X3: Reunion - PC
"With the shock of the last destroyer's explosion still shaking the ship, the battle was now over. Gripping the controls, he strafed the ship into a slow swoop past the wreckage and towards the sun. Dropping the throttle down, he looked out of the ship interface and surveyed the wondrous sight that lay before him. He remembered all the time and effort that he had put in to getting here; the fortune, empire and fleet that had been built to achieve this moment. His heart lifted, with a wave of emotion, as he realised that despite all he had done, nothing could compare to the ultimate prize. This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning" - Winston Churchill.
To achieve such a feeling that is described in that quote, is something that actually IS possible in this game. Now I admit that I am writing this review with some mild bias, but this, quite possibly, is the best game of the year.
You start the game at the end of a war (which you have won). You may be a veteran, but now you are merely a freelance trader with a small One Man Buster ship. You are forced to look for work wherever you can find it in the X Universe. Trading goods, smuggling space-weed, or becoming an Argon Police Officer and hunting space-pirates are some of the ways you can get by. Once you have enough money, you can upgrade your ship, by a fleet for fighter support, or even build a space station and start your own meatsteak franchise.
But be warned, all of this takes a long, long time. You start with around 1000 Credits. The average space station is up in the tens of millions of credits, and this is no easy task to earn such money. Think of other games and how long they take to complete. Halo? 10-15 hours. Half-Life 2? 10-15 hours. Lets try and think of a longer game, say, Star Wars KOTOR2. That is about 20-30 hours if you want to complete it fully. In X3: Reunion, even doing just the mainstream missions and achieving the glory mentioned earlier, takes, at bare minimum, 300+ Hours. The advertising motto of the game is "Say goodbye to sleep and/or social life". Well, since I have started the game I have said my goodbyes to both. It is just so captivating.
And you would think 300 hours of gaming would get tired and repetitive. But no; if, for example, you're on a routine passenger transport through an unknown galaxy, there is a range of things you will come up against. You may see a very nice looking (and unprotected) tourism ship, and you might just get the urge to blow the crap out of it. That's whats so great about the game. If you even feel a hint of boredom coming along, YOU can choose a way to spice up your space travels. Whether it be picking a fight with the locals, going into enemy territory to fight (or make illegal deals) with space pirates, or even the occasional attack on a police cruiser, just to see how many galaxies you can jump before they give up the chase. It is, in every possible sense, a game that lets your do whatever you want, go wherever you want to go, in the whole universe. Sure, games like Grand Theft Auto let you go where you want to go, but you'll be amazed at the size of the X Universe. You can literally go on forever.
The magnitude of this game is not only defined by the size of the Universe, but what fills it. Each ship you see (there are 1000's in any one galaxy), has its own memory bank and AI. Each tiny ship you see is trying to make its way in the universe, each will pounce on an opportunity for a good trade, and each has the same urges to pick fights just as any human does. That said, you've got to be wondering about frame rates. It is true, you cannot marvel at the best of the galaxy without dropping a frame (or 12). That being said, it is a worthy sacrifice just as long as you can appreciate how dazzling this Universe really is. Graphics are just superb.
The music score was composed especially for this game, with lots of working obviously being put into it. It gives a great sense of serenity when you are cruising along, in a particularly empty galaxy, to have beautifully composed violin or flute solo playing. While this is going on, don't let it lull you into a false sense of security, because at any moment, the sirens go off, the AI states "Enemy Cruiser Approaching", and the beat of the drums helps you realize just how silly it was to sell your guns for that new pair of shoes. Every choice you make makes a difference to your future.
To finish, the 300+ hours of trying to make your way from scratch is fun in itself. But becoming a billionaire weapons or meatsteak factory owner, flying around with your A-Class Battleship and fleet of crack-mercenaries, blowing the crap out of pirates and finally realising the empire that you have created; is truly the one of the greatest senses of achievement any game can ever deliver.
Superb, an absolute marvel and a benchmark for any game to ever be made for PC. I recommend downloading the patch off of the official website, but after that, "Say goodbye to social life and/or sleep".
I write reviews for a clan gaming website (opening april9), check it out here: www.crystalinferno.com