If there’s one thing you can say about The X-Files: Resist or Serve is that it wasn’t a rush job. The sci-fi conspiracy drama that the game is based on has been cancelled for almost two years now. But the show lives on in the hearts of loyal fans and it looks like that’s who Black Ops had in mind when it made the game.
The game trades heavily in X-Files mythology – the convoluted, ongoing storyline involving an alien invasion, a nefarious substance dubbed “black oil” and the sinister shadowy government figure known only as The Cigarette Smoking Man. For this reason alone, civilian gamers might not feel terribly compelled by the outlandish trip FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully embark on during the course of their PlayStation 2 adventure. Longtime viewers of the show, on the other hand, will find scores of inside jokes and obscure details on top of the labyrinthine fan-centric plot.
Both camps will appreciate above-average voice work from Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and just about every popular supporting player on the show. Weasely turncoat Krycek, conspiracy nerds Byers, Langley and Frohike aka The Lone Gunmen, g-man boss man Assistant Director Skinner and Beltway femme fatale Marita Corvarubbias all make appearances. The cut scenes, particularly those starring cast members, contain some of the better-written and performed dialogue in contemporary games. The chemistry between Mulder and Scully in particular lives on in Fox’s quips and Dana’s dogged reason. Sadly, the supporting non-celebrity players deliver their lines in the same deadened monotone that passes for the industry standard in video game voice acting.
As far as fan service and brand polish go, it’s the inclusion of genuine series elements in The X-Files: Resist or Serve that goes a long way to recreating the vibe of the show. Mark Snow’s ever-present moody soundtrack, a huge contributor to the creepy feel of the series’ freakiest episodes, does similar work in game. The shows’ signature gloom returns; the places you go as Mulder and Scully are dimly lit, cut only by the hazy glow your FBI issue flashlights. The story arc covered in the game is presented in the form of three episodes. Each begins with a teaser scene and the program’s opening credits. It’s when you’re thrown into the game where things first start to go awry.
The first episode finds Mulder and Scully on their way to Red Falls, a place with all the problems of a modern day survival/horror town like, say, Raccoon City. That’s right, we’re talking about zombies. Not exactly the bizarre alien terrors and sewer creatures of The X-Files or even the grotesque spooks of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. The cues taken from the Resident Evil series don’t end here, though. The X-Files: Resist or Serve shares control issues with its popular predecessor. If you’ve played a survival/horror game, you know the drill; every time the camera jump cuts to its next dramatic angle, the player’s controls are inverted. Remember that scene in your favorite episode of The X-Files when Fox Mulder, while being chased by a monster, inexplicably stops and reverses direction, throwing himself headlong into the fiend’s murderous arms? Me neither.
Control issues aside The X-Files: Resist or Serve is no worse than your average genre entry. It’s got all the puzzles and angry enemies players have come to expect. Depending on one’s mood, it’s got a couple of scares as well. Don’t expect the creeping dread of Fatal Frame or the sheer revulsion one feels when bludgeoning one of those freaky leg-creatures to death in Silent Hill. The scares here are of the loud noise/screeching cat variety and come mostly in the first third of the game. As in many games of this sort, the enemies in The X-Files: Resist or Serve eventually cease to be scary and become more of an annoyance. Sadly, running for your life is not an option – the undead are well armed. If you want ammo, you’re gonna have to deal with these suckers. Apparently, the citizens of Red Falls were firm believers in our constitutional right to bear arms. In fact, one of the zombies, who my fiancé named Phyllis after the bitchy postal worker in Animal Crossing, shuffles about clutching an AK-47 in her rotting hands. More weird than creepy.
Both FBI agents are playable. The most interesting and unique part of the game comes in Scully’s half. Mulder is bitten during an up-close-and-personal encounter with a deadhead. It’s up to Scully to perform an autopsy on a zombie corpse while Fox fights off the undead hordes. Scully needs to cook up an antidote to save her partner from becoming a walking corpse. All the while, the zombies continue their assault and Scully is occasionally needed to help distribute bullets and keep them at bay. This interesting and engaging hybrid of play-styles is The X-Files: Resist and Serve’s shining moment.
Despite this bright spot, The X-Files: Resist or Serve doesn’t pave any new ground. When it comes to successfully converting properties to games, EA’s Lord of the Rings titles are pretty tough to beat. Akira Yamakoa’s Silent Hill series has the horror department sewn up. How can a game such as this compete with these big players? Truth is out there, and the unfortunate fact is that it can’t. The X-Files: Resist and Serve plays to fans of the series and delivers them a package crammed with more perks than most devotees of a long-cancelled program this side of Star Trek could reasonably expect. Those without a vested interest in the exploits of this particular pair of paranormal investigators might have better luck looking for the truth of survival/horror gaming elsewhere.