XIII Review

Review Format:

X Box

XIII, or thirteen for those of us who don’t know our Roman numerals (tut!), is the latest first-person-shooter from Ubi-Soft. There are literally hundreds of FPS games out there, so what makes this one so special? Well, quite a lot as it happens…

The game has adopted a cell-shaded, comic book style presentation. The graphics, cut-scenes and menus are highly stylised, offering a unique and refreshing take on the genre. Gunshots and explosions are accompanied with a visual BANG or WHACK on the screen, reminiscent of the old Batman TV series. Added to which is an intriguing story in the same vein as the blockbuster movies ‘Memento’ and ‘The Bourne Identity’

The story begins on a beach. You have no memory, someone is trying to kill you and there’s a XIII tattooed on your chest. Due to your severe concussion, a passer by offers her assistance. Before long the scene turns bloody, and you learn of your involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate the president.

The gameplay is a mixture of action, infiltration and sneaking about. You can either run into a room with guns blazing, or use stealth to pick off the enemies one by one. Different situations are best suited to different tactics, and you will soon instinctively learn which will be more effective.

There are 15 weapons available, including knifes, guns, rocket launchers and grenades. Some weapons also have a second function, such as using the end of your gun to hit people with. Certain situations require you to incapacitate the enemy without killing them. Therefore it is best to render them unconscious with the nearest chair, shovel or ashtray. Many items can be interacted with, which come in handy when you are short on ammo. You can even use an enemy as a human shield. As long as your enemies can’t get a clear shot of you, they will hold their fire. Gadgets such as grappling hooks and lock picks are available to help you reach new areas.

Armour is available which will increase protection to whichever body part it is covering. As a single headshot can kill instantly, the importance of finding a helmet cannot be understated. Body armour is also essential in the line of heavy gunfire.

Skills can be developed over the course of the game that increase your abilities and heighten your senses. One nice feature allows you to visually follow the sound of your enemies’ footsteps, to tell whether they are getting closer or further away. Other skills include the ability to stabilise your aim while using a sniper gun, and being able to pick locks at twice the speed.

‘The X-Files’ star David Duchovny lends his voice to the game, playing the role of the main character. The soundtrack adapts to match the game play. Get spotted by a patrolling guard and the music will become increasingly dramatic. This helps build the atmosphere, adding urgency to the situation.

XIII has some great visual touches to complement its graphic style. Multiple comic-style windows appear within the game to display off camera events, and offer replays of particularly impressive deaths. Flashbacks help evolve the story in a unique way. There are also a lot of surprises hidden throughout the game, so it’s worth exploring everywhere. It’s definitely worth taking a closer look at a terrorist-built snowman, if you come across it!

Added to the single player game are a variety of multiplayer options. Up to four players can take part in a standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes. Also included is Sabotage, where the players are split into two teams. Each player has different skills, and each team a different objective. One side must attempt to blow up all the checkpoints, while the other must try to defend them. You can also connect two X Box’s for the ultimate multiplayer experience. If you are lucky enough to have X Box Live, you can also play any of the above games with players around the World.

My only minor complaint is that the ‘Save Game’ option is a bit misleading. While you can save at any point during the game, it only actually records your progress up till the last level or checkpoint reached. This means you may have to retrace your steps, and repeat certain objectives. This is no real problem though; as XIII is a game you won’t mind playing again.

XIII truly is an innovative game, combining varied gameplay with an engrossing storyline. Its unique style sets it apart from all other first-person-shooters on the market. Based on the first five XIII comics, the game plays out like a big budget Hollywood Movie. With fantastic single and multiplayer options, Ubi-Soft has created a fresh, well-balanced, and thoroughly enjoyable experience that should be a pivotal part of every serious gamers collection.

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