XIII (GameCube) Review

By James Temperton 23.12.2003

Unless you have been living in a small hole in Iraq for the last few months you will know that XIII is a cel-shaded shooter from the lovely people at Ubi Soft. Whilst the title had a massive impact at the start of the year all has gone a bit muted as the title finds itself hidden under numerous better-promoted, higher profile titles. We have had plenty of time to work out just what this game is about and thankfully that means we have a massive review for you to digest. Read on for enlightenment of the highest degree...

XIII (that's thirteen) is based on some Franco/Belgian comics that have been running for quite some time now. They are massively popular on the continent, the only reason we haven't been ploughing through them is that they are written in French, and to say our understanding of the language is limited would be kind. Still, you don't need to know French to make some connections here. Being a comic book Ubi Soft have taken inspiration with them to the game and spread the virus that is cel-shading. No genre seems to be safe from what is still the 'in' thing for any game that wants to get heads turning. But to say that XIII is a one trick pony is immensely unfair; this is a game with many fine attributes. The unique look of the cel-shaded graphics is just the start of what is a very complex and well-developed package.

We'll start off with the games best feature. The 'Sixth Sense' is a simple concept that gives you the ability to visualise enemy footsteps as they move towards or away from you. This brings a wonderful element of stealth to the title. You can hide behind a screen or something to that effect and watch the footsteps move towards you. Picking the perfect moment allows for any danger to be averted with great style and superb efficiency. But you don't just have to pop a bullet in the back of the guy's head; there are numerous different options. If trying to be stealthy to the extreme you have to make sure that everything you choose is quiet. So no rifles will work too well; the crossbow and silenced pistol are best allowing you to have one clean and deadly silent hit at the back of the unsuspecting head. As a nice alternative you could take the foe as a hostage. It's all about evaluating the situation and acting best to try and solve it.

Screenshot for XIII on GameCube

XIII is not as simple as we make out though. This game is rock hard and really pushes the gamer to the limits. But perhaps it pushes the limits just a bit too far at times, sadly there is a feeling that you are being mocked a bit here. The checkpoints at which you can save the game are spaced out very cruelly, meaning you have to get through masses of game before you are happy in the knowledge that what you have done is saved. And when you take into account that the game itself is a real challenge there will be more than one occasion where you find yourself replaying huge chunks of the game; annoying to say the least. XIII also has the habbit of letting you see the end of the level before making sure you get shot down with your toe just about to cross the line to safety. It may seem unfair but its just to make sure you don't get any easy rides. And just to further piss on the proverbial fire the developers have come to the odd decision to have no cut-scene skipping button. When you consider that this game is packed full of the things, having to sit through them more than once isn't that much fun at all.

Screenshot for XIII on GameCube

What we love most about XIII though is how openly violent it is! Generous splattering of claret and some lovely death animation all make for a disturbingly pleasing experience for those who crave games to be a bit bloody. Set someone on fire and you get to see them running about like a lunatic whilst a long stream of letters, 'Aaaaaagaggahahah' for example, stream out behind them. On the other hand you can abuse your surroundings if you feel like killing like a real 'bad man'. Guns are just too humane and clean, so why not grab a bottle and give it a good smash so that it has some nice sharp edges or perhaps a chair or even a broom. There are loads of things lying about that can be used as weapons and it is this depth that brings a smile to the face when playing XIII. This game is a real labour of love and the little touches make a big different to the overall enjoyment.

The normal armoury of weapons is pretty basic, but surprisingly this doesn't seem to be that much of a hindrance. Each killing-stick that has been put into this title is there for a reason. There are certain situations where you know that only a particular weapon will do the job so there simply is not the need for a vast array of big guns that do big flashy things. There are two major problems with an otherwise flawless system though. First up on our list of problems is the reloading feature, or to be more precise the total lack of it. There is no auto-reload here and it is immensely annoying. When in a heated battle with all guns blazing the last thing you want to hear is that dreaded 'click...click...click' that announces an empty magazine. Now we don't have a problem with that, reloading ourselves is fine, but the game takes so long to do it that by the time your ammo is full again your health is empty and its Game Over. A slightly smaller flaw with the system is the aiming. The cross-hair drifts all over the damn place making play very irritating at times. You get used to it after a bit of time playing but it makes it immensely unfair for people starting off and we can imagine it will put of gamers who are less persistent.

At times you will need to sneak about a building full of stark, very harsh-lined corridors. Using your 'Sixth Sense' to full effect and making best use of your super quiet movements you simply have to get through the level without getting noticed, or letting anyone see you kill anyone else. You have to hide corpses, hide any traces of you and make sure that you don't draw attention to any of your actions. But every Ying has its Yang. Just to make sure all tastes are catered for, XIII allows you to pick up a big RPG and blow enemies apart like blood-filled water-bombs. Fire of a shell from any of the bigger guns and you get a massive comic book 'BAOOM' racing across the screen and if you manage to hit your target a 'Nooooo' might be visible on the receiving end. What you have just seen is you killing someone who could be perfectly innocent, but all you can do is smirk and let out a little strand of laughter. If big guns don't appeal then there is also a wonderful Sniper system. You can stand a great distance away from your target, take out your Sniper, line up the aim and hit the git between the eyes, whilst he is blissfully unaware. The game makes sure that maximum satisfaction is gained by showing you a comic strip like replay across the screen. Style just pours out of this game and out of every kill that you make.

Screenshot for XIII on GameCube

The plot that drives the game is very well developed. Based on a massive set of comic books there is plenty of content to back it up and thus the game is full of interesting twists and turns as you move towards the final revelation. All you start off knowing is that the President of the USA has been assassinated and that you are being accused of it. All that you can remember is nothing and all that you have to go on is a tattoo you have which reads 'XIII'. It all moves along at quite a pace and allows you to enjoy one of the best game plots on next-gen formats. As the game progresses you find out more about whom you are through various mysterious flashbacks, where oddly you can move about...

Two final points to make sure we end on a high. For a good plot you have to have good voice acting, either that or gamers have to do lots of reading. Thankfully XIII has voice acting that rivals the masterful ED from Silicon Knights. You really get the idea that you are watching something that has a purpose beyond padding out the game. Outside of the speaking there is a marvellous retro sound track that will have you tapping your foot to the various beats and bops of a very stylish score. So what have we missed out? Why it's the multi-player of course! XIII sports a sublime four-player system that is perhaps one of the best FPS multi-player options on the GameCube. The arenas are small but very well designed and contain loads of weapons pick-ups that allow for frantic and very entertaining battles. There are various modes you can have a go on with your mates and they will keep anyone entertained for a few months alone.

Screenshot for XIII on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

XIII certainly doesn't let you down. Whilst Ubi Soft has failed to do too much revolutionary with this title everything they have made is done with to an excellent quality and with great style. A mix of excessive violence and so much style we are sure it's morally wrong. This is a feast for any FPS fan, or indeed anyone who likes fun, superbly made games. Top stuff.

Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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