December 29, 2003

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/xiii/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Ubi Soft has done it again. It ceases to amaze me that Ubi Soft has added yet another groundbreaking video game to their Hall of Fame. With the making of Splinter Cell it was a graphics breakthrough that most could not comprehend. Many people said that it could not be topped by any game in the near future and boy were they wrong. Ubi Soft continues to craft games with elegance and creativity that no other developer can compete with. XIII is one of those games that will stand above the rest with a new style of graphics, the cell shaded beauty. Being an FPS fan that I am, it was a given for me to try out XIII. But what reeled me into the essence of this game was the colorful and old school comic book style of the game. Unfortunately, all games have their flaws and this one is no exception.

As the story goes, The President of the United States has been assassinated, and you wake up wounded with a real bad case of amnesia. The only clues to your identity are the number XIII tattooed on you and a key. All of sudden you are accused of assassinating the President and are out to find out who you are and to prove your innocence. The games story really reminds of a mix of a couple of films. A little bit of Bourne Identity mixed with a bit of JFK, with a hint of In the Line of Fire. For the most part I found the story to be quite unique with the conspiracy twist to it. The people you must investigate are the same people you are running from. A killer named Mongoose is also among many who are after you, and until you are dead he will not stop. If you’re thinking to yourself that there are no allies, don’t fret. You are guided by a fellow operative, Jones, and General Carrington. You will be given instructions, hints, guides, weapons and many other important clues that will aide your missions. Along the way your memory will slowly come back as you see familiar places, faces, and voices.

When playing FPS games on PC, it is imperative to customize your keyboard and mouse to the proper commands to achieve maximum performance during gameplay. In my case changing weapons must be very accessible and action buttons must have smooth transitions. XIII gives you the option to customize your controls to your specific needs. Therefore I had no problems with controls during gameplay. The speed rate of FPS games is also something that is extremely important. XIII speed is just right, not fast and not to slow.

[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/xiii/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Remember the old Batman episodes when Batman and Robin were in heated battles, and every time they would punch someone this huge flash with big bold letters would fill the screen saying BOOM, CRASH, BAAM, etc? Well XIII provides that effect when shooting or blowing something up. The good thing is it doesn’t fill your screen, but there are some cool cutaway effects when you snipe your enemy from far away. Cut scenes were executed in a comic book fashion along with dialogue and external sounds. For example, when hiding behind a wall, you can hear and see the taps of your enemy’s footsteps. This gives you an advantage when striking at the precise moment. XIII also provides interactive environments, which mean you can use chairs, bottles, shovels, and pretty much anything you can get your hands on to take the enemy out. I would have to say the graphics in this game is one of a kind. The cell shaded aspect brings the new look for gaming to a whole new level.

The soundtrack to XIII is also very unique in itself. With a retro, “Shaft” groove, I thought it to fit perfectly with feel of the game. Also all the sound effects of the weapons, environments, and voice overs were very well recorded. Speaking of which, Adam West, the original Batman, was used for the voice over of General Carrington in XIII.

It is unfortunate that XIII did not have a solid single player mode, and I am not talking about the storyline either. I’m talking about the redundancy of the missions. After about four levels, it was pretty much the same thing over and over again. It was dull to see that there was no stealth involved and no real objectives except shooting your way through a level. The redeeming aspect is that the multiplayer is loads of fun in XIII, there are several different modes you can choose from. Sabotage gives players from each team a specific skill and they must execute it in the time allotted. Then there is your classic deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. If you want to play on your own you can play the bot challenge, and set the bots to a certain difficulty.

[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/xiii/ss06_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]XIII is spectacular graphically, but is an average shoot’em up game when it comes to the single player campaign. If you enjoy playing online, then I most definitely encourage you to buy this game. XIII gives the gamer a quick dose of a good shooter, then fails to finalize with a solid ending. Overall XIII is a game that can definitely be worth waiting for, and it’s not a game that would be top five on your Christmas list.