Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Released: 18 November 2003
This review covers the original version of the game, not the upcoming XIII Remake.
XIII is a stylish, cel-shaded first-person shooter with comic book aesthetics. Based on the Belgian comic book of the same name, the story revolves around an amnesiac known as XIII. Unable to remember even his real name, all he has is “XIII” tattooed on his body and a key to a safe box. He goes on a journey to figure out who he is and gets wrapped up in a conspiracy that threatens his own life, pinning him as the prime suspect for the assassination of the President of the United States.
The game features both a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode, although the latter requires the installation of an unofficial patch as Ubisoft’s master server has been down since 2012. This review covers the single-player aspect of XIII.
Just like most FPS games, you obtain a diverse range of firearms to carry out your mission, such as pistols, revolvers, automatic rifles, sniper rifles, and even crossbows, among others. Most missions are either fast-paced run-and-gun levels where staying alive is the main priority or methodical stealth sections in which raising the alarm could cancel important secret meetings.
Health is limited and only recovered by picking up and using medkits, and you can protect yourself with body armor and helmets. Gadgets such as hooks and lockpicks can help in various levels, and finding necessary objects is sometimes a key part of the game.
As you progress through the game and get put in different situations, your arsenal is constantly changing. Either you start prepared or must work your way to getting a weapon, and sometimes you may not get a chance to use your preferred weapons, making the game always feel fresh and forcing you away from getting fixated on one attack strategy. The game lets you choose from four difficulty modes (Arcade being the easiest and XXX the hardest), allowing you to decide if the game should be a walk in the park or nearly impossible. My only issue with the game is that headshots sometimes don’t instantly kill, even with silenced pistols.
Artstyle and Audio
XIII sticks to the comic book look and feel to a T, making it unique among other FPS games. In addition to the colorful cel-shaded setting, panels would occasionally pop up, showing various events of interest in real-time. They could clue you to nearby enemies, give you another view to a conversation you’re eavesdropping on, or simply show you a satisfactory close-up of an enemy you just killed. Also, comic SFX are usually drawn on-screen in certain circumstances, such as “KABOAM!!” whenever a loud crash occurs.
Though the game becomes eerily quiet during stealth missions, the exciting, fast-paced, frantic, spy-themed music is terrific. Among all shooters I have played, XIII is perhaps the best in the music department and one of the most memorable.
Though the remake is coming soon, the original XIII is a great pick if you’re looking for a shooter that stands out among the rest. With its visual direction, frantic music, and its arcade-like gameplay, the game is a delightful feast to any fan of the genre, and a good entry point for FPS newcomers, all at an affordable price.