Cel shading has recently become more popular. We have seen it in racing games (Auto Modellista), platform games (Jet Set Radio Future), and fighting games (Dragonball ZBudokai 2, TMNT). However, the FPS genre hasn’t been done in this style, until now.
XIII puts you in the middle of a conundrum, waking up not knowing where you are, or who you are. Based on a popular European comic book, the cel shading fits the game well. Can the style and the story make an interesting game?
As previously mentioned, XIII uses cel shading for its graphics, because of its comic roots. The comic book theme is used throughout the entire game. Menus are presented in comic frames. The start of a menu shows the initial screen through several frames. Once you start moving, your character “zooms” into one of the frames.
The cel shading is a neat effect and really sets the tone for the rest of the game. However, there are still some problems with the graphics. The polygon count is relatively low. I’m not sure if this is a limitation of the PS2 or with the engine, but when you see a “peak” in the head of one of the characters, that’s usually a bad sign.
The textures of the game aren’t bad, but a lot of them look fairly bland. They are also repeated throughout the level, making each level look the same throughout. A little more variety would have been appreciated.
Ubisoft got some great voice acting for XIII. Two of the most notable are David Duchovny and Adam West (cue “Batman” music). Hearing real voice actors instead of generic voices for the leading roles is a huge improvement in the gaming world.
While in the game, characters will have conversations that will give you a clue as to where they are. They are not as funny as the ones in No One Lives Forever, but it does give the game a bit more personality.
The sound effects are handled effectively. The weapons sound realistic, as do the sounds of a chair or box breaking.
The music of the game does its job of staying in the background but never gets so annoying. It’s nothing that you will be humming later, but it’s not annoying that you will want to turn it off in the options menu.
While consoles aren’t as elegant at FPS games as PCs are, the console pad can still be used effectively. The sticks control movement and looking, while the movement pad controls inventory. The shoulder buttons jump, crouch, and fire weapons, and the face buttons control action, weapon, and the quick heal.
While the buttons are laid out effectively, the problem with the controls lies in the sticks. XIII never seems to walk or run very fast, even with the stick pushed all the way. Also, the look feature doesn’t seem to be sensitive enough. Trying to use the scope on the sniper rifle or crossbow can be frustrating. Pushing the stick gently doesn’t result in any movement. Once contact with the movement point is made, the movement goes too quickly to be effective. Changing the sensitivity settings didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Even firing with the assault rifle can be frustrating. The reticule never seems to get steady, even before lining up your shot. The aim feels very loose. It’s understandable for the aim to be a little off while firing, but even before firing, the aim never seems steady.
The game’s story seems to take ideas from several sources. You start off on the beach rescued by a lifeguard (Baywatch), with no memory of who you are (The Bourne Identity). You have possibly killed the President, so the government is after you, but a few friends on the inside are helping you (I’m sure that you can think of several movies with this plot).
The game does take place in a few unusual locations, such as a bank. However, some typical genre locations are still used (ice level, abandoned warehouse). At least there is some variety, but more would have been appreciated.
The conversations between enemies are nice, but the M-rating is well deserved. Some strong language is used, but it’s largely unnecessary. Unfortunately, the intelligence of the enemies isn’t as colorful. Sometimes they will get caught into a door or a wall next to a door. The “TAP TAP TAP” you see as a part of XIII’s sixth sense will continually stay at one place.
Yes, XIII has a sixth sense. It allows him to see where danger is coming from. Staying with the comic book theme, XIII “sees” danger by seeing the words “TAP TAP TAP” coming from the footsteps of the approaching enemies. The “TAP” graphics match the comic book feel, and this feature does help shoot your enemy before he shoots you.
The game does include some interesting tools, such as a grappling hook. XIII also has an inventory system. When picking up a med pack, it goes to the inventory, so it doesn’t need to be used right away. It’s a nice feature that should be employed more often.
The largest fault of the game is the save system. Saving can be done at any point in the level, but restoring the game results in going back to the beginning of the level. Some of the levels have checkpoints, but they are few and far between. It’s frustrating when the end of the level is in sight, but you are shot down and have to start the entire level again. If Halo did this better two years ago, then more recent games like XIII have no excuse with the checkpoint system. It’s disappointing to see what would be an otherwise enjoyable experience hampered by a lack of checkpoints.
While the game does follow a story, sometimes you wonder why you are doing what you are doing. Going to some remote ice-covered mountain bunker was never explained adequately. While some levels contain cut scenes between them, they don’t explain as much as they should.XIII does contain a few multiplayer modes. Split-screen play is available, and is available for all multiplayer game modes. The modes available are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (offline split-screen only), Power Up, and The Hunt (offline split-screen only). Power Up is a variant of Deathmatch in that the better a player is, the weaker the power ups found are. The Hunt has you and your opponent chase a target. The more damage done to the target, the smaller the target gets. While it is nice to have these options, Capture the Flag should really be available online. I don’t believe that these modes have much longevity for playing online, especially with games like SOCOM II available for the PS2.