From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett (opens in new tab) wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random games back into the light. This week, does The X-Files really need an introduction? I don’t think so. 

Despite its success on the small screen, The X-Files landed before ‘transmedia’ was a word, never mind a word that people in suits could say with a straight face, and so saw limited spin-offs. There were movies of course, some books, a couple more shows and other such things. As far as games went though, despite the obvious adventuring potential, we only ever saw two—this one, done interactive movie style over a whopping seven CDs, and a Resident Evil type affair on PlayStation 2. Did it live up to the legacy of the show? At the very least, they probably figured out the entire story before they started shooting…

“An interactive movie that runs on Windows 7? Aliens, Scully. Aliens.”

The opening sets the scene in more ways than one, with FBI agents Mulder and Scully, you guessed it, investigating an empty, mysterious warehouse. Both have the look of actors there to fulfill contractual obligations rather than act, with any witty repartee or basic explaining of what the hell they’re doing replaced with absolute silence. (I would not be shocked if this was just stock footage from the show with the voice track sliced off, but I don’t know it well enough to say for sure.) 

Either way, the sudden arrival of Bad Men With Guns and a big flash of light end the intro, and officially hand the torch over to our actual hero, much cheaper FBI agent Craig Willmore, pictured here:

I kid, I kid. But not really. Willmore doesn’t exactly get off on the right foot here, thanks to a mix of classic interactive movie style acting—record yourself, on your own, saying lines like “But I put the keys on the table!” if you’re not sure what that’s like—and an awful first puzzle in which you have to figure out your own computer password. Your own. Computer password. 

This is how The X-Files kicks off, with a hero who apparently Trusts No-One to the point of calling the Men In Black to neuralise him at the end of every shift. He also has a computer screensaver made up of floating FBI badges, handcuffs and pistols. And when you use his desk’s tape dispenser, he stoically reaches over to it, carefully takes a piece off… and then sticks it on his nose for a few seconds until he gets bored.

Craig Willmore, a man who has to drink 10 cups of coffee a day to stay awake in his own presence.

Craig Willmore, a man who has to drink 10 cups of coffee a day to stay awake in his own presence.

Oh, Craig, Craig, Craig. The game’s barely started, and already I suspect his entire life is the fantasy of a small child in the FBI creche. Still, the inclusion of scenes like this do hint that while The X-Files suffers from a lot of the classic interactive movie failings, it does have a fair amount more effort behind it than most. It’s pretty long for instance, and did some interesting things like having timers running during conversations, and pathing so that Willmore can approach his investigation and other characters in different ways, ultimately taking on the conspiracies in his stride or becoming a paranoid mess. This is a (cough) technology that the developers called “UberVariables”, which becomes slightly more understandable when you know that they were called “Hyperbole Studios”. Can’t argue there.

Incidentally, Willmore made such a splash in the X-Files universe that this is his wiki page (opens in new tab).

"Hello, Operator? No, I don't need anything. I just wanted to hear a friendly voice."

“Hello, Operator? No, I don’t need anything. I just wanted to hear a friendly voice.”

Anyway. The actual story kicks off when Captain Password is called into his boss’s office to meet with a big-wig from the FBI—Assistant Director Skinner, off the television. Skinner informs Willmore in about as many words that things are getting strange, they’re starting to worry, and that this could be a case for Mulder and Scully. But they’ve gone missing on assignment, so he’ll have to do. 

Willmore immediately asks if they’re romantically involved, and being told ‘no’, follows up with asking if they ever have been romantically involved. Skinner somehow manages to avoid beating him to death with his own fan-fiction, and lets him continue playing with the big-boys anyway. Unrelated, this is one of those games where the ‘talk’ verb is represented by a mouth. Why do I mention this?

Because this will never stop being a funny thing to do.

In other immature news, Willmore’s boss is called Armistead Shanks (opens in new tab). Naming an FBI agent after something written across so many toilets might seem like a mistake for serious investigations, but at least it means the Feds will always have something to go on.

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