Posted in: Game Reviews by Michael Durr on November 7th, 2004
With all of the grand first person shooters out there like Halo, Doom, Quake, & Unreal, many titles of the same genre tend to fall into a void. Titles like Po’ed, the Medal of Honor series & Blake Stone (yes I said it, Blake “I am a Wolf 3d clone” Stone!) tend to fall by the waste side. Another of those titles is XIII. Brilliant in concept, and gorgeous graphics make this title a must have for anybody who loves FPS (or even third person aficionados).
Based on a French comic book, the concept of the sto…y is this. You wake up on a desolate strip of a New England beach. The near-fatal impact of a bullet has left your head pounding, and your memory erased. What is more, the number “XIII” has been mysteriously tattooed on your chest, while your pocket holds a key to a New York City bank box. Head swimming in amnesia, you struggle to your feet only to encounter more assailants, intent on finishing the job. To your shock, you handle the hitmen with the killing skills of a professional – before heading to the bank in search of any shred of information about your lost identity and your involvement in the President’s murder.
Now from what I have seen so far in the gaming world, I am not that impressed by cell shading. I know it is the in thing; I know it gives games that cartoon feel. But for some reason, from what I’ve seen it is eh to me. I shudder at most of these titles because they like most gaming graphic trends (full motion video anyone), they seem to be used so much, that the next game you end up seeing it, becomes complete garbage and brings nothing new to the situation.
However, XIII is actually a gorgeous game. From the first few scenes to the game play itself, it stands out. It has such a comic book feel from the way cinema scenes are played out in a panel format to the AAHHHH or TAP, TAP, TAP of guards being displayed on your TV screen. The scenery is accurate and the people are well drawn. Now I will admit, some of the characters look a bit different. However, this is very much the style of the comic and doesn’t feel out of place. In addition, the graphics are smooth and move well (at least the PS2 version does, the X-Box version I have heard some stories here), so you never feel disjointed or apart from the action.
More often than not, background music is not something you care too much about in FPS. For most people’s concern it could be some guy in short pants yelling “You will die!” in a high pitched voice over and over again (might be an interesting idea for a horror FPS). But in XIII, you know it is there. Why? Because its jazz, and jazz man, is cool. But seriously; it is nice to jam to, and fits the mood incredibly well. The sound effects are top notch, all little movements of your enemies or other characters are well heard and help you plan accordingly. I mean up until this point, we assumed most of the characters in Shooters were about 35 with severe hearing problems. This is not the case. The character and you are thrown into a world that is abundant with sound, and you must use it or you will usually perish. All of the effects from vocal reactions of the guards to their own sounds of their feet hitting the floor is well done and appreciated.
Gameplay is always a touchy subject for console FPS enthusiasts. Mainly cause we really don’t get the whole keyboard and mouse combination that seems to be so essential for almost any shooter. But the system we do get is a favorable one even if it has its share of faults. Movement is handled by the analog sticks with the left being for walking around and the right working as your aiming and looking around. They work pretty well in unison as long as you can keep your hand steady.
Something about the analog sticks always remind me about Ikari Warriors, and I never did quite that well at that game. In addition to the analog sticks, your other buttons are for the most part well defined and easy to get too. Quick heal is actually assigned a button for once and will be used frequently. Your fire button is assigned to R1 which is fine and expected. My only minor complaint comes from where Jump and Crouch located at L1 and L2 respectively. Yes, it is common, but so are most pains in the ass. It is just difficult to quickly respond when using these particular buttons.
Correctly aiming and getting used to the controls can be a source of much pain. Sometimes XIII can be jittery and it is hard to aim, especially when your depth of weapons is limited at first and you are not sure what to use. But there are good things that they have created for helping you here. One, and familiar is the little icon that will appear over objects and people that tell you can do something. This includes breaking an object, opening locks & even taking hostages among others. This is all preformed by the action button when the icon appears. Sound also plays a part in gameplay since XIII has a sixth sense and can actually tell something is going to happen right before it does. Footsteps are also heard and can be traced to their source.
However, I must make mention of the difficulty level in this game. That’s the only reason this game gets what it does in gameplay rather than a higher score. It is insane. You have pretty much been dropped in hell and must fight your way out of it. From the onset, you only have limited weapons and basically just trying to fight to stay alive. Sometimes you can only grab a nearby chair to thwart your enemies. (that can be a cool thing too). Once you actually get enough weapons however, the enemies are so plentiful and the action so fierce that you feel against a wall constantly. Yes, this makes for some exciting gameplay, but you can only die so many times before you wonder if racquetball is a viable hobby.
Does replay exist in FPS? Well sometimes it does. Not really here for the most part, you do have some Multiplayer and Online modes to mess around with but nothing that comes close to the story mode. Split Screen in Multiplayer and Death Match modes are just a tad on the obnoxious side and never quite work right. Furthermore as with most, once you are done with story mode, you are done. Unless you want to play the other difficulty levels, from Easy to Normal Insanity to complete Ludicrous, there isn’t much to do. I suppose you could make up little games on the side involving stealth which is plentiful in spots.
So XIII, super spy, Bond clone with amnesia extraordinaire, is a fine fine play. It really takes something different for me not to get really bored of it or get some awful headaches. Fortunately for me, I am headache free and excited when playing this. The difficulty can throw you back on more than one occasion, but keep with it, and you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous graphics cell shading and the PS2 can provide for a first person shooter. A generous selection of weapons (once you actually find them), and well placed controls make that ever valuable head shot a reality. So wake up, shake the cobwebs away, and figure out the conspiracy of a lifetime in this great comic book fps. le bon jour et bon demain.