XIII (GameCube)

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Written by  :  Paul Jones (290)
Written on  :  Feb 11, 2004
Platform  :  GameCube
Rating  :  3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars3.71 Stars

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Superb graphics, good gameplay

The Good

Firstly, the cell-shaded graphics are excellent, and are what will undoubtedly draw most people to the game. Rather than being cartoony (like The Wind Waker), XIII - read 'thirteen' - actually looks and feels like a real graphic novel. It's a 3D comic and it works brilliantly. Hitting an enemy with a head-shot spawns a box-out window showing some white-bordered stills of the bullet finding its target which, although getting repetitive after a while, are hugely satisfying. Ubi Soft have tried hard to make the graphics mean more to the game than just eye-candy, though; explosions and enemy footsteps are displayed as a Batman-style 'Boom!' or 'tap-tap-tap...', meaning that the player can visually follow enemies that are obscured by buildings, etc, which is a useful feature.

The story takes amnesiac Steve Rowland across the US in an attempt to unravel a conspiracy surrounding an assassinated president. Locations are always interesting and varied (of particular note is the clifftop mansion towards the end of the game with beautiful ocean view) and the mix of stealthy, weaponless and blast 'em missions is good.

For GameCube owners coming to XIII after a spell away from the FPS genre, an improvement in enemy AI is immediately noticeable. Soldiers hide around corners, wait in ambush behind crates and inside doorways and actually notice (most of the time) that their partners have been taken out right in front of them. No more will the TimeSplitters2 strategy of popping your head round the corner and then waiting for baddies to stumble blindly into your line of fire bring you success.

Special mention must also be made of the game's ending of which, of course, I can say little here, other than than certain graphical effects are very cool indeed. Oh, and that it's playable!

The Bad

On the negative side, some may find that XIII's story is a little too complicated. The plot is unveiled in spurts and starts with cut scenes at the end of some levels, leaving those without a good memory for character's names in the dark. There's no way to replay these cut scenes, even after finishing the game, which is a shame as they are certainly worth a repeat viewing. It is possible to watch a 2D comic style presentation of the story, but in contrast to the cut-scenes this serves to shed very little light on the conspiracy and the identity of Steve Rowland.

What's worse is that it isn't possible to replay your favourite levels without resorting to saving a new game after each. This is particularly frustrating given that there are hidden 'secret documents' to collect throughout the game - if you miss one, there's no opportunity to go back for it. Ubi Soft should have looked back to Goldeneye 007 for a lesson in how to manage this properly.

Also - and when will developers learn - why are the controls so odd? For some reason, 'B' is secondary fire, 'A' is action and 'R' and 'Z' are primary fire and crouch respectively. This will catch players out even after several hours of play. Surely primary and secondary fire should be 'R' and 'Z'! And why not give us the option to change it? Streetfighter II, back in the 16-bit era, gave us this freedom!

Ultimately, though, what lets this game down is just how unextraordinary it is. Sure, the graphics are superb, but once you see through them you'll realise how little it brings to the FPS table, borrowing heavily from Deus Ex and the other games by Rare and Free Radical Design that I mention above.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that XIII is a supremely enjoyable game with superb graphics, excellent sound effects and acting (including an underused David Duchovny, a nice choice for a conspiracy game). Just don't expect it to add anything new to your collection. FPS starved GameCube owners should definitely look into it.