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Genre: Action/Adventure


Xbox Review - 'XIII'

by Jordan Van Nest on Jan. 27, 2004 @ 12:51 a.m. PST

Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: November 24, 2003

Buy 'XIII': Xbox | GameCube | PC | PlayStation 2

We all love comic books. There exists inside everyone a sort of fantasy, or mystical feeling surrounding the very genre. The feeling of reading a good comic is unlike any other, but has always remained inside the old dusty comic books of old. Until now. Combining technology and sheer courage, Ubisoft set out to create the first ever Cell-shaded first person shooter. It was without question, an enormous task. As production progressed, a huge amount of hype was created surrounding the game. Everyone was wondering the same thing. Could Ubisoft pull it off? Could they really create an interactive comic book? Many however, were skeptical. Some said that the concept was just not possible. Others, that gameplay would have to be sacrificed. Despite these opinionated attacks, Ubisoft pressed on and finally unveiled what they had worked so hard on. XIII. As a wave of tension hung in the air, the developers all held their breath, eager to know what would happen next…

I must admit, at first I was skeptical. I didn't think this game had any chance of accomplishing anything close to what it hoped to. With an idea as abstract as this, I knew the developers were truly up against the odds. I came into this game expecting a low-budget, faulty, utter failure. I came away with a sense of awe. And complete shock. All of my previous thoughts and skeptical opinions were thrown out the window in the first 10 minutes of play. I immediately realized that this wasn't just another failed game. This wasn't even a mediocre one. I realized that this was one of the best unique games I had ever played.

You are Steve Rowland, a mysterious man who awakens on a beach with a bullet wound and a serious case of amnesia. The only clue as to why you're there and what happened, is an old bank key you find in your pocket. Little do you know that with the turn of a key, your life can change forever. As you progress through the story, you will slowly begin to recover your memory. As you see key places and hear key words, you will experience flash backs and slowly begin to understand what exactly is going on. All in all, I thought the storyline was excellent. I thought it was very original, and had many plot twists which I really enjoyed. As the game progresses, you find yourself in the middle of a government conspiracy, and it only gets better from there. Another thing I really liked about the storyline was that the action gets started off right from the beginning. No sooner are you up onto your feet, wondering where you are, when a helicopter roars over a nearby house and sets its sights on you. From there you're on your own, as you must escape your assailants and figure out what is going on!

Looking at this game for the first time, I wasn't really expecting much in the gameplay department. What I found, totally blew me away. I noticed it right from the start. On the main menu, I was pleased to discover that the whole thing was designed to look like a comic book! The different menus, options, etc were all in a comic-book-like format, which immediately silenced my doubting mind. Maybe this game had a chance after all. After being intrigued by the opening scene, I was quickly jolted into the action as I tried to escape from a mob of hitmen trying to kill me. After playing this game, there are so many features that I found to be great.

For one, the entire game is designed to be one big comic book. So naturally there is a lot of meshing the concept of video games and comics together. As much of a challenge as this may have been, the developers definitely succeeded. In many different ways they were able to mix these two ideas together. For instance, many times when you kill an enemy, a few comic book pictures will appear at the top of the screen, showing a detailed zoom in of your work. This, mixed with the other events occurring at the same time, makes for an extremely realistic comic book simulation. Along your journey, you will have control of many weapons, and many gadgets.

As you progress through the levels, you will be awarded with bigger and better weapons. I really enjoyed this sort of structure. I thought it was somewhat like an award for completing each level. Speaking of levels, the variety of different landscapes was incredible. Each new level brings a new and unique setting to the table. You are constantly trying to guess where you're going to end up next. Your adventure will take you everywhere from a mental hospital to a secret military base in the mountains- and everything in between. This was one of the features I really liked about the game. An exciting mix of locales, put together with an excellent storyline is a true formula for success.

Another element of this game that I thought was a great addition was the use of flashbacks. At certain points in the game, your character will hear or see a certain thing that reminds him of something that happened a long time ago. When this happens, you will suddenly flash back to a black and white world, where you will relieve a moment as you remember it. This is very cool, since you still get to control your character, so you are basically living your flashback. I thought the flashbacks were very well done, and were placed in all of the right places to achieve the perfect effect. I also thought they really helped the story along, and clarified a lot of confusing points. I really did not have any problems with the gameplay.

The controls were all very easy, and everything seemed smooth and perfectly done. Another one of the great elements of this game was that there is almost no repetitiveness. I loved the fact that everything is put together in such a way that new material is introduced each level. Each situation is different, and unique from any other. This is definitely a big plus when talking about any game, since no one likes a repetitive game. I was overjoyed to discover that this game was not just like many other FPSes with constantly repeating material. Not only is this game not repetitive, but I believe it has a fair amount of replayability as well. With 3 different difficulty levels, true fans will definitely find themselves beating this game over and over. I believe that this game is enjoyable enough to play many times through.

From the very start, everyone knew that the big issue with this game was graphics. Everyone wondered if the overall feel would be right, and if it would all really seem like a comic book. Many wondered if the cell-shading technique could even work on a first person shooter. Well, I am here to tell you that not only can it work…but it did. Ubisoft did a tremendous job on creating the graphics for this game. You are literally sucked into the comic book world and in a way it becomes reality. This is truly an experience you can not miss out on. Everything in this game is textured very well, and it is obvious that much hard work was put into this one. Everything from gun animations to blood effects are incredible. The amount of detail in this game will blow you away. The issue of cell-shaded graphics is definitely hotly debated, but my opinion is that you can't afford to miss out on this game. It's just too beautiful!

I thought the sound in XIII was well done as well. The actors are all very good and add to the progressing storyline. And not only are the voices well recorded, but they're convincing too! This definitely does not hurt the experience.

It's not too often a game comes around that breathes new life into a genre. But I think that's just what XIII has done. With a little creativity and determination, Ubisoft has succeeded in creating an interactive comic book. My advice? Check this baby out immediately…it may just reawaken you to the world of comics.

Score : 8.5/10

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