It starts very slowly and has a steep learning curve, but if you're patient enough to stick with it, you'll probably find that X2 is a diamond in the rough.
Space simulations have done so poorly commercially over the past five years that the genre has almost completely vanished. The trend began when large publishers EA and LucasArts abandoned their respective Wing Commander and Star Wars space sim franchises, and it accelerated when even acclaimed titles, like FreeSpace 2, were unable to attract a significant commercial market. During the past year, Microsoft released Freelancer, which a hybrid action space sim with a storied and protracted development. Aside from this offering, the genre has essentially been handed over to small, mostly European, developers. X2: The Threat is the latest space sim to be developed by a small European developer, and like its recent peers, it's an extremely ambitious but not very accessible game. It starts very slowly and has a steep learning curve, but if you're patient enough to stick with it, you'll probably find that X2 is a diamond in the rough.
The scope of X2 is quite immense. Like Privateer or Elite, it's an open-ended space simulation that gives you the freedom to trade goods, hunt pirates, loot transports, mine asteroids, escort dignitaries, or just freely explore an expansive gaming universe. X2 is even more ambitious than any of those games, since it's also a respectable strategy offering that allows you to build factories, control capital ships, and ultimately assemble a fleet to dominate territory and influence economic markets. It's also set in a relatively dynamic universe that is controlled by six different races who are all threatened by an ominous newcomer. As you develop your own economic empire and military force, you have to learn how to effectively manage and defend your dispersed assets. Even more impressively, just about everything works as intended, so, as a result, X2 is one of the most involved space simulations ever.
However, the cost of this depth is apparently polish, since many aspects of X2 feel amateurish or just don't work as well as they do in other space sims. X2 may have the worst cinematics and egregiously paced dialogue that the genre has ever seen. X2 is the sequel to X: Beyond the Frontier, which received such poor distribution in North America that its more impressive Xtension upgrade was never released on this side of the Atlantic. Most of the notable additions introduced by Xtension, such as being able to control carriers, have been incorporated into X2. Unlike other games of the genre, however, the X games haven't featured an involving overall plot, and developer Egosoft has tried to remedy that omission in X2 by including a handful of scripted missions and cinematics. Unfortunately, the cinematics have a terribly mistimed cadence, primitive animation, juvenile dialogue, and a viewing perspective that annoyingly tends to bob around. Sometimes even a badly executed storyline can add purpose or interest to gameplay, but the inclusion of X2's storyline sequences is a major misstep, and the development resources it received would have been better spent elsewhere. Fortunately, when judged as a "sandbox" game, X2 is much more rewarding.
The spaceflight engine is also a bit clunky. Unlike the Independence War games, the physics system doesn't meaningfully incorporate inertia, so you don't get much sense of motion. Even worse, the controls are finicky, thus making it difficult to aim precisely. That's less of an encumbrance than you'd expect, since success in combat is far less dependent upon twitch skills than it is upon having the right shields and weaponry. Combat AI is rudimentary, as computer-controlled ships seem to almost turn randomly in search of opponents, and collisions are extremely frequent. The engine feels unrefined, and the battles are simplistic, especially when compared to mission-based space sims like Freespace 2. So, to enjoy X2 you have to truly appreciate its economic and strategic aspects.