These days it seems like everybody has an opinion about cel-shaded graphics. Some see it as a way of playing a game that looks exactly like a cartoon, yet others protest that it’s simplistic look lacks detail and is overused. XIII probably won’t change anybody’s opinion, but it does offer anybody willing to look past a few imperfections an intriguing mystery.
We start the adventure knowing about as much as the hero of the piece, who, thanks to a tattoo he woke up with, is referred to as XIII (or “thirteen” for the roman numeral challenged). The game starts with XIII coming to after washing up on a beach suffering a gunshot wound and not remembering how he got there. In fact, the game’s entire mystery revolves around the fact that this character just doesn’t know who he is, and worse yet, may have been the gunman in the assassination of the President.
We’re also introduced to Major Jones, a mysterious woman played by rapper Eve. It’s through her dialog (and the strategic use of flashback sequences) that we learn the most about XIII’s missing time, but then, like everything else in the game, she may not be who she claims to be. Together you retrace your steps and investigate the various clues that have been left, all while killing an entire army of people before they get you.
As you’d expect XIII comes with a rather large arsenal of weapons, ranging from throwing knives to bazookas. There are a few choice items in the war chest, including a crossbow and harpoon launcher, but for the most part the weapon selection is your generic first person shooter fare. Each of the guns are nicely drawn, but fail to have that certain punch you expect from a game like this.
XIII is split into a collection of 13 chapters, each with their own mission and locale. Some of the objectives require a certain amount of stealth, involving you to only use throwing knives, chairs, and other quiet weapons. Other levels are more along the lines of kill or be killed, allowing you to be less frugal with your assortment of firearms. Yet other levels require to you investigate for clues to your missing time and even take the occasional hostage to help you escape.
The locations themselves are all fairly interesting, ranging from the boat docks at dusk to a number of military bases. Your investigation will take you to the majestic beauty that is the Grand Canyon valley, to claustrophobic closeness of a submarine, to a whole lot of indoor corridors. Each of these environments offer different things to see and challenges, but towards the end it starts to feel like you’re just retracing your steps.
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