Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Ubi Soft
Release Date: October 14, 2003
Nearly everyone in the civilized world knows what a comic book is, and more often than not also knows that comic books are a vastly different form of expression than media such as movies and literature. There are a handful of games that try to feel or look like comic books, like Freedom Force and the more recent The Hulk, but XIII tops them all in both its presentation and implementation. In addition to compelling and consistent gameplay, XIII also brings a few fresh ideas to the FPS market.
XIII's story is a classic tale of a man's lapse into amnesia after events that he may or may not have taken part in, involving a person he may or may not be. After being found unconscious on a beach and brought to a beachside lifeguard station, the man finds that though he has lost his memory, his past is still ruthlessly chasing him. Just after the kind lifeguard helps the man back to consciousness, gunfire erupts, killing the lifeguard and forcing the man into battle for reasons he cannot remember or understand.
The preview build we received had a handful of levels to give a taste of what the final product will contain, and after playing through them all, there is no doubt that the game is on track to be the suave and stylish FPS that is has been hyped to be. The entire game is cel shaded, but with a higher detail level than the industry standard. Shadows are not only cast onto the ground but also over parts of the body, and it looks absolutely great in action. Everything in the game has a comic book feel to it, from the appearance of the characters and environments to the cut scenes and beginnings of levels, which have panes bordered by white bars with a snippet of what your goal is.
XIII's gameplay does not hide behind its pretty face, but rather takes center stage with gameplay that feels a little freer than standard FPS fare. As you work your way through the levels, picking off bad guys with scoped crossbows and using gadgets to rappel from exploding ski lifts, you can also use everyday objects as weapons. Say you see a guard standing next to a window, oblivious to your presence. You could sneak up to a nearby desk, grab a chair, and bust it over his head. This isn’t a one-trick pony by any means though; in addition to chairs, you can use shards of glass, shovels, and other implements of improvised warfare to dispatch your enemies. This can also serve as a tactical advantage, since chucking a shard of glass into an enemy jugular is much quieter than gunning him down with an assault rifle.
The conventional weapons aren’t quite as much fun but they have a few tricks of their own. To reach out and touch a distant someone, the scoped crossbow can kill a man in one shot. If you shoot them in the head, you get three small panes in comic book fashion showing a frame-by-frame recap of the bolt entering the poor fellow's skull. You can also use the bread and butter weapons such as assault rifles, uzis, pistols, magnums, and shotguns, which don’t act any differently than one would expect but are still useful in their own right.
In addition to the fancy gameplay, XIII seems to have a bit more class than other FPSs and isn’t just simply a game about running around and killing people. While it does contain that element, the music, storyline, and overall feel of the game make XIII about as suave as a jazz concert. This is not to say that the game doesn't have moments where it can get very hardcore, but while you can get killed, you always feel like you are just too smooth to die. The release date for XIII is creeping up, and if the finished product is anything like the preview build, gamers near and far will find that XIII is a breath of fresh air into a genre that can get stale all too quickly.
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