XIII

XIII


Introduction

"You wake up on a beach without any recollection of who you are. Your only clues are the number 'XIII' tattooed on your collarbone and the key to a safety-deposit box in Winslow Bank, one of New York's most prestigious banks." Thirsty yet? Well, you should be, because XIII's storyline will totally blow you away! The first person shooter XIII or 'Thirteen' is based on the Belgian comic book series of the same name. The game covers the first 5 releases of the comic series. Based on the fact that there are fifteen comic books up to now, we expect 2 more games to follow. Even though XIII seems revolutionary due to its amazing cell shaded graphics, the gameplay itself doesn't really differentiate itself from the wide array of other first-person shooters on the shelves.

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As stated above, you wake up on a beach without any idea of how you got there or even who you are. The only mysterious clues to your identity are the number 'XIII' tattooed on your collarbone and a key to a safety-deposit box. Right at the start, you discover that the FBI claims you killed the president and they have photographic evidence of you standing in front of a window in a skyscraper with a sniper rifle at the crime scene. Deep in your soul, you know that you just couldn't have done such a thing, but then again, you might just be another psycho killer on a quest for 'acknowledgement'. Throughout the game, you discover you have the skills of a well trained soldier. The storyline seems very cliché, but let me convince you, it's not. The story unravels very slowly and has enough plot twists to leave you behind at your desk slobbering. UbiSoft thought of a great way to let you puzzle XIII's identity together; flashbacks, simple as that! Throughout the game you regularly get vague flashbacks that usually last about thirty seconds. We can not give any more information on the storyline as it would spoil your gaming experience.

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UbiSoft tried (and succeeded) to keep loyal to the comic book series, as well as for the graphic style as for the gameplay. For example, if you perform a head shot, three comic book-style panels slap on to the screen each time you land one. The cell-shaded graphics style really is revolutionary and it stops right there. Facial expressions - if there even are any - are just plain horrible. Even after a while of joyful gameplay, you start thinking that the dev team wanted their Saturday off by inserting the cell shaded graphics really quick and afterwards went into the backyard to play with their pogo sticks. As mentioned before, XIII doesn't distinguish itself from any other first person shooter. UbiSoft messed up one of the most important issues of a first person shooter, which is of course the weaponry. The weapons look like they have been directly adapted from a Tomb Raider game. Look at the next list of weapons and tell me which one you haven't seen in a Tomb Raider game: 9mm handgun, revolver, grenades, hunting gun, shotgun, Uzi, Kalash, assault rifle, sniper rifle, a Sub-Machinegun and a bazooka. Only the knives, harpoon guns and crossbows offer some variety in this cliché collection of weaponry.

Some major celebrities, like Eve and Adam West - who did a great job by the way - lend their voices to the characters in the game. You might recognize David Duchovny's voice in XIII's mumblings. Although you would consider this as a positive remark, it really isn't. It is normal for an amnesiac lead character to sound confused, but it sounds like Duchovny is just reading his lines off the autocue whilst half asleep. Beyond that, sound effects and the background music are quite good. The gunfire and explosions are satisfying without excelling, and the music fits the action pretty well. You can save anywhere, and as in most shooters, there's also a quick-save feature. But strangely, neither type of save method can actually be used to restore your exact position; a factor that can be really annoying. If you 'quicksave' and load, you find yourself at the previous auto-saved checkpoint. This can be really frustrating whilst playing stealthier levels. After a lot of complaints by fans who demanded a patch that would fix all this misery, the dev team replied, and I quote: "XIII is based on a sole checkpoint system."

XIII comes shipped with four disks. You can choose out of two install options: a minimum install option and a full install option. Minimum install leaves a bunch of files on the disk, but unlike the gamers' expectations, so does the full install option! Instead of putting the full game on your hard disk, it still leaves a great deal of files behind on the disks which causes annoying in-game CD-swaps.

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You might find yourself playing through some levels without even restarting at a checkpoint. That's because the 'easy' and 'normal' difficulty settings both are extremely easy comparing to other FPS games, but the last boss DOES offer some resistance. His aim is too perfect for mankind and he reloads in a split second and thus causes you to restart a certain number of times. But then there still is the 'realistic' difficulty setting for the die-hard-FPS-lovers which is really quite hard (You can compare this with Halo's 'Legendary' difficulty setting).

If you can't find enough satisfaction in the single-player mode, than UbiSoft also has an online multiplayer mode just for you. In multiplayer, there are 4 game-types to choose from, three of which are very popular and include: deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag. XIII also has a unique multiplayer game-type which is called sabotage. This is a class-based team game that has one team defending a series of checkpoints while the other is charged with blowing them up. The negative thing about the multiplayer mode is that one map only supports 6 players at a time, making it rather dull.

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Conclusion

Overall, XIII grabs you as a very different game to other FPSs. The revolutionary cell-shaded graphics really add something to the game, as does the brilliant storyline. On the downside, the voice of XIII is done very poorly, and on the whole the game can be a little cliché at times. However, we discovered very few annoying bugs. Given the extreme amount of competition in this genre, fans of first-person shooters may want to approach this one with caution.

Author
PCGS
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