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For the uninitiated, XIII is a Belgian graphic novel by Jean Van Hamme and William Vance. When we say 'the uninitiated' we mean practically everyone, as the book has never actually been translated into English. Anyway, it charts the story of a man who washes up on a beach, lacking a memory or any possessions. The only clue he has to his identity is the 'XIII' he has on his chest. Thus far there have been fifteen books charting this mysterious man's investigation into the assassination of the President and his own murky past.
The developers of the game have wisely kept the distinctive visual style that made XIII such a hit right across Europe. A world of heavy outlines and cel-shaded graphics await you, along with Batman-style, comic book-friendly phonetically-displayed sound effects marking explosions and gunfire. We particularly like the huge 'BAOOOM' displayed when you unleash a rocket - it's all very cool.
Along with all the high-octane first-person shooter-action, there are Metal Gear inspired stealth sequences, and you can also make use of a grappling hook to propel you to hitherto unreachable areas. You can hide dead bodies, stop sentries from setting off alarms and grab enemies for use as a human shield. Bad guys dive for cover when out-gunned and the death animations are spectacular. It seems although every good idea in an FPS in the last few years has been given a polish and incorporated into the XIII engine.
As you would expect, XIII's quest to find out who killed JFK (or indeed, if it was him who did the dastardly deed), is rich and compelling and the gameplay is continually engaging. The excellent use of comic-style panels and visual effects maintain the overall tone throughout and great features like the screen blurring when you are within the blast radius of a grenade and being able to choose between sneaking around and going in all guns blazing make the game a joy to play.
XIII is way more than just another FPS with a gimmick. It does have a gimmick - a mighty fine one at that - but the gameplay is more than strong enough to elevate the game above the norm.
In 2003, Ubisoft produced one of the most unique games ever seen on any format. Taking the source material of Dergaud's Belgian graphic novel series, the developers aimed to create a fully-immersive first person shooter with a twist - cel-shaded, comic-style visuals. Yes, cel-shading had been done before, but never in three dimensions, and the gauntlet thrown down was a big one from the beginning - could XIII enter the foray of FPSs and distinguish itself? Would it be different enough from the usual fare to impress, but still satisfy seasoned gamers?
Well, from very early on it's clear that the developers pulled out all the stops to present XIII as a game-breaker. Having played the game originally on the PS2 years ago, I recently re-purchased the Xbox version to play on my 360. And this is how I think it should be played: with the 360's ability to upscale original Xbox games into 1080i HD this was literally one of the most mind-blowing gaming experiences I've ever had.
First off, I should describe the plot. But as the official Xbox site said it so well...
"The President of the United States of America has been assassinated. You wake up on a desolate strip of New England beach. The near-fatal impact of a bullet has left your head pounding, and your memory is completely erased. What's more, the number "XIII" has been mysteriously tattooed on your chest, while your pocket holds a key to a New York City bank box.
Head swimming in amnesia, you struggle to your feet, only to encounter more assailants intent on finishing the job. To your shock, you handle the hitmen with the killing skills of a professional. Now it's time to the bank in search of any shred of information about your lost identity and your possible involvement in the President's murder.
What lies ahead is a deadly quest--not only into your shadowy past, but also into America's darkest corridors of power."
Everything has been given due presentational thought. As you fire up the game, the loading screens are packed with huge, bolded, red 'TA!' words which spring up alongside gunshots which riddle the screen while you wait. Then the main menu's functions are presented on their own respective comic panels, with the usual 'Continue' and 'New Game' fare given a comic twist. But nothing matches the brilliant in-game visuals - not only are the characters you fight with wonderfully rendered, and seemingly plucked from the pages of a comic, but little touches keep the formula even fresher than in other FPSs. Kill a guard with a head-shot and a comic style panel split into three will appear showing how they were killed, as well as the large 'AAAR' letters which rise above the falling body. Approach a heavily guarded area and the game will inform you in comic style panels, while objectives are scribbled in comic font too. The breadth of sheer colour and detail make this game unbelievably refreshing to play.
And the gameplay is sufficiently varied to keep seasoned FPS players gripped. Weaponry is plentiful but is released to the player in a stunted manner, meaning you'll only start using certain weaponry right at the end. This gives the gamer a reason to press on and rewards them with new gear to this end. Though the usual weapons are here - Magnum, 9mm pistol, Assault Rifle - in one epic level you'll even be using a Harpoon underwater to ward off attacking scuba divers. Yes, this game is that varied, and with an inventory of over 10 unique weapons you'll be ever-interested in the missions.
Yet the gameplay's highs aren't merely offered up in weaponry. Unique elements are fused into this formula to weave stealth into the mix too. To get around in some levels, you'll be using an intuitive grappling hook to reach higher levels; then hitting a guard in the back of the head with a chair to knock them out; then hiding their body to remain undetected; then stealing their keycard to advance; then taking someone hostage to be able to escape when outnumbered. ALL in ONE level. XIII therefore has an epic scope and manages to create an adrenalin-pumping experience throughout due to its subtle tweaks of the FPS formulae.
Matching both the visuals and engrossing gameplay is a soundtrack which sits so well in the context of the game. Jazz vibes pump through to the forefront of the game design wonderfully - soft tunes delicately play as you stealthily move through levels but when you're found the tempo lifts dramatically to breed a tense, jumpy atmosphere which feels so attuned to a comic-style game. Sound effects, too, are well recreated, with each weapon sounding distinctive enough.
Sadly, some criticisms must be levelled at the game in question. The difficulty spike is quite frustrating near the end, and, as so many other shooters have shown, the reliance on finding medi-packs is not only annoying but consumes unnecessary game-time. Moreover, the AI you face is not very intuitive; guards often take up the same posts and attack in the same scripted way. When everything else in the game is so well-polished and well-executed this is disappointing to see.
Most importantly of all, though, the story is absolutely brilliant. Each level links perfectly onto the next, and the environments are incredibly varied - you'll be on the beach, then in a bank, then in a desert, then at an army base then sprung into a 'Sanctuary' of which I can't say too much for fear of spoiling the experience. And that's literally just scratching the surface. The voice-acting is also well-executed and doesn't sound rehearsed, while still feeling true to the graphic novel context.
To weave into the story of the amnesiac protagonist, you'll also encounter many flashbacks which all breed anticipation and keep you gripped to the fast-paced crux of the story. It never, ever feels repetitive and always offers more as you progress - what's more, collecting in game documents allows you to access a 'Top-secret' tab in the main menu. This allows you to see inside information about the story, a nice touch which distinguishes this FPS from the rest.
This was the first 3D take on cel-shading and to have done so while merging a great story, good gameplay and stunning visuals must be highly commended. In 2003, it was a very good game, but when played on a 360 with up-scaled graphics you are left in awe at the presentation. Sadly, some gameplay flaws like poor AI drop the game's rating a star. Still, for a fun, engrossing FPS experience you can't go wrong with XIII, a graphic novel which springs to life in your hands.
XIII can be snapped up for just 1p used (excluding delivery) on Amazon marketplace, so what are you waiting for?
I normally stay away from comic based games due to their lack of imagination, but after playing a short demo of XIII i went out and bought this game.
Firstly i was shocked with how hard the game seemed to be even on normal mode i was dieing too often and being spotted all of the time, i also ran out of ammo and health packs rather quickly so i stopped playing the game, then after a few months i took it back out and began again taking more clever approaches and taking my time on each mission as well and i soon began to get further into the game with out so much trouble.
The weapons on the game are relevant to each level making it simpler for you to figure out certain sections of the game, with a few gadgets for each level you can have a little fun, breakable objects on the game are another nice feature. The story line flows and you get taken into the games world and you do feel that you have to complete the game.
I really enjoyed this game, it has a really great story line following your character as you start to remember things from the past and who you really are, a really great first person shooter game but in comic mode.
Thanks for reading, also on ciao.
A very underrated game this shoot-em-up is totally unique in its approach to the styling, bringing a comic book to life, even with the proper "ta ta ta ta" text being shown on the screen when killing a villain.
The story sees you washed up on a beach with no memory of what has happened and basically sees you trying to piece back together the events that lead up to you being on the beach.
Multiplayer mode has many options and, after completing it once was what i focused on more than anything else.
POSITIVE: A very different way of telling a good story and one that certainly helps the game to stand out against other shoot em ups
NEGATIVE: The game ends on a cliff hanger and unfourntunatley due to low sales there is not a sequel planned, leaving the story unfinished. This is a major issue in my opinion as it leaves me wondering what was planned to happen next.
SUMMARY: Brilliant cel shaded graphics and an entertaining story makes me wonder why no sequel was made
This is actually a great game and underrated by many. IGN obviously liked it though, giving it a well deserved 8 when it was released.
The game uses cel-shading. This makes it seem less life like and gives it a more cartoon and colourful look and it it's pretty impressive. Don't let this put you off as the game is based on a comic book series so it feels as if you are playing the comic.
The plot is very good, especially for an FPS, and is conspiracy-rich throughout. Your character has amnesia and you have to work out the connection between yourself and the assassination of the president. It's great to try and work out what's going on.
There are a lot of weapons to use, such as the stealthy and silent crossbow which has a sight, knives, distance weapons like the LMG and sniper rifle as well as pistols and assault rifles. You can also pick up most things such as chairs and tables to knock people out.
It's a very fun game with a pretty long single player which makes this game a must buy.
I dont want to write too much about this, but its a story of conspiracy. This is an area that most shoot-em ups prefer to ignore, concentrating on gore and violence, but this game has etched out the gap in the market.
While you go around shooting anything that moves, you actually have a purpose. Each level moves onto the next, and the 'bosses' actually have a reason to be there instead of just breaking the game up into sections.
Well, you shoot - everything and anything. Pretty much like Halo or any of the other good games in this genre. But given that there is a realistic sotryline to this one, it helps you in the game. When somebody tells you that there has been a theft of secret personnell files from an office unit - you know that the best place to start would be in the personnell office... you get the picture. No more being lost amid the levels, you know where you want to go and its relatively easy to figure out which direction to go in to get there.
The shooting action is also simple to master, with the ability to change the controls to ones you prefer (for those who have played Halo to death - yes, you can switch it to the same controls as Halo). This makes moving about easy to configure.
In terms of addictiveness, this game has it in abundance. Because the game is easy to navigate and simple to play (though hard to master), it can very quickly become engrossing... Anyone can pick this game up and finish level 1 - but can you do it without taking a single hit? Or what about without killing anyone? Targets make this game a great...
Set up as a computer graphic - almost like a realistic attempt at a cartoon, this game doesnt need special effects or visuals. In this clearly computer world, there is no need to make it realistic... the gameplay and storyline are so advanced that it doesn't need it.
However, the graphics are smooth, with none of the dreaded 'pop-ups' (this is objects that suddenly appear in front of you, because the game/computer couldnt handle it from the edge of the screen!).
OK, OK, so every game has a shortfall. Well, here it is. While Halo uses multiplayer mode to make it one of the best games going, XIII (or thirteen for those who hadn't got this yet) concentrates on the single player mode. Alas, despite all the usuals being included here, Deathmatch, Tag etc... the gameplay isnt designed for more than one player, and the levels are porrly designed for multiplayer modes. There are far too many 'invincible points' where you can just sit and be 99% sure you'll kill everything before it can get near to you... ruining what could have been a great asset to this game.
With the intricate plot, this game will keep you engrossed for a good 15-20 hours on the initial play. But once thats complete you have various bonus targets you can aim for - can you complete any individual level without being hit? Or what about without hitting anyone? What about without being seen? All these goals can open hidden bonus material/options. This keeps the game playing for weeks at a time.....
This game is now classed as old - and was relatively ignored when it was initially released. Many people haven't even heard of it before. However, I saw it brand new in Game the other day for £19.99 (buy one get one free) and second hand in the same shop for just £4.99!
At £4.99 this game is a steal, and would come extremely highly recommended. I cant think of any other shoot em up I'd rather have on the Xbox - and at £4.99 its the best value money can buy. In my opinion, its even better than Halo in single player. But avoid it if you want multi-player fun, it can't get near to comparing to Halo.
You wake up on a desolate beach, your memory erased and "XIII" tattooed on your chest. What lies ahead is a deadly quest into your shadowy past and America's darkest corridors of power.