Today’s your unlucky day. Review

Ben Silverman
XIII Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • N/A

Publisher

  • Feral Interactive
  • Ubisoft

Developer

  • Ubisoft

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • Mac
  • PC
  • PS2
  • Xbox

rating

Today’s your unlucky day.

Ever wonder why 13 is considered an unlucky number? While those under 20 will

swear it’s all because of Jason Voorhies, he’s actually the wrong guy to blame.

The right guy, it turns out, is Judas, the betrayer of Jesus at the Last Supper.

When Judas sat down at the table it became a party of 13, thus the number became

synonymous with evil. And did I mention the holy carpenter was crucified on a

Friday? Chalk another one up for the Christians.

“But

wait,” scream the Viking

readers, “we’ve been scared of 13 for longer than that!” And it’s true. In Norse

mythology (which pre-dates Christianity), those lovable barbarians in funny

hats were scared of 13 because of a story about a banquet in Valhalla

for 12 gods. Loki,

god of strife and party-crashing, indeed crashed the party and wound up killing

Balder,

perhaps the nicest of the gods. Yep, Loki was the 13th god there. Coincidence?

We’ll have to ask Odin.

In many other cultures, however, 13 is actually considered a good, happy,

sexy number, like a 7 with more curves. Buddhists pay homage to 13

buddhas
and the Mayans worshipped 13 upper gods. Jewish boys enjoy their

coming-of-age Bar

Mitzvah
when they turn 13. And I swear I twice nailed 13 on a roulette

table at Harrah’s in Tahoe.

Well, add the French to that list of those who embrace 13, because that’s

where Ubisoft’s new game, XIII, comes from. Unlike the relatively

unheard of comic book series, this first-person shooter has enjoyed a wealth

of hype thanks to its slick graphical style. The final result is

admittedly pretty, yet ultimately, a boring experience.

You play as a tortured soul codenamed XIII, who may or may

not have been the trigger man in a shady conspiracy to kill the president. You’re

not entirely sure who you are, but everyone else seems to have one idea or another,

and from there the story unfolds into a complex web of undercover double-crosses

and two-faced counter-betrayals. Or something.

The story is actually a good one and carries the single-player game well,

but the big selling point of XIII is its cel-shaded comic book

graphical style. It’s presented much like a graphic novel, with lots of paneled

cut scenes to move it along. The in-game visuals are a treat, complete with

pop-up Batman

exclamations
like BANG and WHOOSH for explosions and the classic AARGH!

when an enemy dies. The models are a little simplistic and the lip-synching

is off, but the colors are bright and exciting and the textures aren’t half

bad, though the game is clearly most comfortable on the Xbox while the PS2 is

a bit blurrier.

The audio features a star-studded voice-talent lineup, including conspiracy

theorist David Duchovny as XIII, hip hop starlet Eve as your

helper bee and the caped crusader himself, Adam West, as a general. They all

do a good enough job and a nice jazzy score helps set the spy mood.

It’s too bad XIII‘s linear single-player game isn’t nearly

as thrilling as the delivery. You basically go from mission to mission shooting

bad guys in very typical first-person fashion using a standard assortment of

weaponry. Pistols, a sniper rifle, assault rifle, machine gun, rocket launcher

– staples of the trade, but none of which pack much visceral punch. The crossbow

is probably the best of the bunch because of a cool little paneled sequence

that triggers when you successfully snipe a guy with it.

But by

and large, you won’t need to stay very far back from your enemies because they’re

pretty dumb. They’ll occasionally roll out of the way, but they rarely seek

cover and never exhibit any interesting strategies beyond standing there and shooting

at you. They also tend to pop up from out of nowhere since the game is so tightly

scripted; you’ll think you’re in the clear when you push a button, and suddenly

three guys come running up behind you from out of thin air.

Even so, XIII is quite easy thanks to solid control and an

abundance of armor, medkits and ammo. You’ll rarely find yourself in much trouble,

aside from some of the missions that force you to sneak along and stay out of

sight. There’s no meter for this and it isn’t readily clear why or how an enemy

will notice your presence and run to sound an alarm, which in some cases will

lead to instant failure.

At least the environments are varied, from typical corridor shooting levels to a snowy wilderness to a mental ward and even the inside of a submarine. Though the gameplay gets pretty repetitive, the different locations help make each level distinct.

All three console versions support split-screen multiplayer and the ability to play with bots, which is a nice touch even if the bots are as stupid as the main game AI. The four-player split-screen holds up well enough on the Xbox and Gamecube, but the PS2 only supports two.

However, both the Xbox and PS2 feature online play in the form of Deathmatch,

Capture the Flag and two platform-exclusive modes. The Xbox gets Sabotage, a

sort of Counter-strike style game in which

one team defends checkpoints while the other team tries to blow them up. The

PS2 sees Power-Up, an alternate form of Deathmatch that evens the playing field

by giving better power-up items to worse players. While both work well enough,

the maps aren’t very good and the experience isn’t notably different from the

other first-person shooters out there. The weapons aren’t diverse enough to

give the multiplayer much strategy beyond utilizing your run-of-the-mill fragfest

skills.

And despite its groovy style, XIII isn’t much more than a

run-of-the-mill game. Its presentation is definitely worthy of a look (particularly

if you own an Xbox) but its gameplay is about as straightforward – and in some

cases boring – as it gets for an FPS. Maybe they would have had more success

if they named it XIV







REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating5
Interesting comic book style
Good voices
Decent story
Weak AI
Boring weapons
Bland multiplayer