The X-Files: The Game
The X-Files: The Game is an adventure game for the PlayStation video game console, PC, and Macintosh and is based on the television series The X-Files. The series would inspire a second game, The X-Files: Resist or Serve.
The game takes place somewhere within the timeline of the third season of The X-Files series. The story follows a young Seattle-based FBI agent named Craig Willmore (played by Jordan Lee Williams) who is assigned by Assistant Director Walter Skinner to investigate the disappearance of agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who were last seen in the Everett, Washington area. Agent Willmore must use his state-of-the-art spy tools: night vision goggles, a digital camera, PDA (an Apple Newton), lock picks, evidence kit, a standard issue revolver, handcuffs and badge, to follow their trail. Along the way, he is partnered with a Seattle Police Department detective named Mary Astadourian (played by Paige Witte) and a minor subplot involves a relationship developing between the two.
Several of the actors from the TV series reprise their roles in the game, including David Duchovny (Mulder), Gillian Anderson (Scully), Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and Steven Williams (X). The game is set around Seattle and was filmed in that city. The TV series actors filmed their relatively brief appearances in the game just before entering production on the feature film. The game's plotline involves aliens taking over the bodies of humans and contains many references to the show's mytharc, during the course of the game the "present day" date of April 1996 is displayed alongside certain locations, placing this "episode" before the season three episode "Wetwired" and after "Avatar", which take place April 27th and March 7th respectively. This is also after the first incident with the alien black oil in the 'Piper Maru' episode of Season Three. The screenplay for X-Files The Game was written by Richard Dowdy, from a story by Chris Carter.
The game uses a point-and-click interface, uses full motion video technology called Virtual Cinema, and includes a large number of cut scenes. Included in the gameplay are numerous occasions in which the player can alter other character's attitudes and reactions depending upon responses and actions (or inactions). Dubbed "UberVariables", certain decisions made by the player can set them along one of three tracks: Paranoia (Willmore will start seeing things like twitching corpses and shadowy figures), Loss (messages from his ex-wife are kinder), and "The X-Track" (more details are revealed about mytharc-related conspiracies). The player can also affect Willmore's relationship with Astadourian positively and negatively based upon how he responds to her suggestions and ideas.
When the game was released on the Playstation, most notably it had fewer discs; four in total that required in-play changing for each 'act'. The reduced number of discs may account for a more linear game on the Playstation. While many choices are still present, there are sequences shown regardless of how the player reacts and even in one case, the option is cut out all together. Since the Playstation was less powerful, the port needed to cut down on the information fed into the system. Notable changes include:
When discussing Wong's death at the autopsy table, a cutscene shows Wong's body twitch. In the PC, this only happens when the player chooses to be paranoid most of the time. The Playstation version shows it no matter how the player behaves.
When Willmore arrives at the hanger to talk to X, the player is given a choice of moods. On the Playstation, the icons briefly flash up on screen only to vanish soon after (no matter how quick the player is in moving their cursor over the icons, they remain inactive). It's presumed that the development team meant to leave this option in from the PC version, but removed it at last minute without cleaning up the cut. Whether for disc space or not, it's uncertain. However, if the game freezes for a few seconds at this point (maybe due to a scratch on the disc) the options are selectable during the course of conversation, however instead of interrupting the scene as it should, one scene finishes then the selected scene begins, resulting in a nonsensacle conversation.
In the same sequence, the option to kiss Astadourian is unavailable. For it to happen, the player must turn on the hints option before the conversation (while searching the offices at best). Doing so activates the option. While this option was affected by choices in the PC original, the more linear structure of the Playstation port (many conflicting questions can be asked without consequence) denies this action. The fact that the kiss is still available suggests that the development team left the in-game option out by mistake.
The FBI database has to have all its information typed like a real computer on the PC. This option is cut on the Playstation due to an obvious lack of keyboard. So certain information can only be accessed if Willmore has heard it or met certain characters as the story progresses.
The final scenes with Shanks and Willmore concern one ending. Shanks mentions that Astadourian wants to go over the case with Willmore later at his place. It suggests that Mary will always be won over by Willmore no matter how he acts. It should be noted (despite the developers' own words) that game might not have had variations of the debriefing scene in the PC version. The same goes for any calls made during the story.
Note that while the game does work on the PlayStation 2, the user interface is scrambled, causing difficulty with gameplay
Mary Astadorian is named for a real person, Chris Carter's assistant.
William B. Davis makes a fleeting appearance as the Smoking Man (he is seen smoking a cigarette after a building you're in blows up); nonetheless, he is listed in the opening credits.
The hand-held PDA that featured in the game is an actual product; Apple's Newton MessagePad.
The game contained various comical easter eggs; for example, shining a flashlight or taking a picture of a character would, in most instances, lead to the player character being asked, "What's the matter with you?"
One interesting "easter egg" was the ability to shoot yourself, resulting in an end-game and displaying a suicide note based on your psychological profile and status in the story. There was one baffling glitch in the "feature" - the next scene would contain you in Shanks's office handing over your badge and gun, despite the fact you were just killed.
The photo of Mulder and Scully outside the car that Willmore is given in the beginning of the game appears in the first season episode "Young at Heart".
In agent Willmore's apartment, the HiFi system can be switched on; it cycles through three songs by Moon, "Flying", "Rain Rain" and "UFO... Soul Control".
Paige Witte, who plays Mary Astradourian in the game, had previously appeared in two other Hyperbole Studios' games, Quantum Gate and The Vortex.
X-Files The Game was one of the last true 'interactive movie' titles to be released on the PC and MAC.
The games developer, Hyperbole Studios, had initially rejected the project when Fox approached them. They later became interested when they started to watch the show for themselves.
The title's design document/DB was over 1000 pages, while the shooting script was 250+ pages.
It was filmed between seasons of The X-Files and just before the feature film, Anderson and Duchovny were of course very busy, thus requiring the disappearance of Mulder and Scully and the introduction of the Willmore character.
Around 6 hours of footage was filmed for the game.
A former U.S. naval base, Sand Point, was used as the setting for the NSA facility at the end of the game.
The boat used as the Tarakan is a training ocean going tug, which had previously been used in a drug smuggling plot.
The 'melted blast effects' on the Tarakan were made using water-soluble paint, which caused havoc when it began to rain during filming.
"Tarakan" is Russian for cockroach.
The game was filmed on Digital Betacam tape with Sony cameras and captured using Power Macintoshes running Adobe Premiere and Media 100.
Reviews of the game were mixed, with many critics complaining about the large number of discs required to load the game (7). For the follow-up game, The X-Files: Resist or Serve, a more conventional videogame playing style was employed, similar to the Resident Evil games.
The response from the mainstream and non-computer game press was quite positive, while many hard-core computer publications took the design to task for not allowing the player to control Mulder or Scully or for allowing a "more gameplay." Note the difference in these review scores:
Science Fiction Weekly • Windows • Aug 26, 2002 • A out of A+ • 100
Adventure Gamers • Windows • Mar 19, 2004 • 80
PC Player (Denmark) • Windows • 1998 • 8 out of 10 • 80
WomenGamers.com • Windows • Jul 02, 1999 • 5 out of 10 • 50
GameSpot • PlayStation • Jun 19, 1998 • 5.1 out of 10 • 46