game will sport the rumble of engines and the dialogue-driven intrigue in plot details that will pull in players.

The controls can be easily configured to accommodate a flight joystick, making this space sim much easier to handle.

Graphically, X2 is a treat for the eyes. The space locations are immense, with fully three-dimensional environments, and stunning details from the asteroid belts to space stations.

With a month, or less, until the release, X2: The Threat is gearing up to be an immersive and intriguing space simulation game that will not pigeonhole players into a set style of play. It would appear that the game is what you make of it, and that is sure to delight gamers.

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