XIII Review

Everyone has met someone like this. You know the type, beautiful on the outside but not so cool once you get to know them better. So you try and overlook some of the flaws because they’re just so darn cute. You figure that maybe you can live with the problems and, heck, maybe they’ll even grow on you. But sooner or later it catches up with you and you realize that you need something more, something with more substance. After all, good looks and a unique style can only get you so far in life. So you vow to yourself that next time you’ll be smarter and won’t judge someone just on looks. What does all of this have to do with video games? Nothing really, I’m just letting off some steam from a recent breakup. But seeing how that isn’t my job I suppose I should incorporate my little rant into this review somehow. Oh, I know how. OK, this new game called XIII by UbiSoft for the PS2 has been getting a lot of press and buzz because it’s the first cel-shaded first-person shooter. Sure it looks interesting but how does it play? Is she, uh I mean, is XIII all looks and no substance? Let’s see…

Is this what they mean by cartoon violence?.

XIII (or for those among you that don’t like the Romans, 13) is based on a French graphic novel. UbiSoft has gone to great lengths to bring the very unique style of the comic book to the game. By using cel-shaded graphics XIII certainly does look different than any other first-person shooter out there and since the game is based on a comic book it makes a lot of sense to have gone in this direction. This stylish look has been what has given XIII most of its press and we’ll go more into detail about it later. But first, a little about the story.

You start off the game with a nicely done little cut-scene that, unfortunately, shows the President of the United States being assassinated in a very John F. Kennedy like fashion. That is about as somber as a beginning to any game that I can recall. Right after this intro the game starts with you waking up with gunshot wounds on an unknown beach with a Baywatch type lifeguard coming to your rescue. Turns out that was a big mistake on her part as she makes a rather unpleasant exit from the game moments later. From this point on you try and piece together many puzzles like remembering who you are, why you have “XIII” tattooed on your chest, why everyone seems to want to kill you, and did you actually shot the President. Lots of questions and not a lot of people wanting to help you answer them, with the possible exception of two people which we’ll talk about in a moment.

As you go through the game you find out what has happened in your past through flashback scenes. Some of these do help answer your questions while others are just confusing or lead to more questions. One of the stronger points of XIII is this story. The way that it unfolds and the number of twists in the plot make you want to keep playing so you can find out what is really going on. It is also interesting that one way the game gives you better fighting abilities is that your suddenly “remember” how to do something. For example you may find a dossier about yourself and through it remember a lost skill. Helping you along the game are the two previously mentioned people. One is General Carrington who believes you are innocent and the other is a lady only known as Jones. But even these two may have their own agendas as you soon discover.