Ah the X series, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways... Every game reviewer has one of these, a game or series that touches them on a personal, intimate and downright naughty level, so enamoring them with their depth, breadth and endorphin-releasing wiles that he will hear no bad word said against them, no minor criticism that won’t be met with a flurry of pre-rehearsed counter points and face punches, no rival comparison that won’t be put down by shouts of “YOU JUST SHUT UP!” through the tears of infatuation as we cradle the box to our chest and run to our rooms to have a good cry.
Yes, we know it isn’t as fast, fun and friendly as Freelancer, never has been and never will be. But we don’t see any sequels to that little number floating about the release schedules, do you? In fact, if it’s in-cockpit, direct-action space simulations you want, well X3: Terran Conflict is about your only current generation option really. Good job it’s still going strong then, eh?
As the title (and ending to the previous game) suggests, we’re on home territory this time round, flying around our own solar system to begin with, marveling at the beautifully rendered rings of Saturn, sighing wistfully at the gaseous beauty of Jupiter, and giggling childishly at the computer’s unrefined pronunciation of Uranus.
The plot doesn’t take long to kick in and, sadly once again, it’s X’s main failing. For all the alien incursions, returns of old threats and attempts at tension, try as they might Egosoft just can’t seem to crack the storytelling nut, andwe're not sure it’s one that’ll ever really get solved while we players remain resolutely inside our cockpits. Stories require character development to engage, and for all the communication window talking heads, X’s is a soulless universe. Freelancer scored by letting you stretch your legs wandering around stations, X’s only real star is the universe itself.