December 23, 2005


Videogame review, X3: Reunion

I'm going to tentatively declare that my earlier predictions that the game would hit what was, practically speaking, version 1.0 after being patched to 1.3, partially correct. Partially because at the time, I figured they'd take until late January to reach 1.3. They got faster!

I ordered the game awhile back when it popped up on one of Gogamer's sale deals. Ordinarily I would have popped for the dvd version because obviously, but a) cheap, and b) I didn't expect it to work till some unspecified later time. (Sure, Egosoft claimed 1.3 before Christmas, but recall they first said 1.3 by mid-November. It's not that I suspected them of being liars, you understand, just, you know, caveat emptor.)

I'll be charitable for this next part, and simply assume that US Enlight is staffed by microcephalic monkeys who are paid in bananas coated in lead-based paint in offices who have a confused view of aromatherapy as meaning that pumping epoxy fumes to a higher percentage of atmosphere than nitrogen increases productivity. Anyway, when's the last time you heard about an actual badly-printed CD? (This is the point where you industry types chime in and say, "Actually it's well known in our circles (you plebian) that the first printing of F.E.A.R. only barely avoided being sent out with a medley of Japanese tentacleschoolgirlscat porn," and I refuse to back down and have a class five forum meltdown--I think I'd like to post a few thousand words in a gibberish I'll claim is Iroquois or something, but I might reconsider when I get there, but I digress). Well, disc #2 of the US cd print had a relatively common run of bad discs--at least common enough that I was able to find five posts on Egosoft's tech support forums within as many minutes of searching--and that's manually searching, mind you, since they don't have actual search search enabled there--all on my exact install problem. Luckily it was only a bad disc as preventing getting at a whopping total of two mp3s, which could be skipped and copied in later. Still, weird to see.

Also, Egosoft claims the reason the manual sucks is because Enlight accidentally was given some month-and-a-half draft version instead of the actual real manual. They were going to figure out how to put up a pdf version of the real final manual. This was over a month ago. Now, a cynical sort might be tempted to claim that seems a little fishy, inasmuch as they could just make a pdf of it and slap it in their downloads section. I'm not a cynical sort, I'm a doe-eyed trusting believer in the innate goodness and honesty of the human spirit, so I'm sure there's some other explanation. So there's that aspect.

Oh, the game! Well thus far compared to a couple hours under 1.2.01 (practically speaking a sort of 0.9beta2, but I think version numbers are different when using the metric system), and now several more with 1.3, 1.3 (metric) is indeed 1.0 (imperial). The interface is, believe it or not, not quite as chilly user-neutral as X2's was. It's still in no way interested in being the user's friend, but it's now sort of in the state of your friend's psycho possibly de-corticated cat who, after many years and visits, will now tolerate your touch instead of randomly trying to fillet your arm--not out of any sort of active hostility, but simply because of a some sort of vestigial brain-stem twitch. Indeed, if you're following my entirely serious and well thought-out analogy here, X2's interface would, after suddenly freaking out, just sort of blink at you wondering what happened. X3's a step up; someone at Egosoft had a eureka moment, exploded out of their bathtub one evening and screamed "Mein Gott! Ze mouse! It can be used IN GAMES!" and actually convinced the other folks that pointing devices could be used to point at more things than the menus in their compilers, even for end-users. I don't know which person on the team had that thought, but I salute him. (Elbow bent hand-to-forehead sort of salute though; I respect their heritage and all, but, you know.)

It's also even prettier than X2. The planets loom most impressively, and I'm okay with all action usually happening in barely-extra-atmospheric altitude.

The cutscenes are still laughably bad thus far, but have lost a certain charm. X2 didn't realize that they actually had no idea of how to animate people, perhaps never having seen any, I don't know, so they motion-captured rotoscoped amateur films of clumsy stop-motion mannequins instead. And they did it with the innocent shameless unawareness of an only barely autistic child. I can respect that--like I said, it has a certain charm.

Sadly, the age of innocence passed at least in that respect, and they seem to have avoided the full-body-lurching film style in favor of more talking-heads while panning about the (again, very pretty) backdrops and models. There's still some charm in the atrocious voice acting, and of course there's some entertainment in the firebrand speeches of Madam President exhorting jihad against the threat of the untamed cock, so not all is lost.

I give it a three and a half out of five.

posted by Gar @ 12:20 AM
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