XIII is one of those games that has been simmering in the hype section since E3. It is based on an ongoing French comic book and will be a pretty hard sell to the American public that has no idea what the comic book is like. I personally have had no experience with the comic book and I was at one time a pretty avid comic book reader and still keep up on what is going on in the world of comics. As XIII was being shown off in Europe it was obvious that they were hyping it quite a bit and it made a pretty big impression. The question is if the American public is going to be as excited about it. With this being a first-person shooter, can it make its own place among the top American games like Halo and the PC FPS games like DOOM, Quake, Half-Life and Unreal Tournament? Let’s see.

I like cel-shading quite a bit and this game is no different, although I think it is a bit too bright for its own good with the story that surrounds the game. I will say that I don’t think XIII is as good in the graphical department as some other cel-shaded games like Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker or even Jet Set Radio Future. The black borders on everything is just a little to thick for my liking, but overall the game is presented quite well.

Obviously what the cel-shading is trying to portray is that XIII started off as a French comic book and they want to transfer the “comic book feel” to the videogame. Taken from that perspective UbiSoft has done quite well, but it’ll tough for an American audience to get acclimated to the fact that this was a comic book before the videogame was even though of.

Other than the black border problem I have, I was also disappointed a bit by the level design and the characters and animation. The environments aren’t as vibrant as they could be. In fact, objects are very sparse in this game except for ones you can pick up and use as weapons for non-lethal fights. When characters talk their mouths don’t even move with the words. Granted, many games do this, but they aren’t necessarily as noticeable as this game is. The animation of enemies seems a bit stilted as well, there’s no dynamic way in how they move.

Overall the graphical package is ok, they just could have done so much more with the cel-shading like the games I said above.

This section is helped a lot by the voice talent surrounding this project. As stated above, David Duchovny plays the lead role and the other big name is Adam West, who plays General Covington. One does a good job and one does an ok job, but which is which? Adam West does the good job while David Duchovny almost seems to be just reading his lines like Fox Mulder would do his narration in X-Files. David’s done better work than this and it’s sad to see this quality of talent get squandered.

The music is also very good and doesn’t get irritating. The sound effects are great as well. When you bash a chair over someone’s head, it actually sounds like a chair being destroyed. The guns have nice sound effects as well and voices are directionally correct and you can tell where enemies are coming from with your speaker system. All around this section is top notch.

Think Halo in shooting controls, take away the somewhat pinpoint accuracy of aiming and you have XIII. It is the poor aiming control that brings this section down by quite a bit. The whole aiming control seems a bit cumbersome and it is obvious that the PC version of XIII would be the best one for aiming. The best shot in the game is the head shot, but it’s pretty hard to aim at the head and get a shot off before the enemy fires a couple rounds into you, you know?

I’m not necessarily fond of the other controls either, but you get used to them. A button is for jumping, Y button is for next weapon, B button is for inventory items and X is for grabbing/action and the black and white buttons are relegated to reloading. I’m not super fond of the Y or B button. You have to cycle through the weapons/inventory to get what you need. That’s all well and good, but what if you need a machine gun over a simple pistol and you’re facing an enemy straight ahead? You have to cycle through to get to the gun and by then they’ve fired a couple rounds into you.

This game simply has style and it’s that style that keeps it from being like every other first-peson shooter. XIII is about a man named appropriately enough XIII. He’s been set up by the Conspiracy (A group of 20 people, one of which is XIII…they go from I to XX in name) and has lost any memory of the events surrounding the assassination of President Sheridan. XIII is shot by The Mongoose (the Conspiracy’s hired hand to take care of XIII) on a boat and he falls off. He wakes up on a beach and is helped by a lifeguard. Of course the bad guys show up, kill the bodyguard and XIII is on his way to figure out what actually happened and why he doesn’t remember. Throughout the game XIII will be facing other people in the Conspiracy and putting the pieces together about what happened and ultimately take down I, the leader of the Conspiracy.

This game is only saved by its style. It is your basic run-of-the-mill FPS and does not push any boundaries like Halo or the DOOM, Quake, Half-Life or Unreal Tournament series have. Yes, it is cel-shaded, but that is because of the original material for the game being a French comic book. The game looks cool for a comic book, it’s just that it feels like you’re just going through the motions. Sure, the story is pretty cool, but I’ve seen a better conspiracy in other games like the original Deus Ex.

The reason this section is so short is because the gameplay is just so bland. I’ve played quite a few FPS games in my day and this one just doesn’t have very good enemy AI nor did I ever really feel any excitement in the game itself. I was pretty stoked with the story, but the game in itself is not that special. I think they squandered a lot of potential and could have had a Halo-like game here.

This game will take a bit to beat, but you may be so bored by the gameplay that you quit before you beat it. What this game does have is Live online play modes, but UbiSoft did things a bit screwy in this section. You see, the Xbox and PS2 versions have their own “special” online modes. This means that the 2 that are in the PS2 version (The Hunt and Power Up) are not present in this version and Sabotage is not present in the PS2 version. The funny thing is that the PC version contains all of the online modes, including the ones from both the PS2 and Xbox.

The game modes the Xbox version has is Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and the aforementioned Sabotage. Sabotage is a team game that has one team defending checkpoints and the other team trying to blow the checkpoints up. It’s a pretty fun game as are the usual FPS multiplayer modes above. This is no DOOM/Quake/Unreal Tournament though and there’s the whole problem of only being able to have 4 people playing at once. There are better Live games out there, but this does help the game have more value.