Monday, June 20, 2011

XIII: A Well-Drawn Forgotten Classic

Firmly placed somewhere on a hypothetical list of games that I love that could really use a sequel is XIII. It is a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit somewhat flawed, experience and the fact that its developers, Ubisoft Paris, have been working making games like Just Dance and Michael Jackson: The Experience. I accepted a long time ago that a sequel would never come, but finding out that the game's creators have had success making shit like that is like twisting that was stuck in me eight years ago. I can't blame Ubisoft for not making a sequel to a game that apparently didn't make them much money, but it is still pretty depressing.

Most people probably remember XIII as “that cel-shaded FPS,” and I can't say that the art style of the game is not a large part of its charm. In a era when cel-shading was being used as a crutch by every other terrible game out there, this is one of only two games, the other being The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, that went all out and did it well. XIII wholly embraced its comic book roots and is still the only game that successfully emulate the look and feel of a comic book.

The screen is frequently subdivided into different panels that give different views on the action, and onomatopoeia are used to show sounds. These aren't just window dressing, but actually serve to provide the player with extra information that can be useful to the player. For example, If there is an enemy patrolling around a corner, the sound can be seen through the wall, giving the player an increased spatial awareness and making sneaking in a first person game far less frustrating. While most people just remember the use of extra panels to show headshots with certain weapons, and that is admittedly a cool effect, there are other times they are used in more utilitarian ways. There are situations when they are used to show a view that you would not be able to see, and sometimes they just highlight something that you might normally overlook too easily.

Seeing as it is an FPS, I should say that the shooting and the guns feel good. There is a good variety of weapons, some with interesting alternate fire abilities, and there are few crossbows as satisfying as the one in XIII. The weapon variety is good because you aren't always loaded up with the same huge arsenal, and there are a lot of situations when you are given different weapons and the levels are really designed around the weapons that you have at the time. There are also everyday items strewn about the levels that can be used once to a knock out opponents. Things like chairs and clipboards become commodities because they can be used to silently take out enemies in one hit.

This does contribute to what is one of the game's biggest pitfalls, the overuse of stealth. While the stealth portions do work better than you might expect in an FPS, there are a few parts that are extremely annoying because getting caught is an instant game over. A lot of times these parts seem impossible until after you've failed a few times and have gotten a feel for the map's layout and enemy's patterns. That's just poor design. It's sad because the portions of the game where stealth is not required, but possible, are really good, and you can get through a surprising amount of the game without starting a firefight. I like that Metal Gear Solid-like flexibility that allows the player to avoid a firefight, but when one arises they have the tools to shoot it out.

XIII  is an artfully crafted game in most aspects, with a lot of fun shooting and gadgets, that I simply had a whole lot of fun with. On top of that, it stars the voice talents of David Duchovny and Adam West, which is undeniably awesome. It has a great soundtrack that is like no other game before or since. The story is engaging, and though it ends on a twist and a cliffhanger that will never be resolved in the form of a video game, it is still worth the ride. Also, it's on Good Old Games for six bucks, so why the hell not?

1 comment:

  1. Seriously one of my favorite games for the original xbox, and until LA Noire, my favorite cell shaded game. Thanks for the review!