I’ll admit that I’m a huge fan of first-person-shooters. I will also admit that I was never a big fan of cel shaded graphics until I played a little game called Zelda: the Wind Waker that is. From my many wonderful hours with Zelda, I learned that cel shading could be used to produce some spectacular and amazing visuals that may not be possible using the standard “more realistic” graphics. While XIII may not be in the same league as Zelda in the graphics department, it does ooze with a style that fits the game to a tee. XIII is based on a popular French comic book series, and developer Ubisoft did a very nice job of bringing the comic book to life through the use of popup captions (sort of like the old Batman TV series) and comic panel montages that just drip with coolness. Unfortunately, while there’s more than enough style here, the gameplay is nothing any FPS fan hasn’t seen before.
In XIII, you play the role of XIII (yes, this is your character’s name, believe it or not) and you wake up on a beach suffering from a gunshot wound and amnesia. Fortunately for you, there’s a pretty lifeguard there who leads you off the beach and to the first aid station for some quick patching up. Unfortunately for her, she gets in the way of some bad guy’s bullets and you are on your own again. As the story progresses you find that you’re the prime suspect in the assassination of the President, and you get caught up in a huge conspiracy. Someone has photos showing you holding the gun that killed the president but you have no memory of doing it or why you would want to do such a thing in the first place. Are you guilty or where you framed? It’s up to you to find out.
The entire story of XIII is told through a series of well-produced cut scenes and black and white flashback segments. There have been many other games that have flashback sequences, but XIII’s are by far the coolest I’ve ever seen in any game. Why? Well, you can actually move around and interact with the people and objects during them.While they may be scripted, it’s a nice change of pace from the “sit back and watch” flashbacks that we’ve seen so many times in the past.
The gameplay in XIII can only be described as average at best. If you are familiar with the FPS genre at all then there is nothing that XIII can show you that you haven’t seen before. You will be finding keys to open doors, crouching to walk through unusually large air ducts in buildings, flipping switches and so on. You have the standard FPS weapons at your disposal such as the AK-47, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, crossbow and grenades along with a couple other old standbys. There are certain civilians that you can’t kill or you’ll fail the mission, so you have to use objects such as chairs and ashtrays to knock them out cold. Or you can use an innocent bystander as a human shield to escape from a room full of security guards who won’t shoot as long as you are behind your captive. The Gamecube version of the game doesn’t offer any online play although it does include a four-player split screen multiplayer mode for you and your friends to enjoy. Just as in the single player game, the multiplayer is straightforward and nothing we haven’t seen before.
XIII has a sports a distinct look, so don’t worry about it looking like a Disney cartoon with little brightly colored fairies floating around from daisy to daisy. No my friend, you can expect to see “manly” colors in this game with plenty of grays, browns and greens (and gallons of bright red pools of blood). The best way to describe XIII’s “look” is dark, grainy and very original. Like other cel shaded games you will either love the look or hate it. The character models all look like they are straight out of a comic book and other than some bad lip syncing they are very nicely represented. You just have to keep in mind that XIII is supposed to look unrealistic as everything has a black outline and is basic in colors and textures. Bump mapping? We don’t need no stinking bump mapping!
The music is well done but nothing to get excited about, and the weapons and explosions all sound as you would expect them to. The voice acting on the other hand ranges from “great” to “I could have done better myself.” The great work comes from the “great one” himself: Adam West, while the not so great stuff comes from David Dochovny (from the X-Files) who lends his voiceover “talent” to the character of XIII. West sounds natural and at ease with his speaking parts, while Dochovny and some of the other voice actors in the game sound like they are reading from a script that they’re having trouble focusing on. It makes me wonder why they didn’t bring in the big guns like William Shatner, Bruce Willis or even Adam Sandler to record the voice of XIII. I for one say we need a game with Adam Sandler doing the voiceovers; at least then the character would have some personality.
In the end, XIII is an enjoyable FPS, though it’s far from revolutionary for the genre. The cel shaded graphics just plain ooze style but don’t really add anything to the gameplay. And while the GameCube version can’t be faulted for a lack of online play, on other consoles the online multiplayer is just a rehash of what we’ve seen elswhere. As long as you aren’t expecting XIII to be a revolutionary first person shooter, you can enjoy it for what it is, and probably won’t be disappointed.
- Gameplay: 6.5
- Graphics: 6
- Sound: 7
- Replay: 5
- Overall: 7
- If you’re a fan of straightforward FPS action games and cel shaded graphics, your lucky number is XIII.
— Buzz Kilgore